3D printing vending machine automates the invention process

The popularity of 3D printing has exploded, but even as prices for the devices have fallen, not everyone is prepared or able to shell out the cash necessary start experimenting. But what if there was a 3D vending machine that made experimenting quick and easy, without the printer investment? Well, now there is.

Created at Virginia Tech’s DREAMS Lab, the DreamVendor  allows students to quickly print out prototype designs by simply inserting an SD card containing a physible data file into a large bank of four Makerbot Thing-O-Matic 3D printers. Once completed, the printed object is deposited into a vending-style retrieval shelf, similar to the one from which you might snag a candy bar or a bag of potato chips. Designed to encourage 3D prototyping at the lab, students are allowed to use the machine free of charge.

And while the school hasn’t announced any plans to take the idea commercial, it’s not difficult to imagine a day, in the very near future, when you’ll see a similar, pay-per-3D-print version of the DreamVendor stationed at your local OfficeMax or Staples. You can see the DreamVendor in action in the video below.