An idea with tea

James Cooper works as a product manager at ebm-papst UK and, as you would expect from a Briton, he absolutely loves tea. In his spare time, he is a magi­cian and invents strange machines. His latest success is a tea machine made with ebm-papst motors.


Mr Cooper, you have attracted atten­tion on YouTube with your self-made tea machine. How did this strange idea come about?

The idea behind it was to bring engi­neers closer to the devel­op­ment kit of our K4 drive systems in a creative way. We didn’t want to rely on specific appli­ca­tions but show more gener­ally, what the kit’s motors can do and how flex­ible they are. As a big fan of Wallace & Gromit and Rowland Emett, I thought of constructing a strange machine in which several of the kit’s motors have different tasks.

And why did you decide to make a tea machine rather than a coffee machine?

James Cooper works as a product manager at ebm-papst UK.

We love tea here in Great Britain. For us, it’s an essen­tial part of our everyday lives and a lot of engi­neers drink it at their desks. There­fore, it made sense to build a machine that prepares and serves tea. Of course, it would also be possible to build a coffee machine, but I’m sure the project wouldn’t have gained as much atten­tion.

Can you reveal how the machine works?

The device consists of several stations that imple­ment different motors of the devel­op­ment kit. Each motor is indi­vid­u­ally programmed and config­ured. For example, one motor lowers the tea bag into the cup while another guides the cup towards it.

Did you have to over­come any chal­lenges when building the machine?

Defi­nitely! The timing didn’t always work out prop­erly: tea spilled onto the floor. However, the greatest chal­lenge was making each station as unusual as possible, while ensuring that they were func­tional. After all, the machine is meant to be enter­taining as well. That’s why I came up with a design for the sugar dispenser that used a vinyl record, for example. It couldn’t just be any old record: the single “Spin Spin Sugar” by Sneaker Pimps was chosen.

Do you use the tea machine in your own office?

No, unfor­tu­nately I don’t anymore. The machine simply took up too much space. It is also going to be show­cased to the wider public at an exhi­bi­tion, so we disas­sem­bled every­thing and pack­aged it up.

Will the tea machine go into series produc­tion and be avail­able in other coun­tries?

I don’t think it makes sense to series produce it in its current form. The machine is simply too large. For the exhi­bi­tion, the design is going to be made more compact so that it can fit into a display case. And, in that form, I can imagine the machine making its way to other coun­tries: perhaps not to every office, but at least as a show­piece at exhi­bi­tions.

Will you invent more machines with ebm-papst motors?

Yes, certainly. But not just with motors, with fans as well. I’m sure I’ll come up with one or two weird or wonderful ideas.

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