What is ultimate? Infinite RGB? How about a cool LCD touchscreen? Maybe even some completely unnecessary wifi capabilities? How about all of them- in a gumball machine. DFRobot reached out to me to create a project that uses their 2.8" TFT screen, so I made the most amazing gumball machine ever (of course).
As usual, almost everything that's more complex than making a few simple connections and a basic box needed a design in Fusion 360. I started out by sketching what I wanted the machine to look like. It needed to be tall, have enough room for all of the electronics, and also be able to support the weight of 12lbs of gumballs.
So then I tried to make a simple and elegant dispensing mechanism. It had to only dispense one gumball at a time, not get jammed, and not let more than one gumball fall through what it turns. I came to the realization that all I needed was a simple wheel with 4 holes, and that the dispensing hole would have a cover on the top of it to stop excess gumballs from falling through.
Housing and Fabrication
I started by gathering the dimensions for the gumball machine's legs and then sketching them out on a huge sheet of plywood. Then I took a jigsaw and cut the four legs out. I also cut out the main housing from plywood with my CNC router.
The LED strip got glued onto the bottom plate so it could cast a nice glow onto the machine's stand below.
In order for users to interact with the gumball machine there needs to be an easy interface. I chose to create a simple webpage that lets users dispense gumballs and change the LEDs' color. After an action happens the webpage POSTs data to a custom Node.js webserver via AJAX.