“Scotty” Is More Hungry 3D-printing Fax Machine Than Teleporter

Researchers at the Hasso Plattner Institute have created “Scotty,” a so-called teleportation system. While the name is a clear homage to the famous Star Trek character, this is not the Sci-Fi teleporting you may be expecting. The system is composed of two 3D printers (they used a pair of MakerBot Replicators). The “sender” printer has a camera and built-in milling machine. It uses deconstructive scanning – taking the picture of an object’s layer, then grinding that layer down to expose the next layer – and then sends the encrypted data to a “receiver” printer with a RasPi to decrypt the data so that it can immediately print the object. The ultimate idea behind this is that there is only one object at the end of the process.

It’s a disservice describing Scotty as a teleporter. By the researchers’ definition of a teleporter, the lowly fax machine is on par with Scotty – and it doesn’t destroy the original. The researchers claim that this destructive-reconstuctive method preserves the uniqueness of a given object, as long as any sentimentality. We can agree with the unique aspect: the less copies of something means it retains it intrinsic value in the marketplace. The sentimentality – not so much. We’ve all had a moment in our lives where a treasured item of ours, worthless to everyone else, was destroyed. Either we’d get a replacement or someone else would give us one to silence our wailing, but it wasn’t quite the same. If you could clone your dead pet, subconsciously you’d know it’s not going to be the same Fluffy. It’s that exact thing, atoms and all, that has the emotional attachment. Trying to push that psychological perspective onto Scotty’s purpose is irksome.

csm_scotty-relocating-objects-concept_8395293f55Focusing on sales for Scotty is more appropriate, though not without it’s problems. Ideally, for online sales, it’s a way to preserve licensing. You buy a cube, you get one cube; you don’t keep the file to make a hundred cubes without giving the vendor their due. However, from a vendor’s perspective, it is far more profitable for them to keep a prototype file and send a one-time use file rather than go through the process and cost of manufacturing dozens of objects that will be destroyed anyway. Plus, as any owner of a 3D printer is well aware of, prints don’t always come out perfect the first time out. What happens when there’s a screw-up on the receiving printer; you don’t have the opportunity to start over, because the original object is destroyed. There is a fabrication log that prevents completed objects from being reprinted, but nothing is said about it allowing reprints of failed runs or of error detection. Neither the vendor nor customer benefits from that scenario. And as for a sentimental object – now it’s ruined. If this system was to be explored further for a marketplace, these are issues that need to be considered, especially since there are plenty non-destructive ways to scan the innards of an object.

Scotty is an interesting project, and does use a novel approach to 3D printing. It requires a robust system to ensure successful prints on the first try, but it’s going to be a long time before something like this is practical. We see it more an artistic piece and proof-of-concept, but it falls short of the “teleporter” hype.

[via TechCrunch]

40 thoughts on ““Scotty” Is More Hungry 3D-printing Fax Machine Than Teleporter

    1. Terahertz scanner… which is what they use in the airport now in many cases. It gives your more information about the composition of the object than MRI from what I understand. At the very least they are less obtrusive…. imagine a future where you are terahertz scanned reatomized on your plane seat and your “original” is vaporized….bleh now I just feel morbid about it :P

  1. I like the creativeness of thes method, There will be problems with overhangs both on the scanning and the printing side (support structures are hard to predict of you are printing while scanning).
    The destructive scanning alone could have some use for complecated objects.

  2. Whooooosh.
    “It’s a disservice describing Scotty as a teleporter.”
    That’s EXACTLY how a Star Trek transporter works.
    “We’ve all had a moment in our lives where a treasured item of ours, worthless to everyone else, was destroyed. Either we’d get a replacement or someone else would give us one to silence our wailing, but it wasn’t quite the same.”
    There’s like, entire seasons dedicated to this concept, in both the original, and TNG. Did you never watch Star Trek?
    *headslap* turn in your geek card. now.

        1. Its geek cred to believe that humans would eventually be driven by the desire for knowledge and exploration without the need for money but fairy tale to believe that a slightly greedy and self centered smuggler would actually shoot first?

          The ComiCon girls have more geek cred than either of you combined.

    1. Is anybody else pissed off by companies trademarking well known Star Trek terms and using them to sell shitty printers after taking advantage of the maker community? Replicator, I am looking at you, MakerBot.

