Frustrated by the lack of access to 3D printers at their school, three recent graduates from UC Berkeley have installed Dreambox, the world’s first “3D-printing vending machine,” on their campus. Dreambox gives everyone access to the 3D printer for a small fee, allowing them to print objects from their own designs or from an online store. The creators hope that it will help democratize 3D printing and help more people realize the technology’s potential.

Dreambox CEO Pavid Pastewka told CNet that only grad students, researchers and PHD students have access to the few 3D printers at UC Berkeley, and sometimes they would have to wait more than a month to use one. Dreambox not only gives everyone on campus access to a 3D printer, but they only have to wait about 24 hours to pick up their object.

After registering with Dreambox, users can either upload their own design or print something from the Dreambox store. Popular objects include figurines from video games and TV shows. Prints tend to cost $15 or less, and users can pay with PayPal. Within 24 hours, users will receive an email with a code that they enter into Dreambox to unlock a drawer and pick up their object.

Dreambox only prints small objects -- nothing larger than a loaf of bread -- with plastics. It can actually get most prints done in less than an hour, but a steady stream of orders has led to the 24-hour wait time.

Three-dimensional printing has been used in manufacturing for a long time but has recently exploded into mainland consciousness thanks to rapidly decreasing costs. Recently, a pro-gun group created the first fully functional 3D-printed gun.

Dreambox’s terms of use strictly prohibit printing firearms, but that hasn’t stopped one person from trying. A journalism student attempted to a print a copy of the Liberator, but the print failed. Dreambox isn’t able to print some of the complex parts required for the gun.

The first Dreambox costs just under $10,000 and took about five weeks to build. The creators of Dreambox hope to one day see their 3D-printing vending machine in public spaces like malls and copy centers. As 3D-printing technology develops, they also hope to design printers than can use material other than plastic.

What do you think about Dreambox? What would you make with a 3D-printing vending machine? Let us know in the comments section.

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