Feb 14, 2017 | By Benedict

Instructables user Blake Hawkins, a Kansas 17-year-old with a passion for making, has built an incredible 3D printed vending machine designed to fit inside a regular school locker. The unusual creation scooped First Prize in the Instructables Arduino Contest 2016.

Most of us went to school with somebody who tried to make money off their fellow students, whether through selling essays, betting on the softball, or undercutting the canteen. Never before, however, has there been an in-school moneymaking scheme as slick as this one. Hawkins, an incredibly talented 17-year-old maker, has built a fully functional vending machine that can be set up inside a regular school locker. The 3D printed and laser-cut ‘Soda Locker’ has a working coin slot, is powered by an Arduino, and cost around $160 to make.

In addition to creating something that is just really really cool, Hawkins seems to be onto something from a business perspective here. When I was at school, staff eventually phased out all the junk food from the vending machines until all you could get was bottled water and juice. That might not have happened everywhere, but the “healthy eating in schools” imperative of the modern era has brought about a potential black market for sugary snacks and drinks. With Hawkins’ 3D printed Soda Locker, any student could make a tidy sum from bootlegging Mountain Dew and Coke.

After jokingly coming up with idea for the Soda Locker with friends, precocious Instructables user Hawkins thought “Hey, why not just build the thing?” The rest is carbonated beverage history. After months of work and $160 spent on various materials and components, the maker eventually completed his invention, which features an Arduino brain, a coin acceptor, a magnetic reed switch, and an LCD screen. Using the school’s Epilogue Mini 24-inch laser cutter, the maker was able to fabricate an acrylic control panel and enclosure, before using a 3D printing service to create the can-dispensing channel and other parts.

Hawkins had to overcome a few challenges (such as static electricity tricking the machine into dispensing products), but eventually got the machine working perfectly. Arguably the most important part of the Soda Locker is its ability to accurately receive money and dispense the right products. To get this right, the maker programmed the Arduino to recognize “pulses” sent from the coin acceptor. (One pulse for a nickel, two pulses for a dime, and five pulses for a quarter.) Once they’ve paid up, customers can then choose from two beverage options, with the machine able to store two rows of six cans in 3D printed holders.

The internal dispenser for the Soda Locker was designed in Fusion 360 and 3D printed through the MakeXYZ 3D printing service. Makers looking to emulate Hawkins’ entrepreneurship can print out the parts using their own 3D printers by following the project’s Instructables guide. For anyone with a locker going unused, Hawkins thinks the project could be a worthwhile venture. “Lockers just aren't what they used to be,” he says. “With so many schools moving to electronic devices for books, lockers become less of a space for your books, and more of a question of: ‘What am I going to do with this?’” Accordingly, the maker invites prospective Soda Locker franchise owners to “pop open a can of your favorite drink and come along!”

In addition to being the coolest wheeler-dealer in school—he used a personalized can in the vending machine to ask his girlfriend to prom—Hawkins also scooped First Prize in the Instructables Arduino Contest for the Soda Locker. Show-off. Unfortunately, his school reportedly shut down the Soda Locker scheme because it violates school rules. Ever the optimist, Hawkins is now negotiating with the powers that be in order to make the locker a charity venture or a way for school clubs to raise money.

See the 3D printed Soda Locker in action below.



Posted in Fun with 3D Printing



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