Hackaday Prize Entry: Vendotron

A recurring idea in hackspaces worldwide seems to be that of the vending machine for parts. Need An Arduino, an ESP8266, or a motor controller? No problem, just buy one from the machine!

Most such machines are surplus from the food and drink vending industry, so it’s not unusual to be able to buy an Arduino from a machine emblazoned with the logo of a popular chocolate bar. These machines can, however, be expensive to buy second-hand, and will normally require some work to bring into operation.

A vending machine is not inherently a complex machine nor is it difficult to build when you have the resources of a hackspace behind you. [Mike Machado] is doing just that, building the Vendotron, a carousel vending machine constructed from laser cut plywood and MDF. The whole thing is controlled by an Arduino, with the carousel belt-driven from a stepper motor.

It’s not doing anything commercial vending machines haven’t been doing for years, except maybe having a software interface that allows phone and Bitcoin payments. Where this project scores though is in showing that a vending machine need not be expensive or difficult to build, and broadening access to them for any hackspace that wants one.

We’ve had a few vending machines here before, like this feature on the prototyping process for commercial machines, or even this one that Tweets. Sadly few have a secret button to deliver a free soda though.

Cute but Serious-Faced Automata Produce a Pour Over

robot-cafe-cartCheck out the great workmanship that went into [TonyRobot]’s coffee vending version of ROBOT CAFE at Tokyo Maker Faire 2016. We’d really like to see this in action, so if anyone has more success than we did at tracking down more info (especially if it’s video) let us know in the comments below. We spot laser-cut wood making up the clever scoop design (and the numerous gears within it) but simply must know more.

Technically this is less “robot” and more “automata“. The cart charmingly fuses vending machine practicality with a visual display… and a great one at that. The aesthetic of the Robot Cafe leaps over the uncanny valley and fully embraces lovable robot faces.

Coffee is ground by a manual-style grinder into a scoop, which is then dumped into a pour-over filter. The hot water is then raised from below to pour over the grounds. These characters can be reconfigured based on the needs of the venue. The creator page linked above has three pictures of the same cart and same robo-baristas, but they are fishing for sodas instead. The glass bottles are lifted through the hole you can see on the right of the cart’s counter, using a fishing line with a magnet to grip the metal bottle cap.

We were delighted when robot vending machines started to appear — the kind with a big glass window and a gantry that grabs your corn-syrupy beverage. But take inspiration from this. True vending nirvana is as much theater as it is utility.

[via Gizmodo Japan]

Anger Release Machine Is Built To Break

Is your temper hard but brittle? Meet the Anger Release Machine: a ware-dropping spiral vending machine stocked with precious porcelain.

There’s a bit more engineering and user experience design behind [Yarisal & Kublitz’s] art installation than meets the eye. The Anger Release Machine drops your purchase from dangerous heights, but like every passive aggressive vending machine, it also does its best to infuriate you using controlled disappointment. Insert a coin, see the steel spirals turn, and just when you’re already dying of the suspense…

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Restoration Of A Self-Crêpe Machine

A few years ago [Tweepy], one of the Hackaday readership’s global band of pancake enthusiasts, took possession of an aged “Self-Crêpe” machine. Judging by the look of the date codes on the ICs in the early 1980s, this machine cooked and sold a fresh crêpe on the insertion of a 1 Franc coin (about 17 U.S. cents in those days) for about thirty years.

Sadly, it would no longer produce crêpes. The aged control logic was the culprit, and rather than debug it [Tweepy] decided to replace it with a microcontroller (French language, Google Translate link). The one he chose (marked “RSF2127″, can anyone identify it?) came in a QFP package, so attaching it to a 0.1” prototyping board required some soldering wizardry with fine wires, but it was soon up and running. Some track-cutting and wiring into the original PCB, and the custom C code was ready to go.

The crêpe-making part of the machine features a heated roller not unlike the one in our recently featured South African endless pancake machine in whose comment thread [Tweepy] mentioned it, but appears to use only a single-sided cooking process. The roller has a round crêpe-sized raised area. To start the cooking process, a loading bath of batter is brought up under the roller which is then rotated so that the round raised area passes through the surface of the batter. As the roller turns, it cooks the crêpe, which is then diverted from the roller to the output chute. The whole process relies on a reservoir of pre-made batter, sadly it’s not a crêpe replicator. On the other hand, a single crêpe takes about 40 seconds to create, and the machine can produce them on a continuous basis as long as you keep it stocked with batter.

We like the crêpes, we like the machine, and we like what [Tweepy] has done with it. If any of these machines made it beyond the borders of France, we’ve never seen one in our corners of the Anglophone world. This is a shame, for who wouldn’t want one of those next to the kettle and microwave oven in their hackspace! They would have needed to work on that name, though, for the English-speaking market.

We’ve recently done a round-up of pancake-related hacks here at Hackaday, so there is no point in repeating it. This is however not the first vending machine hack we’ve seen. There was this stealth-upgraded soda dispenser, this Tweeting beer dispenser, or how about this open-source software machine that definitely didn’t vend.

Sniffing Vending Machine Buses

We’ve talked about a variety of protocols and how to deal with them in the past. Today, [Dan] is working on sniffing vending machine Multidrop Bus. The Multidrop Bus (MDB) protocol is a standard used in vending machines to connect devices such as currency collectors to the host controller.

To connect to the bus, interface hardware is required. [Dan] worked out compliant hardware and connected it to an Arduino. With the device on the bus, [Dan] got to work on an Arduino sketch to parse the MDB data into a human-readable format. With that working, the bus can easily be sniffed over the Arduino’s serial console.

This is just the start of a more involved project. Since this protocol is used to communicate with a vending machine’s currency collector or card reader, being able to communicate it would allow him to implement his own payment methods. The plan is to augment the vending machine he operates at Vancouver Hack Space to accept Bitcoin. We’re looking forward to seeing that project unfold.

A Bitcoin vending machine


Accessibility is one of the biggest hurdles facing the Bitcoin revolution, so [Mathias] found a way to give BTCs some market penetration by converting an old condom vending machine. The machine was 30 years old and required some clean up. [Mathias] also worked in a plywood adapter that attaches to the mount on the back so it can install on a wider variety of surfaces. This is an electricity-free alternative to selling coins: the machine is purely mechanical and it vends custom-made vouchers rather than the coins themselves, which you then redeem on the Kondocoin website.

The transaction isn’t as instant or snazzy as the Bitcoin briefcase converter from Defcon this year, but it still provides the advantage of an up-to-date exchange rate, as the vouchers themselves are valued at amount of Euros spent rather than a set amount of coins. The exchange rate is consulted later, when you punch in your voucher key. [Mathias] wants to share the wealth, too, and offers up the server software on github along with a detailed explanation of the process.

Robot steals soda from the vending machine


It’s very hard to tell from this photo because of the super bright blue LEDs, but this soda machine is being robbed by a robot.

We don’t condone theft, but neither does the creator of the project. [Ioduremetallique] is really just problem solving; doing something because he can. And we’d bet this type of thing will end up landing him a high-paying job some day (we’re assuming he’s currently in school).

The project is shown off in the video after the break. The gist of it is that a compact robot arm is put into the drop area of a vending machine. After the flap is closed the wired remote control is used to raise up the telescoping arm, and grip the soda can with the grippers. It’s brilliant and devious all at the same time. The entire video is in French, but the YouTube captions translator actually worked quite well with this video. To turn it one, use the ‘CC’ icon on the bottom of the video. We had to select the French captions before it would allow us to chose English from the translated captions list. About four minutes in we get a great look at the hardware itself… a super hack!

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