Inspiration for many new products stems from performing repeated tasks and dreaming up new ways to make the task easier, safer, or more enjoyable. Many of us share the same repeated tasks, like cooking dinner or mowing the lawn. However, for inventor Taylor Hayden, the task that led to his innovation was drinking wine. The self-professed oenophile came up with the idea for the Wine Shark hyper-aeration system while enjoying a glass of wine, and for the last year or so, the Enventys/Edison Nation design and engineering teams have helped him bring his product to life.
It is well known in wine tasting circles that decanting or aerating wine helps to release the aroma and open up the flavor spectrum of wines, especially red varieties. The key is to get oxygen dissolved in the wine to unlock the flavor compounds. There are plenty of devices on the market that aerate wine. Decanters have been around for a long time and they work by simply giving the wine more surface area to exchange oxygen with the air. There are also specialized devices to aerate the wine while it is being poured. One of the most popular of these is the Vinturri, which uses a fluid dynamic trick to pull air into the wine. While these provide some level of aeration, the concept of decanting was turned on its head when Microsoft mogul-turned-foodie, David Myhrvold, released the 5 volume cookbook, Modernist Cuisine. In one of the volumes he describes a technique to aerate wine by pulverizing it in a high speed blender. Since that was published, the technique has been met with mixed results. There are many YouTubers and tech bloggers that have tested out the technique and approve of the process. However, wine lovers are skeptical that chopping their wine so aggressively will actually destroy some of the flavor compounds that add to the complexity of the wine. There is also a mental hurdle to jump to get someone to empty a $50 plus bottle of wine in their counter-top blender. Enter the Wine Shark.
The Wine Shark is a handheld blending unit that hyper-aerates a glass of wine without pulverizing it like a blender. Taylor first came to us with the idea in the summer of last year, and after much testing and stylistic iteration, it is now on the cusp of going to manufacture.
In the early days of the development, the general thought from the engineering team was that the internal components would not be all that tricky to design. There are plenty of small immersion blenders and latte whisks on the market, and their components are well understood. What we really needed to figure out was a blade shape and RPM range to run the blender to provide aeration and minimize froth. So, we purchased a dissolved oxygen meter, a case of wine, and variety of different items to use as blades and started testing.
Using a dissolved oxygen meter to measure the aeration of the wine
An immersion blender runs at about 4-5000 RPMS. Since our Tormach Milling Center has a max speed of 4000 RPM and has a control knob to change the speed, we repurposed it as our blender motor to test the different blades. We chucked up different shaped items like eye hooks, juicers, practice golf balls, and R/C boat propellers into the machine and ran them at different speeds to see how well they aerated the wine and to find the maximum RPM before the wine would start to foam. Each blade style that we tried resulted in an increase in aeration, and each started creating foam at roughly the same RPM. However, the R/C boat propeller stood tall above the other designs. It resulted in the highest dissolved oxygen content and because of its shape, caused the smallest disturbance to the flow. So we decided to use this as our propeller shape for the next rounds of prototyping.
Testing the eye hook in a glass of wine on the Tormach
The first prototype that I made was a pre-alpha, proof of concept model. I used our Epilog laser cutter to make a base, and I used a Tamiya planetary gear module for the drive train. The result was a blender that would sit on a wine glass by itself and would spin at the correct speed. This allowed us to do some field testing and to get a sense of battery life.
Proof of concept prototype
While this prototype was being built, the industrial design team was working with Taylor on different concepts for the shape of the product. After a few rounds of design he decided that resting the blender on the glass was not the right thing to do, and he wanted to stay with the hand held blender idea. In a moment of fate or coincidence, one of the concepts had a small bump in it that looked like a shark fin. Once Taylor saw that, the spark hit and it was at that moment, the wine blender turned into the Wine Shark. The designers took that concept and gave it an aquatic shape as well as its iconic shark dorsal fin.
The original sketch that led to the Wine Shark concept
3D printed form model of the original Wine Shark design
Now that we had an aesthetic design as well as a mechanical direction, it was time to merge the two into an alpha prototype. I took the CAD files from ID and used them to package the motor, gears, battery and controls inside the shark shape. I also added a coil into the fin to allow it to be charged wirelessly. I also designed a battery charging base for the blender to sit in when not in use. Of course there were teething problems during the build, but these were easily overcome. Once we got it done, we gave it to Taylor to do some field testing. He took it home and used it to aerate some glasses of wine with some friends. He loved the prototype. It looked great and ran at the perfect speed, but he wanted a few changes. He decided that he wanted the blade to be removable to make it easier to clean, and he wanted to make the blade spin the other way. He also felt that the body was too smooth and he wanted it to have a better feel.
Alpha prototype in its base
We moved immediately into the beta design. We used the lessons learned from the alpha to make the necessary adjustments to the internal shape of the body and integrated the new accent pieces. I also gave the drivetrain a removable axle. We did another round of 3D prints to create the new parts, test fit them, and gave them a new coat of paint. To solve the grip issue, we used a sand blaster on the red parts of the body to give them a nice even texture before applying the paint. We presented the beta to Taylor and he loved it. He took it home for some testing and found all the changes to be positive.
With the design complete, he jetted off to California to have his videographer brother shoot some product demo videos, while the Edison Nation team is working to help him figure out the best way to get the Wine Shark manufactured. He has decided to fund his development and manufacturing by launching a Kickstarter campaign.
Product inspiration can come from many sources, but many of the best inventions help to make repetitive tasks easier. The savvy inventor, like Taylor Hayden, keeps their eyes open for opportunities, even when they are relaxing after a hard day with a glass of wine.