3D printing for everyone

A few months ago I got an email from a young entrepreneur with a product to push.

As you can imagine, I get a lot of unsolicited emails trying to sell the museum products and services. I’ll be honest with you—most of them just get deleted. But this one stood out. Will Drevno had something we couldn’t ignore.

I replied right away.

Now we have the privilege of being one of the first users of the Dreambox. It’s a 3D printing vending machine. Cool doesn’t even begin to describe this.

The team at Dreambox have taken a consumer-level 3D printer and modified it for use in a vending machine context. The printer sits in a plexiglass case, so you can see it working. Using a tablet interface, visitors can purchase the model that just printed. We’re offering models of objects from our collection; at the moment there are just two, but we’ll be adding more soon.

This is a trial for us and for Dreambox. They’ve had a machine on campus at Berkeley for a while, but this version is their first production model. That means they’re tweaking the interface and the models as they go along, making changes based on observation and visitor feedback. As you’d expect with a new piece of equipment, things don’t always go exactly to plan, but the Dreambox team is on call to sort out customer issues.

For us, we’re building on what we learned in our earlier Scanathon, where we had artists photograph objects from the collection to create 3D models. We’re interested in how our visitors might want to use these objects; taking them home is one option.

So next time you’re at the museum, stop by and check out the machine in South Court, near the store. Maybe buy yourself a little Nandi, or just watch it print for a while. And tell us what you think. We’re all learning from this one.