3-D printer wows students at U.C. Berkeley

April 1, 2013 8:37:55 PM PDT
At the end of a long, empty hallway at a UC Berkeley engineering building sits the most unusual vending machine the campus has ever seen. They call it the Dreambox and it prints out three dimensional objects right before your eyes.

"People just walking by and being, 'wow, that's really cool, I want to try this,'" said Will Drevno, Dreambox Chief Operating Officer.

"The rocket shot glass, one of the more interesting items that the fraternities and sororities seem to like a lot. We've got an I-beam here which we actually had a group on campus test. They did stress testing on it," said Richard Berwick, Dreambox Chief Technology Officer.

The 3-D printer at the heart of the Dreambox is the same kind engineers use to make prototypes of new products. Using a spool of corn-based plastic, it builds objects one layer at a time that cool and harden in just minutes.

The Dreambox runs itself. There are no staff members to oversee the process. That means the machine never takes a break. All it does is print.

All you need to do to have your very own 3-D product is send the Dreambox a computer file and pay with a credit card. Then it gets to work and emails you when it's done.

A robotic arm drops your finished model into a chute which then moves it into a locked drawer. People receive their finished product when they show up and enter a four-digit code to claim it.

"It just works, that's what's awesome about it," said Drevno.

The Dreambox creators are quickly finding out that their machine could have limitless possibilities in education and in business.

"We'd like to essentially put this in at elementary, middle schools and high schools," said Berwick.

And soon, plastic won't be the only material the Dreambox manufactures. The developers have their eyes on custom retail products.

"As soon as we get the ability to, say, print to silicone, then maybe you do just an iPhone case," said David Pastewka, Dreambox Chief Executive Officer. "Or as soon as we put metal printing in here, why don't we do a jewelry Dreambox?"

The students already have interest from investors who are looking to own a little piece of the 3-D future.


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