On the Starship Enterprise, replicators were devices that could “dematerialize matter and then reconstitute it in another form,” Startrek.com said. For Captain Picard’s crew, that usually meant nostalgically reconstituting meals on demand.
Though we remain a long way away from being able to transmogrify matter into a chocolate sundae on command, a team of real-life researchers has created a 3-D printer that can create entire objects simultaneously instead of creating them one painstaking layer at a time. The approach — known as Computer Axial Lithography — carves an object out of a resin that solidifies when it comes into contact with particular patterns and intensities of light.
Using a device dubbed “the replicator,” researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used the technique to create tiny airplanes and minuscule copies of Rodin’s Thinker. The printing process requires only two minutes to complete, researchers say. Though still in its infancy, they say the technique could be used to create “patient-specific medical devices” and “aerospace components,” said the article published in Science.