Business, Sales

How Do Vending Machines Work

Vending Machine | Phil Whitehouse | FlickrVending machines are ubiquitous; found in offices, leisure centers, cinemas, shopping malls, and more. The process seems simple: insert money, press a button, and receive a snack. But what happens inside these machines? This article delves into the inner workings of vending machines, unraveling the mysteries behind this modern convenience.

The Keypad: The Command Center

The keypad is the first point of contact with the vending machine. It allows users to select their desired product by pressing the corresponding buttons. However, its function goes beyond just registering button presses. The keypad is linked to the vending machine’s computer system, which processes the input and signals the machine to dispense the selected item.

Payment Methods: Cash and Card Systems

As technology advances, contactless payments are becoming more prevalent, but many machines still accept cash. Let’s explore both payment methods in detail.

Paying with Cash

When paying with coins, users insert the required amount into the slot. The machine employs electromagnets to measure the diameter, type of metal, and thickness of each coin, ensuring the correct amount has been inserted. Once validated, the familiar ‘clunk’ sound indicates that the money has been accepted, and the machine begins to dispense the product.

For machines that accept notes, the process is slightly different. The note is scanned by a series of optical sensors, which take images of the bill and send them to the computer for authentication. This process ensures that counterfeit notes are rejected.

As currencies evolve (e.g., changes in the appearance of £1 coins and English banknotes), vending machines must be updated to recognize and accept new currency while rejecting obsolete ones.

Paying with a Card

Card payments can be made using chip and PIN or contactless methods. For chip and PIN, the user inserts their card, and the machine reads and encrypts the card data before sending it to the computer. For contactless payments, the card’s RFID chip communicates with the vending machine’s receiver.

Once the card data is validated, it is sent to a credit card processor via a data center for approval. The processor then communicates with the vending machine’s computer to confirm or reject the transaction. If approved, the product is dispensed, and the funds are charged to the card.

Dispensing the Products: Coils and Pickers

Vending machines typically store products in rows held by coils. These coils are powered by electric motors activated once the payment is accepted. The coils rotate, releasing the selected item.

Some advanced vending machines use mechanical pickers instead of coils. When a product is selected, a mechanical arm retrieves it and places it in the tray or slot. This method is smoother and prevents potential issues like fizzy drinks exploding when dropped.

The Collection Tray: Ensuring Successful Dispensation

The collection tray at the bottom of the vending machine is more complex than it appears. Infrared beams line the tray to detect whether the product has been successfully dispensed. When the product falls through the beam, it signals to the machine that the transaction is complete. If the beams are not broken, indicating the product is stuck, the machine will attempt to dispense the item again.

Modern Vending Machines: Catering to Changing Tastes

Vending machines have evolved to meet the diverse needs of consumers. Beyond traditional snacks and drinks, vending machines now offer various products, from cheeseburgers and hot dogs to DVDs and socks. These modern machines cater to people in a rush, providing quick access to a wide range of items.


The convenience of vending machines is unparalleled, offering quick and easy access to various products. From the moment you press a button to the instant your snack is dispensed, a series of sophisticated mechanisms work in harmony. Whether using cash or card, selecting a product held by coils or retrieved by a mechanical arm, Vending Machine For Sale Fort Lauderdale machines exemplify efficiency and innovation. As technology continues to advance, vending machines will likely become even more versatile, meeting the ever-changing demands of consumers.


1. How do vending machines differentiate between coins?

Vending machines use electromagnets to measure the diameter, metal type, and thickness of coins to ensure the correct amount is inserted.

2. Can vending machines accept new currency designs?

Yes, vending machines can be updated to recognize and accept new currency designs while rejecting obsolete ones.

3. How do contactless payments work in vending machines?

Contactless payments use an RFID chip in the card, which communicates with the machine’s receiver. The card data is then validated and processed for approval.

4. What happens if a product gets stuck in the vending machine?

Infrared beams in the collection tray detect if a product has not been dispensed. If the beams are not broken, the machine will attempt to dispense the item again.

5. What types of products can modern vending machines dispense?

Modern vending machines can dispense a variety of products, including snacks, drinks, hot food items, DVDs, and even socks, catering to diverse consumer needs.

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