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Star Trek Replicator Technology Becomes Reality


Living in Fantasy

On board Federation starships and in every single Federation domicile is installed what is known as a replicator. It's main purpose is to provide food, but in fantastical reality, it can make anything. The basic premise of replication technology is the ability to reconstitute raw matter into any substance and shape desired. All of the television Star Trek incarnations never strayed into the more dubious or even series-killing problems with replication technology - the ability to fabricate anything at all. We can of course assume that in the Star Trek universe, replicating complex mechanisms and substances would take too much energy for any non-manufacturing plant to produce on an economically viable scale. At least that's what we Trekkies like to tell ourselves to keep us immersed in the fantasy we love to live in.

Computing Power and Atomization

But if we were to look at this unique technology objectively, then we could easily conclude that it would be feasible and affordable to manufacture any product this way. It is comprehensible in fact, that a solid object with a defined shape, could be remanufactured or copied to exact specifications if one had enough computing power. This is also the basis of Star Trek's transporter technology, although in Star Trek, a person is briefly transformed into energy particles as they are atomized and reassembled at their destination. There are too many questions to answer before that becomes a real technology, such as, will the disassembled and reassembled person be the same at the other end since they are effectively killed and revived after all the parts of their body are torn to pieces? I think that may be possible since many people have died and been dead for a few minutes and brought back to life. In essence, the transporting process is the same.

Replication Technology is Impossible

But what if we had the technology to assemble raw material into solid forms? Then the first incarnation of this machine would be very primitive. It would only be able to layer slices of material on top of the previous slice much like a copy machine. Interestingly enough, Jay Leno has such a machine.

Some of you may know of Leno's passion for owning classic and unusual vehicles such as the MTT Y2K Turbine Superbike, also known as the jet bike, or the Eco Jet Car, another jet powered vehicle. Among many classics is the 1907 White Steamer, a product of Stanley Steamer built for the President to ride in. An integral engine part, the feedwater heater, had become so corroded that steam and oil leaked out during operation. Leno used a scanner and a 3 dimensional printer to reproduce the part. The NextEngine 3D scanner takes a complete picture of an entire object, including surface texture, (it can even do crescent wrenches according to Jay), then the Dimension 3D printer takes over and basically replicates the virtual model in plastic or metal, layering slices of the copied object precisely. At this point, if it is made in plastic, it can be sent off to the factory to make a mold which is then used to make the necessary part.

Jay Leno's Garage

  • Jay Leno\'s Garage
    Jay Leno's passion for everything automotive manifests itself online at Jay Leno's Garage. More than just a showcase for the comedian's collection of early roadsters, classic cars, motorcycles, muscle cars, race cars, and everything in between, Jay's

Technology Will Advance

Although the scanner is a what I will call for a lack of a better term, a "surface scanner," it doesn't take much to imagine that we will soon have the ability to scan an object in its entirety, including material density, and in the slightly farther future even discern what kind of elements make up the different sections of the object. Taking another leap, it shouldn't be long till computers will be able to assimilate this information and send it to a 3D density and element copy machine to completely reproduce an object in its finished form. Computing technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, and that is easy to see as the computer you bought today, will be antiquated compared to next year's model when you consider RAM, hard drive capacity and CPU performance. In fact, it is possible even today to not only allow 2 CPU's to work together, but thirty two CPU's as well! This technology has not been made available to the public, and one can easily surmise that the greedy computing technology overlords are slowly leaking these advances out to the public to make the most of their technology profits from consumers - this way they have to work less hard creating new technologies while slowly milking our pocket books. But I digress. Quantum computing is on its way in and despite naysayers, I believe it will come about just as surely as powered flight and space travel. And so will replication technology.

Tell Me More

What that means is that if one is able to carry the equipment and raw building matter with them, wherever they go they will be able to fix their machinery whether it's a flashlight, a broken part for their ground vehicle or ocean going vessel. That also includes clothing and mundane survival gear. How about medicine? And weapons as well. Or radios or other communication devices like cell phones. In fact, someday, everyone will have one of these in their homes, and instead of purchasing a product online and having it shipped to your home, you will order the blueprints and using the raw material that you need which is purchased at the grocery or hardware store, you will send the blueprints to the replicator and walla, you now have a new solar or hamster powered toaster.

