Automated decanter

I had mail from Jürgen Huber at Logi.cals, an Austrian software firm, who have been using a Raspberry Pi in a demo at trade fairs to show off logi.CAD 3, their new, free, software tool for automation. It’s right up our street: they’ve made an automatic decanting machine.

Decanting machines, usually operated by via a hand crank and a threaded rod, turn up in the sort of restaurant I don’t go to as much as I’d like to: the sort of places where you’ll find old bottles of fine wine with delicate contents, which need very careful decanting to gently aerate the wine without over-oxygenating it, while leaving behind any sediment.

Logi.cals’ version looks a bit less gentleman’s-club, and a bit more spaceship.

Here it is in action, making some poor sommelier somewhere slightly less useful.

Micro switches check that both a glass and a bottle are present (which reminds me: we really need to update the Pi Towers coffee machine to detect a mug in order to stop the carpet getting soggy). Light barriers assess the position of the bottle, and capacitive sensors detect flow, and detect how much wine there is in the glass. The bottle is weighed so the Pi knows how much wine is left; the glass is also weighed with a strain gauge so that the Pi knows what’s in there. Jürgen’s team even added an emergency brake.

A stepper motor tilts the bottle gently. The team at Logi.cals used two expansion boards: a PiFace and a Quick2Wire board, to talk to the I2C bus, the motor and the strain gauges: you can read more about the setup at their website.

It’s a great proof of concept. This isn’t going to be a commercial product, so if you’re a wine waiter, you can sleep easy: the rest of us will be dreaming sweetly about robo-boozing.