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First Dreambox 3D printer vending machine heads to UC Berkeley


March 8, 2013

The first Dreambox 3D printing vending machine will be installed at UC Berkeley later this month

The first Dreambox 3D printing vending machine will be installed at UC Berkeley later this month

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Back in November, we hoped that it wouldn't be too long before 3D printing vending machines broke out of university and made their way into the public domain. That day is getting closer, with the arrival of the Dreambox. Currently being readied for its first installation ahead of a wider rollout, users will be able to choose an existing design from an online catalog or upload their own via an online interface, set the machine in motion and then receive a text message when the object is ready for pickup. Upon arrival at the vending machine, a unique unlock code is entered and the 3D-printed object retrieved from a drawer.

Dreambox founding members David Pastewka, Richard Berwick and Will Drevno all met at a mobile application development class at UC Berkeley in 2011. Finding it difficult to get quick delivery of 3D-printed creations from online vendors, they came up with the idea of creating a network of local, accessible, automated 3D-printing vending machines. After being accepted into a Berkeley-based Skydeck incubator/accelerator program in the autumn of 2012, the team has been working on its first prototype vending machine ever since – and is currently getting ready for release.

The system will have three simple stages. First, items to be 3D-printed can be chosen from a catalog of existing models or users can choose to upload their own designs (currently limited to STL/ASCII files of 5 MB or less) to Dreambox via the web.

Next, the print command is given and the order is sent to a cloud-based print queue before being directed to the vending machine. Once the item has been created, it's removed from the build surface and directed to a private locker, then an SMS message that includes an unlock code is sent to the user.

Lastly, keying in the code unlocks the appropriate locker and the 3D-printed object can be retrieved.

Custom or catalog objects can also be ordered at the machine itself via a touchscreen (tablet) interface. Any custom creation is then deleted after printing to prevent IP from being used without permission, but this may change to allow customers to store designs for later recall.

The first Dreambox is headed for the UC Berkeley campus at the end of this month. Maintenance will be undertaken by the Dreambox team.

"In a university setting, the average print will cost around US$15, but can be as little as $2," Berwick told us. "Pricing will vary based on the printer type and location. Payments will be required prior to picking up the print; however, we will likely take payments/orders both on the website and on the tablet mounted to the Dreambox itself."

Once the initial machine is up and running, the development team intends to build Dreamboxes to order, varying the number of internal 3D printers and lockers based on customer needs. A version that can be run on an intranet (installations that require IP protection) will also be offered.

While the current prototype makes use of a MakerBot Replicator 1, the company is hardware agnostic and is seeking vendor relationships to ensure the latest technology is used in Dreambox machines.

There's a video overview of the Dreambox 3D printing vending machine below.

Source: Dreambox via PSFK

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Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

This sounds like a great way around the big upfront cost of these printers for people who just want to learn or only need minimum use


Help me out here, what am I missing. Regarding 3D printing, isn't it awfully expensive for manufacturing? Say you are making 100 fancy planters. Isn't clay cheaper? Are we talking about eliminating the overhead of a B&M manuf facility as the real savings, if any? Or is 3D printing just a prototype building vehicle? I still don't get it's buzz...

Douglas Black

Douglas, The possibilities are endless. If you are into model cars, you can design and 3D print any kind of part you want. Got an idea for improving a bike part? Design it, 3D print it, and try it out. Got a broken piece for your sweeper that is discontinued? glue it together, scan it, and 3D print you a new piece. It wouldn't be economical or efficient to mass produce widgets on these, but making low production parts is feasible.

David Rachael
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