Teleportation has been the holy grail of transport for decades. However, though there are occasional reports about scientists having managed to teleport electrons or atoms across a short distance we have not seen anything resembling the sci-fi movies just yet. Now, German scientists have created an invention which to a large extent resembles an actual teleportation device, but they used a quite different approach in conducting the task.
A transporter which deconstructs people and objects into energy patterns before beaming them to another location is something we are all familiar with from the movies. In an attempt to realize something similar in the actual world we live in, German scientists have managed to deconstruct single-material objects and have them appearing in another place. The downside is that the deconstructed object is gone forever, and the technology used might be disappointing to the Startrek fans. Thus, it is not the same object that appears in another physical location, but a copy with similar properties. However, we still think this is quite interesting.
Scientists from the Hasso Plattner Institute have created the system, which relies on destructive scanning and 3D printing. According to The Guardian, an object at one end of the system is milled down layer-by-layer, creating one photo per layer which is then transmitted to a second 3D printer in another location. The printer then replicates the original object layer by layer, effectively ‘teleporting’ an object from one place to another. Quite amazing, however, the teleporter can only recreate plastic objects made out of a single material.
The invention is naturally called Scotty and, as Gizmodo reports, is actually made from a pair of off-the-shelf MakerBot Replicators that have been modified to include a 3-axis milling machine, a camera, and encryption hardware that allows the pair of 3D printers to communicate securely. The quality of the copy isn’t perfect, however. The process of simply photographing an object, layer by layer, instead of scanning it in 3D first, results in the relocated object looking kind of rough.
So what are the creators’ aspirations and the technology’s applications? Well, for instance the scientists believe that the invention could handle eBay purchases in the future. The purchased object could be scanned and destroyed by the seller, leaving just the duplicate that instantaneously arrives via the buyer’s 3D printer. As we naturally think that this is a waste of the planet’s resources, since you have to produce an object twice, we should not be too hard on the scientists since they are at least trying to eliminate transportation.
Scotty definitely falls short of the teleporter hype, but we can at least probably agree that it is an interesting project which uses a novel approach to 3D-printing. It is a proof-of-concept, but it is going to be a long time before something like this becomes truly practical. However, it is always great to see attempts to tackle a problem in innovative ways and we have throughout history seen inventions that found impactful applications outside the scope of the original intention. Only the future will tell us if this technology is useful or not. The Scotty system will need to be further refined when it comes to how it generates the copy on the other end before anyone seriously embraces it. But the potential is definitely here.