At universities across the country, you’ll find soda and snack vending machines in the hallways of higher learning. I wouldn’t doubt you might also find some machines selling beer. But, here’s something different: in the lobby of Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, they’ve got a vending machine that is one of the coolest things I’ve seen: it delivers creations, 3D printed ones.
It’s called the DreamVendor, a mysterious sounding name, which actually pretty accurately describes it. It’s a one-of-a-kind, interactive 3D printing station to enable Virginia Tech students to freely and quickly fabricate prototypes for their academic, and even personal, design projects.
Instead of popping a few quarters in the machine, you insert an SD memory card into the reader, select the 3D model file, and tell it to start printing. At that point the Makerbot Thing-O-Matic 3D printers begin printing the model. When it’s done, it’s dispensed into a bin for the student to take. They don’t say in the video, but it looks like there are four of the Makerbots in the DreamVendor.
Is it popular? Hell yes. It’s been open for just weeks and they are unable to count the number of models printed.
Even though the DreamVendor is capable of working 24 hours a day, 7 days weeks, it’s only open Monday – Friday, 8am – 5 pm. I suppose it’s just so that the kids have some adult supervision, or they might print beer mugs and bongs all night. That, or the University’s union as signed up the machine and wants to make sure it doesn’t overwork itself.