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Noted: The DreamVendor

Jun 7, 2012

by Chappell Ellison

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

In one of the more obscure trends of the mid-1990s, there was a time when on-demand greeting card printing kiosks were all the rage. At our local mall, we’d take a break from shopping for CD singles to gather around the kiosk, peering through the machine’s little glass window to watch a metal armature sketch a design onto a blank greeting card chosen by whoever was willing to pay $6 for such an insta-treat. The cards were undoubtedly schmaltzy, with saccharine phrases and silly illustrations. Yet the thrill of watching the card come to life inside the machine — a joy that was completely lost on the card’s recipient — was enough to warrant multiple trips. Each holiday and birthday was an excuse to visit the kiosk.

There’s something absolutely transfixing about watching an object in production, even if a machine is the creator. Far beyond the flat surface of a greeting card, Wired Design describes the DreamVendor, a 3-D vending machine that spits out an object of your choice. The machine contains four MakerBot Thing-O-Matics —desktop 3-D printers that connect to a USB port on a computer. The Thing-O-Matics are arranged neatly behind glass so that you can watch them create your choice of one of the objects in flanking display cases.

What makes the DreamVendor so intriguing is its potential for user-generated creativity; the creators of the fantastically futuristic machine provide instructions for how to design and create your own custom items through the DreamVendor. Many are already taking advantage of the rise in low-cost 3-D printing;  the Free Art and Technology Lab created adapters that allows kids to connect Legos, Tinkertoys, and K’Nex. Called the Free Universal Construction Kit, the designs are free to download  and work with the DreamVendor and other 3-D printers. Imagine the possibilities. This process could radically change how we solve technical issues in our homes. What if instead of going all the way to the hardware store to buy a single screw, you could just go to your computer and click “print”?

3 Featured Comments

  • gossamer531

    Gossamer Tearoom from TheGossamerTearoom said 4 years ago Featured

    How funny to think of it printing out hardware! What will our handmade items look like when we can create any sort of supplies to make them? Fascinating!

  • GoldenSpiralDesigns

    Lola Ocian from GoldenSpiralDesigns said 4 years ago Featured

    Oh wow, I knew 3-d printers existed, but I had no idea they were so readily available or user-friendly! I have to say, being a child of the digital age is a pretty exciting time. It's almost as if we're reaching a point where we will be able to physically manifest on-demand just about anything we can imagine. That could also be a little scary. Can't wait to see how this technology develops.

  • CougarTShirtCompany

    Cougar T-Shirt Company from CougarTShirtCompany said 4 years ago Featured

    I understand the attraction. Even watching the machine, not the design, is neat. I worked in a medical lab and I used to love watching the machines move. It was like watching a ballet.

37 comments

  • PoconoModern

    PoconoModern from PoconoModern said 4 years ago

    Very interesting! Thank you!!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 4 years ago

    Nice read! Thanks for sharing!!!

  • peshka

    Peshka from Peshka said 4 years ago

    Thanks! interesting article!

  • ee333

    Erika Warren from Grotto333 said 4 years ago

    I'd love a dream dinner machine!! Print it and add water :)~ TY for sharing..

  • AnnaBear200

    Anna Woehling from JewelsByAnna said 4 years ago

    thats pretty cool

  • thevicagirl

    VaLon Frandsen from thevicagirl said 4 years ago

    This is a really cool idea. When I was going to school we could use a 3D laser printer, which was so cool. The technology behind it was so neat that a lot of people wouldn't even care about the design but got distracted by the object that was printed. It is really cool, but was quite expensive. I would love to see a time when it cost less and we could all have one.

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie said 4 years ago

    That would be interesting!

  • ThatGirlShelley

    Shelley from ThatGirlShelley said 4 years ago

    @Erika I would love a dream dinner machine too! I wonder how long it takes to print out your item and how is the final quality?

  • retrofish

    Margaret Fishback from retrofish said 4 years ago

    Has anyone seen the art-o-matic machines? Doesn't create the art on demand, but is unique in that it vends art!

  • retrofish

    Margaret Fishback from retrofish said 4 years ago

    artomat.org has locations if anyones curious!

  • guziks

    Stephanie from Phylogeny said 4 years ago

    Fascinating! Thanks retrofish for the list of locations! :) anything that has a "Thing-o-matic" is on my list of things to see... it sounds absolutely suess-erific.

  • volkerwandering

    Jess from volkerwandering said 4 years ago

    I never knew about these card machines, interesting read!

  • RetroRevivalBoutique

    RetroRevivalBoutique from RetroRevivalBoutique said 4 years ago

    Oh my goodness, I remember being fascinated by those card machines! :)

  • shawnstpeter

    Shawn St.Peter from shawnstpeter said 4 years ago

    Great Read thanks!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 4 years ago

    Great article!

  • gossamer531

    Gossamer Tearoom from TheGossamerTearoom said 4 years ago Featured

    How funny to think of it printing out hardware! What will our handmade items look like when we can create any sort of supplies to make them? Fascinating!

  • rachelungerjewelry

    Rachel Unger from RachelUngerJewelry said 4 years ago

    What a great tool that would be for use DIY'ers! Instead of having to go to the hardware store, or any store for that matter, we could print out that one little part that we need to finish whatever project it is we are undertaking. I'll take one please!