You're confused by the solar and hamster power aspect? Naturally, just like folks who love to write program code for fun, inventive people will modify design specs to work better than intended, (or worse), and you the consumer, now have the freedom to get an ordinary toaster that still plugs in to a regular outlet, or get a crazy intelligent toaster that not only tells time, but has legs and walks all over your apartment like a pet. Oh, and it meows at you too. And, you can put your son’s hamster’s penchant for running all night to good use by replicating a new hamster wheel that generates electricity.

Cars can run on this?

Cars can run on this?

The Posibilities and the Negative Human Element

This all sounds incredibly far fetched, as far fetched as the Jetson's flying car. But do you think anyone would have envisioned computers that could talk to and understand us over the phone? What about X-ray machines, or lasers that can make the blind see again? Let's not forget solar powered flight, or the fact that we can run vehicles on vegetables or even weeds and grass now. The world is full of innovations that would seem completely magical to our predecessors, and even to us in this present day. Star Trek replication technology will eventually come to pass, even if it is a hundred years from now. But what we do with it will be the real question. Can we feed the world's hungry? Can we create an infrastructure that will allow workers on third world countries to help build and maintain these replicators? Of course we can, but at this point, it doesn't seem that we will create the utopia such marvelous technology could sustain.

The Upside and Radical Change

But what will happen with replicators is that we can have boundless freedom, to create whatever strikes the inventor or artist in us, or travel to desolate regions on a low budget, (not just Earth, but long term space travel as well), and make medical technology cheap. Someday we will throw our dirty clothes in the replicator and print out a completely clean and new set of clothes. In fact, the advent of this habit will give rise to clothing styles that change daily. Teenagers everywhere will be downloading the latest style right before bed or even in the morning before they go to school. Parents everywhere will be scolding them for the energy usage and the price of raw materials that gets piped into their homes. But recycling will also be a factor, and in fact the cloth from the previous day's clothes will be reused to make the new clothes, and hopefully the technology used to identify and form atoms into patterns will also be able to remove dirt and bacteria. The biggest problem will be when you take the kids to see Grandma for a week. "Aw mom, every time we go there we have to bring like 5 sets of clothes and stuff, it takes forever to pack! Her old washing machine is like from 2010 and I always smell funny after washing my rags there." You will just roll your eyes and try to enlighten them about how lucky they are as you program the local community replicator to build you a car to take you out of the city. Overhead, a starship leaving the local spaceport arcs into the sky and rockets away on a gravity pulse beam, it's heading out on a 5-year mission, packed with raw material cubes, enough to build spare parts and feed a crew of twenty. It's a good life.

What's Your Opinion?


Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on January 02, 2014:

That is the question. But when the technological singularity occurs, it will change our societal landscape in such a manner that technology will reach a level of complexity we will never be able to fully grasp, and the dream of technology serving us will be unattainable.

Zak Perea on December 30, 2013:

when will we have replicators that can create absolutely anything we want? When will the technological singularity occur and will that singularity lead to self improvement AI's that double their smartness and ability with each new generation taking exponentially less time than the previous one?

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on November 13, 2012:

Although I agree with your humanitarian stance, I don't see why we can't use the replicator for everything else.

In order for individuals, groups, corporations and countries to survive; growth, expansion and exploration are necessary. Without the ingenuity that created that stupid radiator valve or even the vehicle it goes on, how could the replicator come into existence? Life is more than survival.

But, I do very much appreciate your visit and the comment, thank you.

Make It Sow on November 11, 2012:

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I just want a replicator that can assemble the atomic super-structure of hydrogen + oxygen = water, fat, protein, fiber (humus), and all the other iron and minerals, vitamins and amino acids. A replicator should solve hunger or food shortages. Not some stupid radiator valve for some model or make of car no one will ever drive except Leno.

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on September 16, 2012:

There is no doubt that Star Trek had and continues to have an impact on our present, it's an odd phenomenon that science fiction becomes science fact - probably related to the idea that, "art imitates life and life imitates art," axiom. Thanks for reading, glad to meet you.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on September 15, 2012:

I am a big Star Trek fan and I believe everything that did in the 60's and even in the 70's with those cartoons help shaped what we have today.. and the new generations plus will do the same for futures a great hub my friend :)

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on June 23, 2012:

Yes! the internet is the holodeck, and just call us web surfers Barclay - I am for sure. I would love to see the holodeck become a reality, you can surf in the middle of the desert, walk on the moon or fly anything, live out a medieval fantasy, visit with historical characters or watch historical events as if you were there, or even enjoy live holocasts from the president as if you are sitting in the same room with him.

