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I'm a complete newbie trying to build a simple robot that dispenses candy (M&M, skittles, etc). However, since I'm not familiar with the field, I'm having a hard time googling because I don't know the correct terms to search for. I'm looking for a piece to build a robotic 'trap door' of sorts that will open for a specified amount of time to release candy. What parts can I use and what is are called? I've tried robotic lever, robotic door, etc with no luck.

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    $\begingroup$ You might search for "electronic dispenser". $\endgroup$ – Tut Jan 30 '14 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ The pharmaceutical automation industry makes a large variety of automated pill dispensers that achieve the functions you are trying to do. Of course, their systems are more complex due to the safety requirements for dispensing medicines. You might want to look up designs by Baker, McKesson, Innovation Associates, Automed, Kirby-Lester, and the like. $\endgroup$ – SteveO Dec 6 '15 at 23:11
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Your mechanism will depend on the type of dispenser you want. Like if its gravity feed or not. I will assume it is, so I make this sketch to give you some idea:

electronics candy dispenser sketch

The hole size will depend on how many candy you want to dispense at each stroke. (Of course its related to the candy size). The electro-mechanical actuator can be a crankshaft one, a solenoid, a linear motor, and goes on.

You can use a vibrator attached to the cup if the candy tends to get stuck.

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  • $\begingroup$ You will be amazed at how easily the candy gets stuck, or constructs "bridges" across the opening. Consider some type of agitator to break up those logjams. $\endgroup$ – SteveO Dec 6 '15 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ @SteveO yes, that's why I added You can use a vibrator attached to the cup if the candy tends to get stuck. when posted. $\endgroup$ – Diego C Nascimento Oct 3 '16 at 5:30
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There are two good search terms that come to mind. The first one is a "candy machine mechansim", or "dispenser mechanism" (e.g. http://www.woodworkingformeremortals.com/2012/10/make-candy-dispenser.html). There are several models of off-the-shelf pet food dispensers and cereal dispensers that use this method.

cereal dispenser

The second term would be a screw conveyor (a.k.a. "auger dispenser"/"food auger"/"grain auger"), which describes a more continuous-flow version of what you are describing.

screw conveyor

This type of dispenser controls the volume that is delivered by rotating the auger by a fixed amount, not by dumping a fixed-size container.

Beyond those, there are some homemade concepts that use some variation on the idea, like this one: sliding cat food dispenser

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, your first link and the "home made" concepts are near the same, just one is rotary and the other is linear. I don't think there's no commercial machine using the second optional, that is similar to what I suggested. The screw conveyor is complex to make, therefore more expansive (that's thinking on metal, if you find it in production in plastic it can be an alternative). $\endgroup$ – Diego C Nascimento Feb 4 '14 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I understand the point you're trying to make. $\endgroup$ – Ian Feb 4 '14 at 19:24

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