  • truthbeautyandlove27

    Colleen O'Neal from truthbeautyandlove27 said 4 years ago

    that would be amazing, I would love it if something like that could be created! Instant gratification, lol!

  • AshleySpatula

    Ashley Spatula from AshleySpatula said 4 years ago

    I enjoy watching my pet's tags being engraved.

  • myvintagecrush

    Kathleen from myvintagecrush said 4 years ago

    ..thus my obsession with "How it's made"

  • StringBeardCraftery

    Stephanie from StringBeardCraftery said 4 years ago

    Awesome thought provoking piece. This article, for some reason, reminded me of trips to the zoo as a child to make as many rolled out pennies as I possibly could. I hope I'm not the only one that did that. :)

  • StringBeardCraftery

    Stephanie from StringBeardCraftery said 4 years ago

    @myvintagecrush. I watch "how it's made" on netflix EVERY night! great minds watch alike!

  • OuterKnits

    OuterKnits from OuterKnits said 4 years ago

    Great story!

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 4 years ago

    Awsome!

  • dloustalot

    Danielle Loustalot from SomethingFromTheSun said 4 years ago

    This is an amazing article! I wish I would have been able to watch the card-making machines you described. As a child, I would have loved to watch that happen! On the topic of the Dreamvendor...WOW! Although I'm sure as of now it's very limited on what it can make, imagine the possibilities a decade down the road. I read the information linked in the text on the Dreamvendor, and it noted that one must know how to design the files used for the machine. One day, a file for every small object will be recorded and easy to use any time, by anyone. It's more than I could have ever expected from the future. Thank you for sharing this!

  • GoldenSpiralDesigns

    Lola Ocian from GoldenSpiralDesigns said 4 years ago Featured

    Oh wow, I knew 3-d printers existed, but I had no idea they were so readily available or user-friendly! I have to say, being a child of the digital age is a pretty exciting time. It's almost as if we're reaching a point where we will be able to physically manifest on-demand just about anything we can imagine. That could also be a little scary. Can't wait to see how this technology develops.

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 4 years ago

    The more I hear about 3D printers the more I think they're likely to completely change the way we interact with the world! How about this: instead of shipping all the parts for a water treatment works out to Africa, you just ship a computer & 3D printer, then print out water treatment equipment for yourself & all your neighbours! While it's nice to think that we'll be able to print out tap washers whenever we need one & save a trip into town, this technology will literally change the world in important, life-saving ways.

  • ArtsyFlair

    Michaela Bowles from ArtsyFlair said 4 years ago

    Great article!

  • rarebeasts

    Brian McNamara from rarebeasts said 4 years ago

    I for one, welcome the coming of our new robot overlords.

  • bedouin

    Nicole from bedouin said 4 years ago

    Oh wow ~ I used to get my Biorhythm read for a dime all the time from a chunky machine like that. It slowly looked like my heart rate was going through the roof and then would slow down to a mini peak. To this day I have a dozen or more of the thick card stock showing, well.....lets just say it was the 70s and I'll keep my Biorhythms to myself.

  • CougarTShirtCompany

    Cougar T-Shirt Company from CougarTShirtCompany said 4 years ago Featured

    I understand the attraction. Even watching the machine, not the design, is neat. I worked in a medical lab and I used to love watching the machines move. It was like watching a ballet.

  • Parachute425

    Terry from Parachute425 said 4 years ago

    Brian McNamara from rarebeasts says: I for one, welcome the coming of our new robot overlords __________________________ Ha! 3-D Printing is fascinating. I've been watching its progression for years now and the possibilities seem endless.

  • NannyMadeandfound

    Melinda from sixtybeansVntg said 4 years ago

    I couldn't agree more that watching something be created is fabulous. i have always loved watching glass blowing. and, i love being in a restaurant where the kitchen is an open area where you can see the flurry of cooking activity and enjoy watching things be prepared. we go to Mexico every spring with a youth group on a mission trip, go to the same little taco stand, and get fish taco's. the best thing i have ever eaten. all done right in front of you, fresh tortilla's, shark dipped in batter and fried in a little deep fryer. mmmmmmmmm, i can taste it now :-)

  • TheBeautyofBoredom

    Gracie from TheBeautyofBoredom said 4 years ago

    My boyfriend has been talking about this for awhile now. When he first told me, I was kind of confused, like, "okay, and...?" Now I see how this could be very useful for many people. We are definitely looking into buying one when they become more affordable to the general public, or just more affordable to us in general. The possibilities are endless, you can literally create anything as long as you have the materials. Once you learn how to use it, it could be very useful in terms of helping around the house or even with your business. The only thing about the 3-D printer is that it could save the time of some artists from creating work, but people could also start to lose that "handmade" quality. Is it considered handmade if you already made it but a copy is coming out of the printer? I think it some cases it can be considered handmade, it seems no different than an art print. Either way, these are immensely cool and I hope to own one in the future.

  • gilstrapdesigns

    Debra Gilstrap from gilstrapdesigns said 4 years ago

    Very interesting article. I have never heard about these or even that something like this existed.

  • mitchellpowers

    Mitchell Powers said 4 years ago

    I made a video about the dreamvendor and one of the students who designed and built it, Amy Elliott: http://vimeo.com/41774793

  • liddysopretty

    liddy sopretty from liddysopretty said 4 years ago

    Something I've never seen before...wow!

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