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UC Berkeley Vending Machine Gives Public Access To 3-D Printing

BERKELEY (CNET) -- There's a new vending machine on the UC Berkeley campus, but it'll be of no use to students during a midnight snack attack. The Dreambox is a 3-D printing vending machine, the first of its kind.

Conceived and created by three Berkeley graduates, the machine is intended to democratize 3-D printing, making it available to the masses.

Dreambox CEO David Pastewka said the idea arose out of frustrations from trying to use 3-D printers on campus. The university offers a handful of printers for student use, but wait times are nearly a month long. Pastewka sees the technology as an important educational tool.

"Getting people exposed to 3-D printing and what it can do will hopefully encourage people to create their own models and solve their own problems," he said.

While 3-D printing has existed for a few decades, it's certainly trending now. President Barack Obama gave the technology a shout-out during his State of the Union address in February.

The technology also made recent headlines when pro-gun groups used 3-D printers to fabricate firearms that were successfully fired. The files for the 3-D guns can be downloaded by anyone capable of searching for them online.

Pastewka told CNET that a sneaky journalism student attempted to print a gun using the Dreambox, but that attempt failed. Dreambox's user agreement strictly prohibits the printing of firearms, said the CEO.

There are no restrictions on printing jewelry, though. That's good news for the accessory hounds out there since it is one direction the technology is likely to take.

Dreambox CTO Richard Berwick said the technology will get really exciting as 3-D printers become capable of creating objects out of metals. Need the perfect pair of earrings or cufflinks to complement your party attire for the evening? Don't scour shopping malls, just send a model to a 3-D printer and pick it up a few hours later.

Berwick further explained the virtues of 3-D printing, as he described the potential to print edible structures. "We're also going to see other applications in food," Berwick said. "So printing chocolate, printing a structure that no one has ever seen before. [We have the] ability to print what would go on top of a wedding cake and actually have minute detail in either chocolate or fondant."

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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