New 3-D Printer Named Scotty 'Teleports' Physical Objects By Destroying Them
Thanks to a new 3-D printer fittingly named Scotty, we may be able to add teleportation to the list of scientific advancements predicted by Star Trek. The printer, made by experts at the Hasso-Plattner-Institut, can "beam" an object's physical information to another printer, make an exact duplicate, and destroy the original in the process.
Unlike other 3-D printers, which receive data about a 3-D object in its entirety, this printer sends data to another printer one thin layer at a time. It takes a picture of the object from overhead and sends that data, inducing the other printer to make a copy of that first layer. The printer then uses a mill to slowly grind that layer away from the physical object and then repeats the whole process with the next layer. In short, the object is being slowly destroyed, and then duplicated in another place, making it the closest thing we have to real-life teleportation.
Although the process of being slowly eaten alive by a machine sounds slightly disturbing (and downright terrifying when you consider that we'll eventually want to teleport people), this is actually remarkably close to the theory of Star Trek's transporter, and the prevailing theories about potential teleportation of physical objects. The only way to teleport an object is to dematerialize it and somehow rematerialize it in another place. The explanation of the technology behind the transporter was amazingly prescient, as it worked by converting a person or object into an energy pattern, beam that pattern to a target destination, and then convert it back into matter. In other words, the person would be "the same" in the sense that they would be completely identical in every way, but they would technically be made of different particles of matter. By destroying the original object, Scotty's process is more reminiscent of teleportation as imagined by both sci-fi and science.
But the scientists presumably did not just add that feature in order to imitate Star Trek, the name notwithstanding. They envision the destructive printer as ideal for everyday activities like selling objects on E-Bay, but also for solving problems related to copyright. While other 3-D printers will theoretically allow copyrighted objects to be copied for free as many times as one pleases, this printer would only allow for one copy of that object, and would only allow it to be in one place at a time.