Students at UC Berkeley were tired of waiting in month-long lines to use one of the schools' 3D printers, so they came up with their own alternative. It's called the Dreambox, and it's a vending machine that dispenses 3D creations on demand.
The first Dreambox prototype was released on the UC Berkeley campus on March 25, 2013. It cost just under $10,000 to build, and spent five weeks in development.
Users can upload files to the Dreambox and submit payment by using a tablet attached to the front of the machine. There are also some ready-made design options programmed into the Dreambox so that anyone can walk up and use it, even without knowing how it works.
Once a user's piece is finished printing, a robotic arm removes it from the print bed and deposits into one of four drawers at the base of the machine. Users are then emailed a code that allows them to unlock the drawer containing their piece.
Printing with the Dreambox is pretty cheap, too. The average cost of a print session runs around $15. There is one downside though. They've had so many orders that people are having to wait as much as 24 hours before picking up their completed piece.
The logistics involved in having a remote, public-use 3D printer available around the clock seem pretty daunting, but the team appears to have it under control. There is a computer within the Dreambox that allows them to monitor the printer remotely and they plan to do weekly maintenance to keep it in shape.
The Dreambox team with their creation
Dreambox CEO David Pastewka wants to use the technology to democratize 3D printing and make it more accessible than ever before. "Getting people exposed to 3D printing and what it can do will hopefully encourage people to create their own models and solve their own problems," he says.
The Dreambox is still brand new technology, and the model at UC Berkeley is one of a kind right now. However, with any luck, store owners across the U.S. may soon be saying, "Put the Dreambox right next to the Redbox, please."
You can check out CNET's review of the Dreambox here: