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‘Scotty’ Teleports Objects Using 3D Printing
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By Jelmer Luimstra | 3D Printing

For decades, ‘Scotty’ been a cult word for Star Trek fans. The word refers to chief engineer Mr. Scott, who always transported Captain Kirk back to his starship. Captain Kirk would say his catchfrase “Beam me up, Scotty”, and Mr. Scott would make sure the captain would be teleported to his starship. Now, for the first time in decades, the word Scotty will find a new meaning. What it is we’re talking about? Well, a group of German scientists from Hasso Plattner Institute – probably Star Trek fan as well – has succeeded to produce a teleportation system, using 3D printing.

Their system, which is being described by them as the world’s first-ever teleportation system – consists of two 3D printers. It’s not a system that enables you to fully transport an object, so in that way of speaking it is not literally a transportation system. It does, however, enable you to put an object in the first 3D printer, and see it getting printed in another connected 3D printer, which can be placed anywhere in the world.

The system works as follows: after you put the object in your 3D printer, then Scotty – or: a well-equipped MakerBot – fully scans the object and creates a digitized version of the object. The machine then destroys the original object until nothing of it is left. Another connected 3D printer will start to print out the same object right away, so once the object disappears in the first 3D printer, it will start to appear in the other one. You can just press the teleport button, and the system starts teleporting your object. The printers use a 3-axis milling machine, a camera and a micro controller to make this happen.

The big difference between Scotty and regular 3D systems that just copy objects is that with Scotty there will always be one object. The object made on the second 3D printer will, however, not be made using the material from the first object. A funny invention and a playful way of researching the concept of teleportation, but does it have any actual purpose? Why did the German team come up with this? Well, they say it can help preserve the uniqueness of an object, so when friends share an object there will always be one version, with one emotional value. Another advantage is that it can address some of the licensing issues in quick electronic delivery.

Human transportation could one day become a reality, as researchers claim the laws of physics do not forbid the teleportation of larger objects such as humans, but we will probably have to wait for many more years before we could actually say: “beam me up, Scotty!”

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