  3. This feels more like an inflammatory opinion article than tech write up.

    Besides, Scotty seems like more of an art piece than tech breakthrough. More novelty than way-of-the-future. Unless your treasured keepsake happens to be made of ABS then the sentimentality doesn’t really count, does it?

    Other than that? Yep, works pretty much like Scotty… if Scotty had been a RasPi, of course.

  4. This project sums up my feelings for the current state of consumer 3D printing: “Yeah… now what?”
    What will we as consumers now do with those printers. I see no real bright bulb. It is nice to have but it does not solve a major problem of bottom human life. Yet.

  5. Thats exactly like i always imagined the teleportes to work. You get killed and your copy is reassembled somewhere else. But nobody lives to tell the tale. Only the designers know. You die, yet your copy continues to exist.

  6. This has to be one of the most idiotic ideas I’ve ever seen. One of the most valuable things about 3D printers is their ability to create copies from a file. Destroying the original and not archiving the file is just plain stupid.

  7. From the article: “re-fabrication: Scotty prevents the receiver from making multiple copies by maintaining an eternal log of objects already fabricated” and “A crucial feature of Scotty is that it is an encapsulated appliance”.

    This is an attempt at DRM applied to 3D printing. It would maybe work if both receiver and sender want to preserve the “uniqueness” of the object, but in that case I don’t see the point of the “encapsulated appliance”.

    Apart from stating that they are using “Ecliptic [sic] curve” cryptography to protect against eavesdropping, I can find no statements on how the receiver proves that the object is printed on an “encapsulated appliance” or how the sender proves that the encrypted data was not duplicated before encryption.

    Interesting arts project.

  8. Scotty…don’t beam me up. The whole idea of this thing is ludicrous. As stated above somewhere, unless the original is made of ABS or some other FDM compatible thermoplastic, you don’t get the original, just a cheap ass copy. And the original is gone…forever. Bad idea, weird art, and totally unneeded

    Just another example of a solution looking for a problem.

  9. Hypothetical question: let’s say that a perfect teleporter did exist. The item, in it’s entirety, is detected, quantified, deconstructed into energy, the data of which transmitted, and perfectly reconstructed in another location.

    Can you argue that the original was destroyed? What is an item other than energy manifested as a tangible item? If it was no longer made of the same energy, but is tangibly exactly the same, is it still intrinsically the same item?

    If so, does is still retain it’s emotional nostalgic value, or does the transported item just become a “worthless” (albeit perfect in every measurable way) copy of the original?

    1. One could argue – “Nostalgia” is a purely psychological phenomenon, and an atomically perfect copy of a nostalgic item, when presented to person to whom this psychological link has occurred, would evoke the same emotion as the original item. Knowing, however, that it is not the original, may change the persons perception of the item.

    2. So, here’s a thing : 98% of the atoms in our body are replaced every year. So each of us is literally a different person to one of a few years ago. But I am still “me”. For practical purposes, an exact destructive copy would still be me.

      The difficult part comes when an extra copy is made. Which is the original? Who owns the copy? In the case of a person, it is an interesting philosophical question, but a far more difficult legal question. Which one is awarded legal rights?

      If the perfect teleporter is created, the inventor will probably get sued to hell, and the lawyers will make big bucks. Pfft, lawyers :(

  10. I’ve had one of those for years, I call it a store. I when I break and or run out of something I go to the store and they magically have more of whatever I’m looking for. The future is now!

  11. When you actually read this article, you very quickly realise that most of it is fluff, and that there’s only a few lines actually describing what the project does and/or how it works…

    1. This is the article: “The “sender” printer has a camera and built-in milling machine. It uses deconstructive scanning – taking the picture of an object’s layer, then grinding that layer down to expose the next layer – and then sends the encrypted data to a “receiver” printer with a RasPi to decrypt the data so that it can immediately print the object.”

  12. I wonder what would happen if you took the transmitted object and transmitted it again and again, like photocopying a photocopy of a photocopy, would be interesting to see the results.

  13. I can see this possibly having value as a sort of false-flag art piece.
    Think about it: This exposes the stupidity of DRM to even those with very little knowledge.
    It is two potentially useful objects (a fairly novel destructive scanner and a 3D printer) objectively made worse by its attempts to preserve the ‘uniqueness’ of a digitized object, inviting criticism of other such attempts.
    …at least, I HOPE that’s the intended reading; and I’m sure there are people out there stupid enough to be sold further on the idea of DRM by this.

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