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A 3-D Printing Vending Machine, For All Your Prototyping Needs

The Dreambox lets you skip the lines at your local maker space. Just upload your plans and then swing by and pick up your project whenever you want.

Even if you don’t obsess about 3-D printing, it’s hard to avoid its rise, as more and more people adopt creative approaches to democratize the disruptive technology. While a startup in San Francisco has already come up with an Airbnb-style platform to connect printer-owners with people in need, across the Bay in Berkeley, a trio of entrepreneurs have come up with a more concrete approach: a 3-D printing vending machine.

The recent Berkeley alums and one current student behind the Dreambox, Richard Berwick, Will Drevno (who graduates this spring), and David Pastewka, say that the concept came about while working on different projects that required 3-D printing prototypes. Often, long lines for the limited on-campus printers would keep them from getting their prototypes printed in a timely matter. Or they’d have to look to online services, which could require a waiting period of several weeks and could be expensive.

The students see the Dreambox as a step toward spreading "hyper-local automated manufacturing" throughout the U.S. To use it, users simply upload their design to Dreambox’s site and click print. Then, they’re notified when the object is ready and receive a code to retrieve it, from a box at the Citris Tech Museum on Berkeley’s campus. According to Dreambox’s website, there are options to print in different colors and materials, including different kinds of plastic, nylon, wood, and metal. "Depending on the location, pricing will likely be similar to online printing services (could even be a tad cheaper); however, there will be no shipping fees," Berwick said via email.

The pick-up-only service officially launched this week, with one machine on the Berkeley campus. Berwick says they’re currently in talks to bring the machine to universities nationwide and internationally in the near future.