A new type of vending machine appearing all over. This machine is loaded with a variety of ice cream bars and other delicious pre-packaged frozen desserts, in a builtin freezer with an awesome automatic vacuum handling system.

The front of the machine features a coin slot, usually a dollar bill acceptor, buttons, a 2 line by 20 character VFD, and, on the ones found at Miami-Dade Community College, a smart card acceptor. There is also a large window which allows you to see the inner workings of the machine, where an X-Y positioning mechanism consisting of two front-to-back and one left-to-right sliding rails is controlled by a stepper motor to locate a telescoping flexible plastic vacuum hose above the appropriate location in a plastic grid inside the internal freezer. The freezer is a top-opening type, much like some deep freeze units.

The magic of one of these machines begins when you insert the coins or dollar bills necessary for a purchase and make a selection. First, a stepper motor cranks the freezer lid open. Then, the machine's embedded controller checks with a couple of magnetic reed switches that both of the track motors are at their home position, and moves the pickup mechanism back, counting off the steps until it reaches the proper position. Then, it moves to the right until the pickup is in the right place, and releases a latch that drops the hose. The hose falls and hits the ice cream bar's package, at which time the machine's little vacuum cleaner-like blower starts, picking it up and telescoping the hose upwards from the suction.

A sensor of some sort must detect if the product falls off the pickup at any time, as I've seen one drop it, reset itself, and try again (it won't just get stuck and eat your money like one of those spirally things).

Finally, the pickup is moved to the front of the machine, the vacuum is shut off, and the product drops into the bin where the customer recieves it, and appropriate change is dispensed. Note that my description of this process nowhere near describes the sheer awesomeness of it... one must watch one of these things in person to see just how excellent it is.

Source: Two minutes spent analyzing one of these things while bored and skipping class. If your local establishment of whatever sort has one of these machines of the boring kind without a glass front, complain bitterly.

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