Venduino Serves Snacks, Shows Vending is Tricky Business

Seems like just about every hackerspace eventually ends up with an old vending machine that gets hacked and modded to serve up parts, tools, and consumables. But why don’t more hackerspaces build their own vending machines from scratch? Because as [Ryan Bates] found out, building a DIY vending machine isn’t as easy as it looks.

[Ryan]’s “Venduino” has a lot of hackerspace standard components – laser-cut birch plywood case, Parallax continuous rotation servos, an LCD screen from an old Nokia phone, and of course an Arduino. The design is simple, but the devil is in the details. The machine makes no attempt to validate the coins going into it, the product augurs are not quite optimized to dispense reliably, and the whole machine can be cleaned out of product with a few quick shakes. Granted, [Ryan] isn’t trying to build a reliable money-making machine, but his travails only underscore the quality engineering behind modern vending machines. It might not seem like it when your Cheetos are dangling from the end of an auger, but think about how many successful transactions the real things process in an environment with a lot of variables.

Of course, every failure mode is just something to improve in the next version, but as it is this is still a neat project with some great ideas. If you’re more interested in the workings of commercial machines, check out our posts on listening in on vending machine comms or a Tweeting vending machine.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Harmonicas, Candy, And Van Halen

Watch enough How It’s Made, and you’ll soon become very enthusiastic about computer vision and compressed air. In factories all around the world, production lines automatically sort the wheat from the chaff by running a product underneath a camera and blowing defective product off the line.

For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Fabien] is attempting this same task. He’s building a machine that will rapidly sort candy with computer vision and precisely controlled jets of air. He’s also planning for the Van Halen reunion and building a CNC harmonica.

Right now, the design has a hopper full of M&Ms dropping through a channel where a camera looks at each individual piece of candy. A Raspberry Pi, camera, and OpenMV detect all the red, yellow, brown, and blue M&Ms, and send that information to a computer controlling a suite of pneumatic valves. When these valves open, candy of different colors is shuffled off into it’s own bin. It’s the perfect device for someone responsible for reading Van Halen’s rider.

In an interesting little side project, [Fabien] needed a way to test the pneumatic valves before building the color sensor and candy chute. He had a harmonica lying around, and built something we’re surprised we’ve never seen before. It’s a CNC harmonica, capable of belting out a few tunes. You can check out that testing video after the break.

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Push Button, Receive Candy (or Death)

Will you be handing out candy on Halloween? Maybe you have a party to attend or kids to take around the neighborhood and can’t be home to answer the bell. You don’t want to be The Dark House With No Candy, ’cause that’s a good way to get TP’d. We’re not exactly sure what [Ben]’s catalyst was aside from trying to avoid tempting would-be thieves with an unattended bowl on the porch. Whatever the reason, we’re happy to present Candy or Death, his gamified candy (or death)-dispensing machine.

Okay, so it only dispenses candy for now. [Ben] hasn’t quite worked the kinks out of his death ray. He designed it to sit behind a porch-facing window so it can’t be messed with. All trick-or-treaters can do is push the button and take the candy. It’s built around a cereal dispenser that’s modified to be cranked by a piece of round rod driven with a NEMA-17 stepper motor and an Arduino Uno with a motor shield. The candy slides down a length of aluminium rain gutter into a plastic stacking bin, and the whole thing is built into a nice wood frame.

A few adjustments were necessary to keep it from jamming. The dispenser’s hopper uses rubber blades to govern the flow, and he ended up removing a few and trimming the others. [Ben] has an album up of all his build pics and put his code on the gits. Stick around to see videos of the machine from the front and rear.

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Quick Candy Sorting Machine

OCD. Sometimes things just get to you, like those pesky bags of randomly assorted candies. [Torsten] decided to build a sorting machine capable of sorting Skittles or M&Ms into separate cups by color at around 80 pieces per minute. It’s a great implementation, using an Arduino Duo. He based the code on the principles of a finite-state machine, in order to make it as quick as possible.

It works as you would expect: When a candy piece is loaded, the color is determined using an RGB sensor. A 360-degree servo is used to move the chute to the proper position, and interestingly, the system preemptively releases the candy before the chute is in position in order to maximize the speed. If you watch closely, you can see this behavior in the video (embedded after the break).

[Torsten] includes a complete bill of materials, if you’d like to try it for yourself. He also included a list of possible improvements.

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This week on HANDMADE.hackaday

Snap 2013-06-09 at 09.13.04

This week on HANDMADE.hackaday we’ve seen a pretty good variety of skills. is growing quickly. Keep sending in those good tips! We have some videos of our own planned as well, keep an eye out for those!

Sugar Painting: street vendors make works of edible art

Street vendors can sometimes show the best examples of refined skill. These street vendors in China have carved out a niche with a very specific type of candy. They pour heated sugar in various shapes and designs, then put it on a stick for your consumption. It doesn’t sound that impressive, but watch these videos and see the skill they show. As with many street vendors, you can tell these people have done this 10,000 times and the muscle memory could almost carry them on autopilot.

I would be happy to support street vendors like this.

Hackerspace develops ways to get Peeps to spill their secrets


Whether you call it enhanced interrogation or torture, the subject is a lot less serious when the victim is a sugary confection. The LVL1 Hackerspace in Louisville, Kentucky recently held an event focused on getting Peeps — the bunny-shaped sugar-covered marshmallow treats — to spill their guts. Participants developed a range of tongue-in-cheek torture devices then demonstrated their functionality on the bunnies.

You shouldn’t be surprised that the event posting starts with Peep waterboarding. But from there the rigs do get a lot more creative. For instance, the electric chair above connects the bunny to a stun gun (there’s no mention of what that big set of capacitors has to do with this. There’s also an Iron Maiden which is really more of a Plastic Maiden. It subjects the marshmallow to multiple stab woulds using a plastic egg as an enclosure and a hair brush head as the spikes. You can’t mutilate Peeps without at least one being sent through a microwave. But perhaps our favorite is The Rack. A pair of them were built, one was laser cut and the other was constructed free-hand. Both are a whimsical take on a historically brutal implement.