DreamVendor 2.0: 3D printing kiosks coming to a corner near you

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From chess pieces and trinkets to hard-to-find hardware parts — If you could go down to your neighborhood grocery store and have your 3D object printed right before your eyes. Would you?

Dream Vendor prototype. Photo courtesy Virginia Tech.

DreamVendor prototype. Photo credit: Wired.

David Pierce, the CEO of The 3D Box bets you will. Pierce, who has worked at Atari and Sony thinks there is enormous potential in on-demand 3D printing. That’s why his company plans on pushing out an army of 3D printing kiosks.

According to The Tribune-Democrat, these 3D printing kiosks would be available everywhere regular vending machines already exist: Retail centers such as local drugstores, gas stations and malls.

“It’s really an exciting product,” Pierce told the Pennsylvania-based Tribune-Democrat.

The machine that The 3D Box hopes to begin producing next year, is based on the Design, Research, and Education for Additive Manufacturing Systems Vendor or DreamVendor for short. It’s a machine that was developed by the mechanical engineering department at Virginia Tech back in 2012.

According to Wired, the DreamVendor is the brainchild of Dr. Chris Williams, Director of Virginia Tech’s DREAMS Lab, and student Amy Elliot.

Williams said his reasoning for creating the machine was simple.

“We wanted an experience where someone could walk up and use a 3-D printer without having to worry about anything besides loading a file and selecting ‘Print.”

The DreamVendor 3D printer works much like a home 3D printer except the machine is larger, more robust and can be used by multiple people. (Think heavy duty copier vs. home all-in-one printer). The Virginia Tech mechanical engineering website describes it as a “vending machine with an infinite inventory.”

One of the Dream Vendor's MakerBots in action. Photo credit: Wired.

One of the DreamVendor’s MakerBots in action. Photo credit: Wired.

To use the machine, people load their designs onto a memory card and put that into a slot on the machine. The machine’s four heavy-duty MakerBot printers then print the piece out and dump it into a bin.

At the moment, at Virginia Tech’s DreamVendor, users have to use a CAD 3D modeling program to make their designs. It’s unclear whether users will still have to do this when the 3D Box’s kiosks hit the streets.  Consumers who use the 3D Box’s machines will be able to print pre-designed items though.

Production of the first DreamVendor for consumer use is expected to begin some time next year. The startup will also bring technology-related jobs to the Johnstown, Penn. area. Pierce said he thinks the company could employ 20 to 25 workers within the next three years.The technology-related jobs would likely be in technology development, sales, marketing and manufacturing.

The team of students involved in this project included: Kevin Kline, Charles Tenney, Corey Buttel, Laura Fitch, Joseph Kubalak, Hannah Thomas, Cameron Thurman, and Callie Zawaski. (Nick Meisel  was the grad student advisor)

What do you think?  Could these vending machines catch on in your area?  Discuss in the DreamVendor thread on 3DPB.com.

Check out the video introducing the DreamVendor 2.0 below

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