The holodeck is likely going to come about when replicators and transporters do, because if they follow Star Trek borne theories, they are similar technologies. The precise manipulation of atoms is the key.

Springboard from Wisconsin on June 20, 2012:

Always fun to think about Star Trek technology. Although, much more than the replicators, I'd like to see the holodeck. Granted, the creation of the holodeck might put many resorts out of business...but it would be fun to be anyone, anytime. Sort of like what some people do on the Internet, no? lol

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on April 30, 2012:

Hello leroy64, I didn't know it was already being utilized for industrial purposes, that's fantastic.

The problem with any technology is us. In terms of replication tech, Soylant Green is an example of how humans can turn anything into a detriment. Fire, internet, aircraft and so on are just a few examples of our ingenuity (yes, I included fire) that can be used for good or evil.

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on April 30, 2012:

Traveler, I like your thinking - that's probably how it's going to be. I don't think I want to use Soylant Green as an example of replicator technology though :-) Leno has to go through a multiple step process to make a new part for his antique vehicles. Sometimes the parts are even better than the originals. The future is looking bright, unless of course they start turning people into food!

Brian L. Powell from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff) on April 09, 2012:

The tech that traveler 9 is talking about is currently used for architectural and industrial nonworking proto-types. It works like a 3-D printer and produces a plastic model based on computer input.

Solyant Green? That's a dark vision for the future of reusable anything, considering what was being recycled.

traveler on April 09, 2012:

Cool technology. Watch the movie about the future of reusable products. It was called Soyant Green, I think.

They reprocessed everything into square green tablets and that is what everyone ate. I bet 3-D replicators will be available to everyone within the next ten years. Order the bottles of liquid plastic or moldable clay, pick your item specifications, and hit the button. My plans are to build a chair or lamp. You might even be able to go to a store and use their replicator machine for the larger items.

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on January 04, 2012:

Gan, thanks for stopping by. It looks like you didn't read the article? Otherwise I don't understand the question.

gan on January 04, 2012:

explain me wt's tis technology

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on December 14, 2011:

That makes sense leroy64, simple parts first, because moving and interlocking parts would somehow have to be replicated on an atomic scale and kept separate as it was being formed. So maybe there would be two processes in the replication processes. Taking it a bit further and in relation to your last sentence, forming a working living machine like a human body, would probably be an extraordinarily complex process, where the person would have to be, "restarted," so to speak every time they were transported. But if we have that kind of ability, then yes, you could be regenerated into the body of your 20 year old self every time. Personally, I don't think you could transport living material that way because you are taken apart completely, sort of like being burned but on an astronomically grander scale - it would destroy you before you were, "rebuilt."

Which is one of those philosophical points I can't wrap my head around, and it bothers me that the Stargate franchise also deals with the transport process this way. I prefer to think that our entire body would be converted WHOLE into a mass of energy which would perhaps allow it to be compressed into any size and therefore be transmitted as one piece. It sounds pretty painful though :-)

Your comment energized me to think a little more deeply leroy, thank you for coming by.

Brian L. Powell from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff) on December 13, 2011:

Star Trek talk. Excellent.

Personally, I think it is easy to see the future possibilities; and, hard to see the limits of new technologies. I am sure some form of replicator technology will emerge; but, I think it will probably start by replicating parts rather than complex objects.

Side note:

I wonder if transporters could be as a way to combat age and death?

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on September 24, 2011:

George, thank you for visiting, but your comment bears no relevance to the content of this hub and personally I find it extremely offensive because the statement is simplistic and ignorant - I am approving the comment in hopes you might explain your point.

George McDermand on September 22, 2011:

Best Bumper sticker I've seen in while

"Science gets you to the moon"

"Religion flys you into buildings"

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on September 09, 2011:

Quantum, thank you for that. I have to admit, from what I little I have read online, I don't quite understand the Ahanaranov-Bohm Effect, maybe it has something to with the fact that I am still trying to wake up from my midnight shift at the airport :-) It seems like the special effects department from the old Trek got it right, as the person being beamed is "frozen" because all of his particles are held in place by various energy fields - would this be what you are referring to? If so, it is scary how close they were to getting it right.

So we're talking about using the Ahanaranov-Bohm Effect to hold quantum particles in place while they are duplicated at the other end? Or am I way off base here?

I am not a fan of the replication method to entirely reproduce the person or object, how can the essence of a living being survive that? Does your field of study allow for the possibility of an actual physical transfer and reassembly?

Thank you very much for your comment and praise, I am humbled by the attention this article is getting from people who actually spend brainpower on the science aspect of teleporting.

Quantum Fabricator on August 28, 2011:

This is an excellent, superb, magnificient and timely article. I study molecular manufacturing, new materials, and replicator and quantum manipulation technology. This can be done using mechanochemistry (aka nano factories and nano robots)and it can also be done using quantum manipulation of quarks, energy to matter conversion, and other methods, including synthetic biology.

A quantum computer, a truly advanced one, is, by definition, able to manipulate matter because it is manipulating quantum particles, which are what all materials are made up of. The Ahanaranov-Bohm Effect is involved here, too. Read up on that and the implications. Tesla tinkered with this basic idea decades ago, and showed how it can be done, to transmute and convert matter using specially-tuned electromagnetic/electrostatic fields. The nano machine method, I believe, is closer, and, the 3D Printer that is limited to metals, ceramics, and plastics, is even closer. Check out for related technology.

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on August 09, 2011:

I enjoyed your optimistic view - you're probably right. Thanks for the comment Philip.

Philip on August 08, 2011:

It's obvious. Anything you can imagine is going to be created "in the future." the future spans until infinity, we will eventually colonize the entire universe, master the physical laws, and create new universes for colonization. So if we will eventually get this awesome device? Of course. It's going to be an amazing step in our lifetime, but one among an infinity of awesome things on their way ;D

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on November 26, 2010:

Exactly, we will need to learn how to rearrange atoms using a completely manipulable energy field. Maybe when we get to that point, an energy field will be created that serves as a "cast" and the atoms get transported in layer by layer. I wonder if even a quantum computer can do it.

boob on November 26, 2010:

well how i read it is, is that you need raw materials to make something. well this is a very primitive form of the replicator(as expected due to our very primitive society). the replicators in star trek has blueprints that tell the computer how to rearrange atoms (which are everywhere) into a specific item. everything is made up of atoms if you can get a computer to break down an object and store its "atom print" then all you need to do is find a powerful way to put them all together in the right form.

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on November 21, 2010:

Thanks Tammy L, I am sure you're right.

Tammy L from Jacksonville, Texas on November 20, 2010:

Being a lifelong Trekkie, I see us using replicators just like we use cell phones and desktop computers today. Great hub. Thanks.

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on October 30, 2010:

I don't know about that Nick, what about the parts of the matter that we don't know about? Yet, I think you are probably right, it's only a matter of time, and I can't wait. I would love to go visit my relatives across the ocean without the 11 or 17 hour flights (although I do love to fly). Thanks for reading and commenting!

Nick on October 29, 2010:

Are you kidding most raw materials can be inputted into a replicator's database. Granted it would probably be converted into a huge file this version of a replicator may not exist for awhile, while you may need the raw materials for now. And they did try out the teleportation theory out while it's quite advanced it's nothing compared to the one's on Star Trek. Again it's a slow process to become reality, but someone out there will make it happen. With the way our lifestyle is it's pretty hard to achieve when we're being milked to death with money/greed. Once we can get over this concept of life & realize we're better off helping others then replicators will become a reality, at least this is my thoughts. We have i7 processors now but some of us really know the i7's are nothing compared to what is 'really out there'. We're also held down by the lack of 'energy needs'. If we were able to produce energy out out of thin air or able to create energy easily enough to where we don't need to pay our electric bills then im sure at this point we're going to have the replicator soon after.

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on June 23, 2010:

That's pretty interesting. I would like to see if matter can actually be turned into energy, transported electronically and turned back into matter again. I think that would be the only way to preserve the life of the living being.

