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

arnie-intelligent-beer-dispenser

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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PopCARD vending machine enhancement gets upgraded

[Alex] wrote in to let us know he just completed a pretty major upgrade to his PopCARD RFID vending machine system. You may remember that earlier this year he added an Arduino based RFID reader to a soda machine so that thirsty patrons could pay with plastic instead of cold hard cash. That system worked, but at the beginning of the video after the break [Alex] goes over some of its flaws. There was a button to add cash from the card to the machine in $1 increments, rather than the system just knowing how much to charge you. Also, if you accidentally selected something that was out of stock you were out of luck and were charged anyway.

The new system does away with the button, and knows what product is sold out. The control hardware was upgraded to an Arduino mega to gain extra I/O pins. The device now sits in between the machine’s buttons and its own controller. When cash is used, the Arduino sits passively and lets the machine do its thing. But when a card is scanned, it takes over control of the buttons, sensing your selection, then simulating coin and button presses to vend accordingly. The new setup also uses an Ethernet shield which allows [Alex] to tell what items are running low without being at the machine itself.

[Read more...]

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