Futurists often depict a world where anything and everything can be immediately obtained from easy to use machines. It's as simple as a machine beaming in particles and rearranging them into a physical object that one can interact with. It may not be the same thing, but Virginia Tech has a new machine that's awfully close.
It's called the Dream Vendor and it's a vending machine of sorts that houses four MakerBot Thing-O-Matic 3D printers. The students at Virginia Tech's College of Engineering can use the machines to make any 3D printed model that their heart desires.
The process of creating models in the Dream Vendor is really simple. Students can upload a standard .s3g file into the system, and the 3D printers get to work creating the model. Once it's done, the model is dropped into a retrieval bay for easy pick up.
Engineering schools usually have at least one 3D printer, but it's usually very large and not everybody can use it. Virginia Tech is spearheading an effort to make 3D printers more accessible to all. It's especially useful for the engineering student that needs a quick prototype of a project.
We may not be at The Jetsons level just yet, and we may never get there. The Dream Vendor is still really cool though, and I can see other machines like this popping up at engineering schools across the country.[h/t: Fabbaloo]