Automated Ice Cream Topper


Controlled by a PIC 32, the automated ice cream topper stores individual ice cream topping preferences, outputting the user’s ideal solid, liquid, and whip cream topping amount with the push of a button. Our project demo can be viewed here: Project Demo.

The automatic ice cream topper as demoed had three basic topping capabilities that covered the cream, liquid, and solid topping realms. Through the lever actuation of whip cream, spinning of a turntable releasing solid topping, and pressure controlled liquid topping dispenser, we succeeded in releasing commercially available whip cream, sprinkles, and chocolate syrup. The rotation of a turntable holding the ice cream bowl ensured even distribution of toppings on the ice cream.

This project was pursued initially because of common interest – a common love of ice cream for both partners.

Figure 1: Team picture following project demonstration


Figure 2: Full system assembly

High Level Design


The idea of a Personal Ice Cream Topper emerged from a series of design thinking brainstorming exercises. The goal of our brainstorming wasn’t to have a patentable product in the end, but to develop a creative idea that both team members could enjoy and be invested in.

Through our brainstorming, we looked for mutual interests and passions to create an environment where both teammates would equally “love” the idea. A sample of our brainstorming is shown below.

The plot Feasibility vs. Desirability served as a visual tool for narrowing ideas. From the plot, we were able to narrow over 60+ ideas to those which were both most desirable for us and also the most implementable. This process helped us select the ice cream topper as our project.

Figure 3: Brainstorming process

Background Math

Initial calculations were conducted for required motor torques, however, these calculations were ultimately forfeited, noting that attempting implementation and observing working/non-working results would likely generate more accurate and instant results. Since we had multiple motors available for prototyping, trial-and-error ensured quicker prototyping than an analytical approach.

Logical Structure

The Automatic Ice Cream Topper adds whip cream and up to two toppings based on pre-programmed user parameters. The program will have three pre-programmed users, Kristen, May, and Ezra (for a Cornell themed ice cream display). Variation of parameters between users will be topping choice, topping density, and the use of whipped cream.

Topping ice cream consists of the following actions, as detailed in Figure 4 below. The sequence contains both manual setup and an automatic sequence.

If the user selected program indicates a whipped cream topping, the program will initiate a whipped cream sequence consisting of linear motion from bowl outer diameter to bowl center via a stepper motor. The linear motion of the whipped cream dispenser combined with the rotational motion of the bowl will combine to create uniform whipped cream distribution on the ice cream. In parallel, a servo will be used to add pressure to the nozzle of the whipped cream for distribution. The system will be designed to interface directly with a 6.5oz bottle of Reddi Wip whip topping. The whip cream will return to the outer diameter (rest position) following distribution.

Following whip cream distribution, topping distribution will begin. If a liquid topping is selected, the liquid topping sequence will begin first (otherwise liquid is bypassed directly to solid topping or end of sequence). The liquid topping distribution is unique in that the liquid topping is expelled from the tubbing without making contact with a valve. By using an electronic air pump, the pump can be controlled via the PIC32, in turn, the pressurization of the liquid topping container can be controlled. Moving from a high pressure (topping container) to a low pressure environment (expelling from tube), liquid topping distribution is accomplished. The air pump is opto-isolated from the PIC32 to prevent excess noise from entering the microcontroller system.

A servo with a rotating turntable releases the solid to via PIC32 PWM commands. Based on user toping density preference, the servo will rotate to the release position for a specified time interval. Toppings will then pass through a stationary tubing, and will distribute evenly over ice cream via the bowl’s rotational motion.

Figure 4: Basic operation flowchart

About The Author

Muhammad Bilal

I am a highly skilled and motivated individual with a Master's degree in Computer Science. I have extensive experience in technical writing and a deep understanding of SEO practices.

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