Rube-Goldberg provides liquid refreshment


The image to the left doesn’t make this look like much, but inside of the cardboard vending machine lives a clever Rube-Goldberg device. The video after the break gives a look at the inner workings to show how a quarter manages to dispense a full can of Coke. But that’s about all the detail we get on the project.

There are two sets of counterweights used in the design. Some marbles, and what look like giant pinballs. The coin chute, located on the left side of the venting machine, funnels the money into the waiting marble. When the marble rolls off it lands on a spoon. The weight rotates the spoon-filled disk and causes one of the waiting pinballs to drop from their rack. As that metal ball falls it operates a ratcheting system to dispense just one can. It looks like the capacity of the machine is limited to two refreshing cans of sugary liquid, but that could be scaled up if more room were made for cans and counterweights alike.

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Tweeting beer dispenser requires co-worker approval


Having been faced with an empty beer fridge one too many times the team at Metalworks came up with an approval system for dispensing malted beverages. The trick was to remove the physical controls on a can dispenser. The only way you can get a cold one is to ask the machine via its twitter account. If there’s beer inside, it waits for one of your approved co-workers to give the go-ahead.

There are two versions of the machine. The first is a hacked refrigerator with a dispenser hole cut in the door. This resides in their Sydney office, apparently doesn’t work all that well, and is only shown in the video after the break.

The image above is version 2.0 which is located at their Singapore branch. It’s a much smaller device, but works very well since it started as a commercially available can dispenser. You can see the Arduino Leonardo and breadboard which make up the driver circuits.

There aren’t a ton of details on this, but it’s not hard to find about a million examples of an Arduino using Twitter. Here’s one that takes Morse code as an input and posts the message as a Tweet.

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Bilbio-mat is an awesome yet simple used book vending machine

You’ll find this used book vending machine at The Monkey’s Paw in Toronto, Canada. For two Loonies you can buy a random book from the machine’s hopper. Silly? Absolutely. But as you can see from the video after the break, the act of buying a book this way is a lot of fun, and we always like to see the insides of a machine like this.

[Craig Small’s] creation looks vintage, and the chugga-chugga and mechanical bell that accompany each sale go along well with that appearance. Of course the machine is new. A trio of hoppers behind the façade hold stacks of books at a forty-five degree angle. Each stack is raised one at a time by a winch and pulley. Once the top book on the stack is high enough to slide into the dispenser chute the winch stops and the bell rings. A simple solution to dispensing something that is not a standard size.

Because the Biblio-Mat is meant to clear out the discount books, slight damage caused by falling down the chute won’t even be noticed. And if you end up really loving the book you can digitize it by running it through one of these.

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Making people pay for their beer at parties

A common problem at parties and get-togethers – although we don’t remember this happening – is regulating the amount of alcohol people consume. [Mike] came up with an interesting solution to make sure people don’t drink more than their fill by building a vending machine out of a minifridge that allows you to keep track of how many cans someone has taken.

[Mike] added a magnetic card reader on the side of a minifridge that allows any card with a magnetic stripe – a library card, credit card, or school ID – to serve as a unique identifier for each party guest. This card reader is connected to a Raspberry Pi which handles all the registration and eventual payment processing via Venmo

The mechanical portion of the build is a series of ramps built inside the fridge. At the bottom of this series of ramps, a servo controlled by an Arduino dispenses one can at a time when commanded to by the Raspi. The vending machine has a capacity of only 24 cans, but [Mike] says that could be improved with some CAD designed ramps inside a more modern fridge.

Vending machine prototyping

[Vending Mexico] plans to design, build, and sell their of vending machines. You’ve got to start somewhere so they’ve built this prototype. It offers a range of vending features but was built with parts we’re used to seeing in hobby projects.

The one challenge they didn’t take on is the ability to identify coins and make change. You can see they’ve chosen to use a Coinco Guardian 6000 changer. But the custom circuit taps into the device, identifying how much money has been dropped in the slot, and controlling the coin dispenser to make change. Right now there is only one item to choose from; some packs of gum  stored in a cardboard partition with the typical metal corkscrew — driven by a servo motor — to dispense the product. Just below that partition there is a row of IR LEDs which have a complimentary set of IR phototransistors. The machine uses these to detect when product has dropped through. This way if your candy gets stuck you get your money back.

The user interface is shown off in the video after the break. It uses a set of seven segment displays for feedback. An arcade button is used to select the desired product. The video dialog is in Spanish but we had no trouble telling what is being shown off even though we don’t speak the language.

We can’t remember seeing other scratch built vending machine. It seems all of them have been hacks on older commercial vending hardware.

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Freedom Toaster dispenses FOSS… for free

The Seneca College Linux Club figured out a fantastic way to help promote Linux to a wider audience. They took some surplus hardware and made an Open Source software vending machine. That is and isn’t a play on words. The project itself is an open source project, and the goal is to dispense other open source software in the form of CDs and DVDs.

Their build page shares all of the details. They acquired an older server cabinet which was on the way out from the IT department. It’s more than large enough to fit a person inside, which is overkill but it makes it much less likely that someone will try to walk off with the thing. Inside you’ll find a computer, two monitors (one is a touch screen for consumer use, the other is just an extra hidden inside for maintenance.

You must bring your own blank CD-R or DVD-R (but the burning is free). You can see the DVD shelf at waist-level on the fully painted kiosk above. The only thing we think is missing here is a USB port for brewing up a bootable USB stick.

[Thanks MS3FGX]

Beer dispenser talks to customers, announces office parties via Twitter


Just about the only thing better than beer is free beer.

Staff at the Arnold Worldwide ad agency are free to imbibe in the office’s lounge area, but a few employees thought that it would be pretty awesome to have their beer stash offered up by a vending machine. Using a grant that the company sets aside for “creative projects”, they built [Arnie], the interactive beer dispensing machine.

The machine was stocked with company-branded brews, and each employee carries an RFID key fob pre-loaded with beer credits. When the urge hits, staff members swipe their fob in front of the machine and select their preferred drink from the large, front-mounted touch screen. [Arnie] speaks with his customers and also uses Twitter to announce parties in the making, when a handful of bottles have been vended over a short period of time.

The project was a great use of money if you ask us, and we think that every office should have one of these babies in-house.

Continue reading to see a short video of how [Arnie] came to be.

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