Make the Most of a Lemon: UltraVend Vend3

The Ultravend Vend3 Vending MachineAs the old saying goes, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. The same holds true for vending. There are quite a few old, battered, outdated machines out there with a myriad of unique problems the pose to any vendor who uses them. In these “Lemon” guides, I intend to help anyone using the target machine make the most of their investment, and keep going where others might not be able to.

Today’s machine is the Vendesign UltraVend Vend3. The Vend3, or UltraVend is a plastic triple designed and manufactured by Vendesign as part of a Business Opportunity package. The design was released around the same time as the Vendstar, and though many estimate it is a clone of the Vendstar, the machines are nothing alike. The UltraVend came out in three varieties, the biggest difference being color and spill tray depth. The first were predominantly brown, with the second wave predominantly gray, followed by a color/gloss black scheme. According to research, the last Vendesign produced UltraVend machines were built in 1992. However, various Chinese firms continue to sell the machines under different names through different package deals.

Like the Vendstar, the UltraVend has three selections, plastic mechanisms, and 3 locks to secure 2 doors; 2 for the lid, and one for the back door. The UltraVend door slides off on a track as opposed to a hinged door like the Vendstar. The similarities end here. The first thing to note is the UltraVend is much heavier- the plastics used are thicker, and the components weigh much more. The candy dispensing mechanism inside is not the traditional wheel, but rather a rotating “barrel” mechanism, identical to those used in Vendesign 4-selection machines and some early U-Turn machines. Rather than gears, the coin mechanisms are affixed directly to the candy dispensing drum. The chute covers are sturdy plastic with tough springs and thick plastic pegs, and they tend to last longer than Vendstar chute covers due to a more rugged construction, and less surface area for customers to pull on.

The UltraVend is not a “bad” machine in any one regard. It is more physically resilient than other plastic triples, even more-so than the 1-800 triples for endurance. These machines can be knocked over without suffering much more than some scrapes. It gets even marks across the board for most points, but it has some faults that make it a lemon by modern standards.

For starters, the drum mechanisms lack any adjusting function of any sort. You cannot opt for a larger or smaller vend- the mechanisms have one setting carved out of the drum, and there is no easy way to alter it. This makes the UltraVend particularly outmoded today. With Peanut M&M’s climbing towards $10.00 a bag, and other popular choices following the trend, candy is just too expensive to “give away”. With traditional vend wheels, you can cut down on the vend size to maintain your $0.25 vends, but this machine does not allow for these changes without some modification. If you feel up to the task, here’s how to fix this problem.

Modify the UltraVend Vend3 Dispensing Drum- (ADVANCED)

Required items: Styrofoam pieces, food-grade plastic wrap, wood screw, screwdriver or drill.

  • Before you start, carefully remove the dividing panels from the product compartment. Gently apply pressure to the back panel pushing out, and they should slide right out. Once those panels are removed, remove the globe panel from the front. Some models have 2 small screws in the bottom, others do not.
  • Take a piece of stiff Styrofoam, this can be bought at a craft store, or recycled from a piece of packing. Carefully cut out a small block about the size of the tip of your thumb. See if it fits in the hole on the drum- if it does, remove it and proceed to the next step. If it doesn’t cut it down a little so it fits. The goal here is to cut down o the vend size- so it doesn’t have to be an exact fit. Leave enough space for the proper vend amount.
  • Take your Styrofoam piece, and wrap it in a small piece of food grade plastic wrap.
  • Finally, take a screwdriver or small drill and a small screw of your choosing, and screw the Styrofoam into the drum. Do not apply excessive force or you may crack the drum. Once it’s in place, that’s it- your vend potion is now much smaller, and your machine can be profitable once again. Do not use adhesives like glue for this step, as glues are toxic, and could contaminate your candy.

The next stop are the coin trays. This machine originally came with 2 trays- one two-section tray, and one one-section tray. To date, no coins have fallen into the trays of their own accord unless you modify your coin collection system. Luckily, this one is easy.

Modify UltraVend Vend3 coin collection system (to drop coins into trays)- (EASY)

Required Items: Piece of paper, tape

  • Take a sheet of 8 ½” by 11” sheet of paper, and fold it in half the long way.
  • Take the sheet and match it to the coin collection area.
  • Fold over excess of the sheet on the left side of the paper.
  • Insert the paper into the machine, and drop one of the folded sides behind the coin trays.
  • Use a few pieces of tape to secure the new ramp in place. Now the coins will fall onto the paper then slide into the trays rather than falling behind the trays and collecting in the bottom of the machine.

Finally, the UltraVend has one last easy fix. The spill tray. The spill trays on newer Ultravends are the weakest part of the machine. As they tend to be the first things to get hit by either the ground, other machines in transit, or the customer, they suffer a lot of damage. Some places will require spill trays, and for those replacing the UltraVend spill trays, they can be found on eBay for less than $10. However, for my stops, I have since removed the spill trays. On newer models, remove the screws from the bottom, remove the machine from the stand, and then unscrew the spill tray from the machine. Take the tray and throw it in storage, or sell it on eBay to someone who really needs it. This does not affect the operation of the machine in any way.

Today, professional and amateur vendors alike are tossing Ultravends in record numbers. As candy prices climb, UltraVends can’t even outmatch Vendstars, and are forced into dumpsters. I’ve seen UltraVends sell for as little as $10 each in great shape for this reason. I have a soft spot for these “obsolete” machines- the UltraVend is a good looking vending unit that still has a lot of things going for it. Hopefully through some modifications, you too can keep your UltraVends on the route making you money for years to come!

If you have a “Bad” machine that needs some help to get back out there, try the VENDiscuss forums, where the professionals can help you make the most of your “lemon”.

As always, good luck!

Speak Your Mind