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In the corner of a hallowed hall at UC Berkeley sits a vending machine unlike any other: The Dreambox. It has a selection of 3D printed goodies that are available for purchase, and the buyer can even watch the object being made before their very eyes.

The Dreambox was built and founded by David Pastewka, Will Drevno, and Richard Berwick. They are all recent bachelor graduates or current students. I caught up with Richard last week to show me around.

A few of the items on display for purchase at the Dreambox.

A few of the items on display for purchase at the Dreambox.

Even though the Dreambox is primarily designed to print out pre-selected trinkets, I decided to throw him a curve ball and bring a file of my own: the Maker Faire Robot, of course. Within just a few minutes he had the file loaded and the on-board Makerbot 1 heated up. We watched as the robot was built layer by layer. Then a custom 3D-printed pusher arm advanced the bot across the bed and down into a channel, at the end of which a rotating device decided which locked drawer it’s put into.

Once this process is done, the user receives a text message with a code. Enter the code into the Dreambox, and a solenoid trips the lock on the drawer, allowing the piece to be retrieved. Nifty, and my bot came out great!
makerfairebot

On the inside the various parts are controlled by three Arduinos. Since this is their first prototype, the team wanted to keep it as modular and changeable as possible. Next iterations will be streamlined with PCB fabbing and a professionally designed enclosure.

So far it’s been a hit on campus. In just 2 months they’ve had 800 customers, with a few super users who have spent a significant amount of money using the Dreambox to make custom designs. The next step for Dreambox is churning out 8 – 10 more that will be placed in spots across the Bay Area, functioning as souvenir machines.

This reminded me of an anecdote MAKE contributor Gareth Branwyn once related. When he was a kid and went on family road trips, the highlight for him was always using the Mold-A-Rama machine at South of the Border to watch getting little toys made. I think the wonder of watching that process could transfer well for kids and adults alike.

Dreambox already has some venture capital raised to make this all happen, so if you find yourself in and around San Francisco, keep your eye out for the brand new Dreamboxes.

Michael Colombo

In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens’ educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.


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Comments

  1. jeffdm2 says:

    It seems to have a high risk of fiddliness to me. I doesn’t seem like consumer/prosumer 3D printers can operate unattended reliably enough to make one into a vending machine.

    1. Keep in mind this is just the first prototype, and Richard told me they only have to go in about twice a week for maintenance. The next 8-10 machines are being made by a professional vending machine company.

    2. I think there’s great future potential. Maybe not huge at this precise moment, but for the average consumer, spending $5 to $10 a pop is cheaper than 1k on a legitimate 3d printer… wish there was one on my corner!
      You guys should sell your concept to redbox or some similar group

  2. Byron Winchell says:

    Takes me back to memories of an old vending machine that blow-molded a Kewpie doll. Uh, younger readers might want to Google that.

  3. Cr says:

    Does this device let you bring your own file normally or was that just for the demonstration?

  4. mark says:

    sweet! its a prototype, and more likely it can do a lot more.. this work on predetermined designs but maybe in its further development it can produce better designs that are custom made by its customers! looking forward seeing this and its development.. cheers!

  5. Reyne says:

    Thanks for keeping us in the loop, Columbo! Reyne