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September 27, 2004 12:08 AM

Broken: Soda machine design

FizzAlertSodaMachineDick Miller writes:

The distributor of one of the beverage vending machines at my work location has acknowledged its broken status by conspicuously posting a red warning sign. Dispensing a beverage causes it to fall from its display location to an access port at the bottom of the machine, a drop of as much as five feet. The warning reads:

FIZZ ALERT!! You should wait 30 seconds (20 if you have fast lips!) before you open any carbonated beverages purchased from this machine. The fall causes the potential for an eruption if you don't wait the recommended 30 seconds. Thank you.

At least their sense of humor takes the edge off the negative experience.


I've actually seen a machine just like that! It was in Cambridge, England, next to the exercise room in Queen's college. At least everybody was careful when opening drinks fallen from up high!

Posted by: sethn172 at September 27, 2004 02:33 AM

I always liked the trick wherein you thump a can with your thumb a few times. This (for a reason I've forgotten) keeps it from exploding when you open it up. I have no idea if it works for bottles; has anyone tried?

Posted by: Sean at September 27, 2004 04:28 AM

Please tell me none of those are glass bottles!

Posted by: Jacques Troux at September 27, 2004 06:43 AM

The machine in my office has a drop like that, but it drops them upside-down. This angle prevents the can from fizzing, as far as I know.

Posted by: kwyjibo at September 27, 2004 09:02 AM

The machine has Aquafina bottled water logos all over, it looks like it was engineered for non-carbonated beverages and someone thought it would be a good idea to stock it with soda. Alos, it looks like Starbucks frappuccino glass bottles are in the next-to-top row, which seems like asking for trouble.

Posted by: George Hotelling at September 27, 2004 09:19 AM

I've seen this same design with glass bottles -- along with the inevitable mess of syrup-coated shards of glass. I just don't understand how this obviously faulty combination of design and materials could make it into production.

Posted by: Bo Brock at September 27, 2004 11:18 AM

Bo, two comments above yours was your answer: it was designed for plastic bottles of water, and then later used for other things.

That said, one of my favorite vending machines are the carbonated equivalent of these, where a little robot arm will travel to the drink you bought and bring it down to right above the slot and drop it there for you. One of those beside a normal one will get me using the fancy one every time.

Posted by: mendel at September 27, 2004 01:32 PM

Along the same lines as the robotic arm one, my favorite is the Coke machine that dispenses plastic bottles. A conveyer belt on vertical rails shoots up to the appropriate shelf, a bottle gets pushed on to the belt and the entire apparatus glides to the bottom of the case where the conveyor belt shuttles the bottle to the machine's opening.

Posted by: Rob at September 27, 2004 07:03 PM

yea i love that one i always see it at this New Jersey rest stop and use it every time just to watch it

Posted by: Matt at September 27, 2004 07:51 PM

There's one similar to that at my high school, except a little conveyor belt is pulled up to the level the desired beverage is located, then the belt acends/decends to the middle where the belt starts moving, carrying the soda to the little 'holster' where the thirsty patron picks up his/her drink. It's fun to watch, and has a little less fizz.

Oh also I've seen the ones that drop the drink, like the subject of this article, and it has those glass-encased starbucks drinks on the TOP SHELF. The bottom where the drink drops to is padded, but still... Oh and this idiotic arrangement in a poorly designed vending machine is one of many set up the exact same way at our local HOSTPITAL!!! Convenience overrides common sense in this case. "Oh you cut your hand on that bottle? Just go down one floor and hang a left."

Posted by: Matthew Carpenter at September 27, 2004 08:29 PM

I think most snack vending machines are broken in general. They eat your money often enough to be an annoyance, when some simple solutions are at hand.

-Install a light sensor and laser that makes sure something falls, and if it doesn't, it would refund your money.

-Elaborating on that: Install something that would safely shake the machine, potentially freeing the product, and if that fails, give you back your money.

-Move the glass forward a bit, giving the snack room to fall.

Posted by: Justin at September 29, 2004 09:14 AM

I've seen this machine at a local campus of an on-line university, and it occasionally has a different problem. Sometimes when the bottles drop down, they remain upright, rather than falling to their side as intended. When that happens, the bottle becomes wedged against the little door that opens inward to allow you to retrieve the bottle. Since it blocks the door, you can't retrieve the bottle... broken in a different way...

Posted by: Barry at September 29, 2004 04:17 PM

Do the glass bottles way at the top ever break on the way down? Or I guess there's some sort of cushion on the bottom.

Posted by: Marie The Magnificent at October 31, 2004 05:49 PM

This has nothing to do with a drink machine, but my friend at high school got a little too mad when the snack machine jammed... last thing I remember, he was in stock, C4.

Posted by: Nick at November 9, 2004 06:04 PM

I see that not all the drinks are carbonated (SoBe & Dole drinks aren't). I love that the person filling the machine doesn't just put the carbonated drinks lower down. Duh.

Posted by: Andrew at November 19, 2004 04:36 PM

Andrew, that's a good solution. Depending on the location of the machine and the contractor filling it, he may not be able to do so. We had similar machines in the breakroom of my previous employer, and the inevitable messes and "eruptions" happened. We complained about it, the vending contractor said "Sorry, we know it happens, but [local Pepsi distributor] pays us to put their products in the top three rows at sight level." I'm certain such placement isn't rare.

Posted by: Name at November 28, 2004 08:06 PM

Mendel: Those "fancier" "robot arm" machines SUCK. Why? Because something will always get stuck on one of the sides before falling into the hole, and then every body that purchases anything for the next week gets shafted while bottles fill the bottom of the machine.


Posted by: Ubergeek2 at December 25, 2004 11:09 PM

first things:

tapping the top of a can preventes it from exploding because it breaks lose the carbonation that forms in bubbles and attach themselves to the side of the can. After they float to the top, you have a pressurised cushion of air between the drink and the top of the can. You open it, the air shoots up and pushes the soda down. It doesn't work quite as well in plastic bottles because the bubbles have less of tendency to attach themsleves to the side of the container. and you get a half mixture of carbon dioxide and soda directly below the mouth of the bottle.

second thing:

I saw an ice cream vending machine in a truck stop in florida. Not noly did it have the robot arm but it was a vacuum that would suck up the ice cream about 4 inches, move it to the door and release. Awesome!!!

Posted by: matt at January 5, 2005 04:27 PM

Like other people have posted some of those bottles do look like glass and i hope there is a cushion on the bottom. I wonder what it would like if a bottle shatered. Glass fly to the top of the machine and come back down? :D

Posted by: unknown at March 3, 2005 02:26 PM

I love how they put the cans at the top.

A soda can is opened when you lift the tab and break a seal (which is made of stamped aluminum, like the rest of the can). The seal is weak so it can be opened easily.

Drop a soda can from that height, and that seal will fail.

What fun.

Posted by: dx at March 13, 2005 11:02 PM

Mommy whats that big ocean of brownish yellowish greenish stuff that my drink fell into and made a big splash and why did the mini ocean just get bigger and where is my drink i only see shards of plastic and glass. F!*K is just cut my F*%KIN hand on a piece of F%&KIN GLASS. SUE THE MOTHER F*#KIN COMPANY WHO MADE THIS MACHINE.

Mommy who much longer it is till i turn 4.

Mom: 8 Months

Kid: SH!T

Posted by: unknown at March 25, 2005 02:01 PM

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