Innovative engineering makes at-home vending machine reality

Soda or beer from a vending machine in the rec room? We’ll take two, thanks. When Maytag decided to build the first at-home vending machine, they engaged Design Central to help. We put our diverse backgrounds to use on what would eventually become Skybox—the first at-home beverage dispenser. Our design and engineering teams worked in tandem to develop an intuitive product with customizable, professional and college sports-themed design options and tons of potential for market success. When it launched, SkyBox delighted sports and beverage fans nationwide and became a coveted rec room accessory that earned a cameo on national TV.

  • Maytag
  • Consumer
  • Research
  • Product Design
  • Engineering
  • Prototyping
  • User Experience

Objective: Develop the first customizable at-home beverage dispenser that would appeal to sports and beverage fans nationwide.

Research confirms need for easy loading

Maytag understood that SkyBox needed to have buy-in from the whole family if it was ever going to make it into homes around the country. Design Central’s research found that loading beverages needed to be an uncomplicated process for everyone. So our team closely examined commercial vending machines—which must be stocked by trained technicians—to discover ways to simplify. We knew we needed to build logic into the design, making it so both bottles and cans could be loaded in any order and dispensed with ease.

Early problem solving reveals creative vending solutions

Our design and engineering teams worked in parallel to sketch, mockup and develop SkyBox. On a rapid timeline, we utilized product data management (PDM) technologies and emphasized an integrated design, simultaneously working with Maytag’s team to help them get needed buy-in from professional and collegiate marketing groups. Using our proven techniques, we focused on solving problems very early in the design process —an approach that led us to many important creative solutions. Those included a sling-method of dispensing, which slows each can or bottle’s drop to avoid jarring the carbonation out of suspension and causing a big mess.

Prototypes prove functionality and aesthetic appeal

Design Central’s early Alpha prototypes aided Maytag’s team in obtaining sports marketing support for SkyBox. We created an alpha model to test the functionality and aesthetics before moving on to a final design and then passing on our files for production. Working with our prototyping and sourcing network partners, our 20 preproduction Beta prototypes also validated that the final machine would be UPS shippable and UL certified.