In my earlier years, I had envisioned myself pursuing a career as a star ship captain or other type of space explorer. Why not? At 12 years old, I watched space adventures like “Space 1999”, which clearly showed the type of advanced technology that would be readily available within my lifetime.
As we all know, reality has not really kept pace with the predictions in science fiction, at least in regards to space travel. However, two different technologies have advanced to levels very close to those depicted some 30 years ago: 3D scanning and 3D printing.
3D scanners allow just about anyone to accurately capture the complex shape of just about any object, and then store the data in a CAD or STL file. That data can then be sent to a 3D printer to fabricate a duplicate part. If the scanner is one place and the printer is another… voila! You have a transporter.
Admittedly, there are a few limitations to this process. Today’s 3D scanners, like the Konica-Minolta Range 7 or the Creaform EXAScan, will still take several minutes to scan an object, and they are subject to line of site limitations, as well as surface finish and ambient lighting. 3D printers can print in a variety of materials (Objet offers more than 50), but certainly not every material available from the manufacturing world. There is also no way to fully scan and print living objects, so people are out.
However, with advancements in areas like CT scanning, to do the inside as well as outside, and the possibility of developing a 3D printer to work with living cells, the future of such a device is not outside the realm of possibility. The only question that remains is “what to do with the original?”
NeoMetrix Technologies, Inc. (www.3dscanningservices.net) is a leading provider of solutions for rapid product development throughout the southeastern United States, focusing on 3D laser scanning, reverse engineering and rapid prototyping.
NeoMetrix is also a top reseller for Objet Geometries, Creaform, Konica-Minolta Sensing America, and Rapidform Software.
NeoMetrix also offers engineering consulting and technical services that focus on assisting clients with improving product quality and reducing design cycles.