there’s nothing worse than having a mouthful of syrup when you finish a milkshake, and this is a basic problem that mcdonald’s has set out to alleviate. the fast food chain is shaking things up in the design world with their re-engineering of the humble drinking straw, and has employed a team of aerospace and robotic engineers to reinvent the slurping experience for optimum milkshake consumption.

the J-shaped straw is designed to merge multiple layers of milkshake in one sip

the main problem faced by the mcdonald’s team has been posed by the chain’s new milkshake menu for shamrock season. the exclusive half-mint half-chocolate layered shake initially meant that the drinker would struggle to combine the two flavors in a single sip without waiting until the shake had fully melted.

the STRAW comes in its own sleek black box

since no-one wants their chocolate to mint ratio to be compromised by poor technology, mcdonald’s turned to two highly-qualified engineering firms, JACE and NK labs to create the STRAW—that’s Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal, by the way. the STRAW is a J-shaped, snorkel-like vessel that provides optimal flavor flow dynamics. the tube has side openings to suck in both layers at once, and is engineered to work just as well at the bottom of the shake as it did at the top.

the 50% chocolate 50% mint beverage poses problems for the everyday straw

principal engineer seth newburg elaborates that ‘from a physics perspective, it’s actually quite difficult to deliver a proportional amount of both chocolate and mint flavors in a single sip.’ the team used over 100 milkshakes in the testing phase, modeling the milkshake flow with computer software and using 3D printing to perfect the design. thanks to their efforts, the STRAW is a marvel of fluid dynamics.

the STRAW is on course to reinvent the user experience of milkshake drinking. after taking onboard customer feedback, the director of menu innovation realized that improving the milkshake was not about the drink itself, but rather the technology with which it was being consumed. 2000 STRAWs have been produced so far, and shamrock season will tell how well the re-engineered STRAW is performing.