(think candy, pill, coin, etc.)
The other day I thought how a dispensing machine would work and challenges at hand. Here a very brief summary. (And surely, there are patents available describing a variety solutions. ;))
Certainly, there are subtleties about the objects to be taken into account. While, say, a one-Dollar coin is firm and cannot be easily bent or broken, that will not hold true for a pill of aspirin or a piece of smarties.
The objects can scrap against each other, tilt, and may block passage.
Let us assume that humidity and temperature are within specs, otherwise the objects could change form and shape, would become sticky and perhaps even „melt“ together.
One solution for a dispenser would be a container with an opening in the bottom. A problem could arise when the mass of objects could become too heavy so that the individual objects cannot move against each other and basically would not come out. Shaking the container could cause temporary relief, but there is danger of damaging the objects, in particular those at the bottom.
Another type of solution would take the objects from the top. I would see there
a) an uplifting conveyor belt and
b) the Archimedes‘ screw.
With these methods the individual object is more gently worked. Disadvantage could be the leaving out the last objects when the container is getting empty.
The most sophisticated solution would include a set of cameras, and a robot controlled arm would select the individual object and carefully „spoon“ it out.
© February 2010 Jürgen Menge, San José