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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