The familiar sound of the Starship Enterprise’s teleporter has had young and old alike grinning with excitement at the prospect of molecular transportation becoming a reality. ‘Scotty’ first beamed up Captain Kirk and the crew, over 49 years ago in the first episode of Star Trek, and it seems like now the technology is one step closer to becoming science fact, not science fiction.

A team of scientists from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam have designed a real-life teleporter system, which can scan in an object and then “beam”it to another location elsewhere.

Ok before you go thinking “its not a teleporter”, just try and envisage the fundamentals of the idea. It’s not the dematerialising and reconstructing of an object, like in the ‘transporter’ of the Enterprise, rather the system relies on destructive scanning and 3D printing techniques.

It works like this: An object at one end of the system is milled down layer-by-layer, thereby creating a scan per layer that is transmitted via an encrypted communication to a 3D printer. The 3D printer replicates the original object layer by layer.

In a paper that was submitted for the Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction conference at Stanford University, the six person team said, “We present a simple self-contained appliance that allows relocating inanimate physical objects across distance…Users place an object into the sender unit, enter the address of a receiver unit, and press the relocate button.”

I love the fact that the system has been dubbed “Scotty” in admiration of the Enterprise’s Chief Engineer, Montgomery Scott. This new system differs from previous trials, which merely copied physical objects. According to the scientists, this new system operates by using a layer-by-layer deconstruction and encrypted transmission process. This makes sure that only a single copy of the object exists at any one time,

Currently, any real-world applications are slim for this sort of work, but in the future the encryption, transmission and 3D printing of objects may be a good tool to use for firms that wish to sell goods via home 3D printers. The system could ensure only one copy could be made per purchase. Is this going to be classed as 3D printed digital rights management? Who knows?

[Image via outsidethebeltway]