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1. (EP1684244) Vending machine
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Claims

1. A vending machine comprising:

a cabinet;

a plurality of shelves vertically spaced within said cabinet for supporting items to be vended;

an elevator arranged to move vertically within said cabinet; and

at least one actuation device attached to said elevator, said at least one actuation device being configured for physically interacting with respective portions of said plurality of shelves and moving a selected item toward the elevator while the elevator moves vertically within said cabinet.


  2. A vending machine comprising:

a cabinet;

a plurality of shelves vertically spaced within said cabinet for supporting items to be vended;

an elevator arranged to move vertically within said cabinet;

at least one actuation device attached to said elevator, said at least one actuation device being capable of physically interacting with respective portions of said plurality of shelves; and

wherein said at least one actuation device comprises a plurality of solenoids, each solenoid having a plunger capable of extending.
  3. A vending machine comprising:

a cabinet;

a plurality of shelves vertically spaced within said cabinet;

an elevator shaft disposed adjacent said plurality of shelves;

an elevator vertically moveable in said elevator shaft;

a first sensor disposed on said elevator for sensing first indicators along said elevator shaft; and

a second sensor disposed on said elevator for sensing a second indicator attached to one shelf of said plurality of shelves.


  4. A method of initializing a vending machine, comprising the steps of:

providing a vending machine having a plurality of shelves, an elevator shaft, an elevator vertically moveable in the elevator shaft, a sensor attached to the elevator, and a controller in communication with the sensor;

loading items onto the plurality of shelves;

programming the controller;

passing the elevator along an extent of the elevator shaft;

sensing the shelves using the sensor;

communicating sensed parameters from the sensor to the controller; and

processing the parameters in the controller.


  5. A vending machine comprising:

a cabinet;

a plurality of shelves vertically spaced within said cabinet for supporting items to be vended;

an elevator shaft disposed adjacent said plurality of shelves;

an elevator vertically moveable in said elevator shaft;

a plurality of dispensers associated with one of the shelves;

a plurality of sensors disposed on said elevator and configured to sense indicators; and

a plurality of indicators disposed on the one shelf, each of the plurality of indicators indicating a stock status of items on the one shelf dispensed by one of the plurality of dispensers;

wherein the plurality of sensors includes a plurality of stock-status sensors, each stock-status sensor capable of sensing one of the indicators as the elevator moves vertically past the indicators in the elevator shaft.