During development of the Merlin400 Peter Selmer Gade has worked as a part-time consultant for TechPeople

TechPeople consultant Peter Selmer Gade is on a mission: Cannabis oil users should be able to produce their own low-price high-quality oil, instead of having to order it from dubious and expensive resellers on the internet.

“Made By You” is the tagline of Peters start-up company Drizzle. It has developed the world’s first kitchen machine for producing cannabis oil. Weighing only 2.5 kg and about half the size of a kitchen blender the device is straightforward to operate. You fill it with plant material and isopropanol alcohol, and press “Start”. Within two hours it has extracted the active substances from the plant material and converted them to a few grams of crude oil. You then mix it with olive oil – and voila! Cannabis oil “Made By You”.

Huge market for oil

Cannabis oil is widely used to treat symptoms caused by sclerosis, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, as well as preventing nausea and other side effects of cancer treatment. Thus, there is a huge market for cannabis oil across Europa and the US, and the extractor, named Merlin400, allows users to produce their own oil at a fifth of the price compared to buying it online. Furthermore, you are in full control of the quality of the oil you’re producing, including its content of the active substances CBD and THC.

Inspired by California

Peter became interested in cannabis oil during a business trip to California, visiting local cannabis stores. He saw how the state’s medical and recreational cannabis sector was growing and evolving, with some cannabis shops looking more like Apple stores than the shady back-alley dealers of the past.

Back in Denmark he became convinced the market needed a consumer product for making cannabis oil and decided to form a start-up to realize the idea.

– I started out in my garage. We did a lot of experiments and designed some funny-looking prototypes. But eventually we found a way to control the alcohol extraction process, which is done using pharma graded isopropanol. We’ve put a lot of work into optimizing each sub process to be able to pull up to 95 per cent of all cannabinoids from the plant material, while avoiding bitter flavours and other factors that diminish the quality of the oil.

Part-time TechPeople consultant

Peter and his team got seed money from the Danish Innovation Fund and joined a cannabis pilot project created by the Danish Medicine’s Agency.

– Meanwhile I was working part-time as a TechPeople consultant. It was a great way to make ends meet, and I’m glad they gave me the opportunity and didn’t insist on me working full-time for them. On top of that, if I had a technical problem, I could turn to one of the other consultants for help.

– I applied some of the technologies I was working on as a TechPeople consultant in the Merlin400. For instance, I started working with Raspberry Pi’s on an assignment for Philips/Signify. That inspired me to design the electronics of the machine based on a Raspberry Pi Zero. Also, on an assignment for a Danish producer of altimeters for skydivers, I discovered a cheap and extremely precise pressure sensor, which we’ve integrated into the machine.

The extractor is produced in a 3D-printfarm, which makes the Merlin400 the first ever 3D-printed chemical device for extraction of food products.

Interesting tech

Taking a closer look at the technical side of the Merlin400, there are some interesting stories to tell. Apart from being powered by a Raspberry Pi Zero, a Linux engine and 8.000 lines of Python code, the machine is 3D-printed.

Initially Peter and his team only considered 3D-printing for producing prototypes. But soon they realized they could 3D-print the entire machine, provided they could tackle a few problems first. As the extraction process was to run under vacuum they had to find a way to post-process the 3D-prints to avoid leakage and create a surface suitable as food contact material.  This feature makes the Merlin400 the first ever 3D-printed chemical device for extraction of food products.

– Also, we had to find ways to keep the production cost of the machine as low as possible. For instance, we needed a flow sensor to control the amount of fluid going through the system. But a good flow sensor can easily cost you 100 dollars. So instead we developed a simple system where we used a small stepper motor to control the flow. We are the first to do it in this way, so we’ve patented the setup.

Production has begun

After four years of development the world’s first cannabis oil kitchen machine is now ready for mass production, and in the coming months Peter and his team will be visiting cannabis fairs across Europe.

Although thousands of people benefit from using cannabis oil to ease various disease symptoms, fight insomnia or moderate the side effects of cancer treatment, the effect of cannabis as a pharmaceutical product is still disputed by medical research. The reason for this is, according to the Danish Medicine’s Agency, that there hasn’t been done enough high-quality medical research to precisely determine its effects and side effects.

This, together with cannabis being used as a recreational drug, has lead lawmakers and medical authorities to impose restrictions on its growing, selling and usage. The restrictions vary considerably across the EU and US. For instance the Czech Republic has a very liberal attitude towards growing and selling cannabis products. And that goes both for products with a large content of CBD, which is the ingredient with an anti-inflammatory and tranquilizing effect, and THC, which is the psychoactive compound of cannabis, producing the “high” sensation.

In Germany, another target market of the Merlin400, rules and regulations around cannabis vary from one federal state to another.

Part of pilot project

– In Denmark it’s not allowed to grow and sell cannabis. But it’s perfectly legal to sell a machine that can produce cannabis oil. We have joined the cannabis pilot project created by the Danish Medicine’s Agency, and we are allowed to work with all kinds of cannabis so we can test our machine with both low potent hemp and rich cannabis buds. We are allowed to sell hemp tea with a very low THC content to our customers, together with isopropanol and other stuff needed to run our machine.

Peter Selmer Gade expects to sell 10.000 Merlin400 machines in 2022, and he considers the long-time commercial potential of the machine to be far greater than that. In Denmark alone there are more than 61.000 people using cannabis oil on a regular basis and currently purchasing it at a high price online or producing it themselves under risky circumstances involving hazardous chemicals and fire risk.

– I like the idea of taking an industrial process and bringing it into people’s homes an onto their kitchen table. It’s similar to what happened in 3D-printing 10 or 15 years ago. It began with a lot of patents, and only the big league players were involved. Then somebody started to sell 3D-printers to the end user. In the beginning people thought it was a crazy idea, but see how it has evolved. I like the idea of ordinary people taking control – or as we put it: “Made By You”.

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