Brandon on June 22, 2010:

most recently, The Craig Venter Institute completed its first successful synthetic life experiment. The experiment started about 15 years ago and with today's super computers (in which they just aquired one), it broke down the DNA of a bacteria and was digitally resequenced to form the exact replica of the original DNA strand. Venter then had each DNA strand pair color coded and numbered according to which of the 4 different chemicals involved in the formula of successfully reproducing DNA. This institute is already trying to plant seeds into government and in the free market to offer the incredible applications this technology could produce. But there are many current questions and drawbacks from this tech. So far its a very very very slow process of replication...but after all, it's still in its infancy. I'm excited to see what happens to the future of this tech, whether the world will except it or not.

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on May 06, 2010:

Sorry, I only know enough to build a transporter and I hate the "quark" method. I prefer direct matter to energy transfer hee hee.

Seriously though, I think your idea has potential (I'm not saying this from a fount of physics knowledge of course, I have only done a tiny bit of research), but I would think that we would still need a source of raw material for the quarks to switch with.

In any case, I don't trust the food at Quark's and I never eat there, but maybe someday things will change.

David on May 05, 2010:

Of course it would require breaking down the atoms into quarks and then reassembling them.

David on May 05, 2010:

I don't know much at all about physics but if all quarks (things that make up atoms) are identical, and every gas, liquid and solid is made up of atoms, couldn't it someday be possible to have a machine that doesn't require raw materials as discussed in this thread? Couldn't a replicator filled with quarks assemble them into any matter we want? And if the replicator somehow uses up all of the quarks inside, you could just lift the lid and it would instantly refill with new quarks just from the air? Just my thoughts. LOL

david on May 02, 2010:

I take it that people dont care to comment to much on something that could change the future so much for the better.

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on April 10, 2010:

Dangit, I was trying to flush out a certain brother, but I guess I was wrong. Thanks for the fun commenting back and forth :-) You are an interesting person, maybe you'll end up publishing a hub?

That could be since we are all brothers in this realness on April 10, 2010:


Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on April 10, 2010:

I think you are my brother by a different name.

David on April 09, 2010:

And who is it that you think I am?

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on April 07, 2010:

I know who you are.

david on April 07, 2010:

lol I thought you would say that.

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on April 07, 2010:

MMMMMMM, yummy.

David Chocolate Poop Revolutin Follower on April 06, 2010:

LOL , it could be or whatever else until the energy from it is used up. As to the revolution ,is there one now! people eat things that are grown or made with feces ,dead people ,animals ,insects ,and who knows with all the waste we produce. But to achieve a more star trek type of society these things need to be realized!

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on April 06, 2010:

Interesting thoughts, thanks for commenting. So let me ask you this, does feces become chocolate? And when everyone starts eating replicated chocolate, they subconsciously know that they are eating feces? Does that lead to a revolution? Shall we call it the "Chocolate Poop Revolution?"

Hee hee, I just had to make this silly response.

David on April 05, 2010:

I do belive it is possible to make a replicator ,but i think the energy has to come from the quark level then form atoms ,and then molecules. so u have to take energy slow it down till u have mass. E/c2=M maybe. and if u were to recycle we could reuse everything (even feces) because we rearranging the molecular stucture.

Then we have the problem of the fall of society the way we know it! And I think that the people with the money and the power would not allow that. Although I wish they would. You can see that in how slowly they let the revolutionary inventions out now. they try to milk every penny from us to buy something ,then 1 year later a new and improved thing.

But once we realize and act that the future ,is more important than today ,that might be a change that I can belive in!!!!!!!!!

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on February 18, 2010:

Live long and prosper, but using Star Trek to write unrelated SEO is illogical. I hope to read some Star Trek related work from you soon!

MrSpock on February 17, 2010:

A fascinating view.

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on July 14, 2009:

Thanks for visiting and thanks for commenting Pastor.

Pastor_Walt from Jefferson City, Tennessee on July 14, 2009:

Very interesting hub. Thumbs up!

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on June 25, 2009:

Like the president of Spaceball city said after being transported by Snotty: "why didn't somebody tell me my butt was so big!"

Thanks for commenting Warped. Why won't natural items be available for replication? If any item can be dissected into its basic elements and stored, why not wool or food? I think we will have the sophistication and that will be an interesting change for the human race - just like the washing machine and dryer revolutionized home living, this will too. Too bad we won't be around to see it.

Warped on June 25, 2009:

Replication as how they show in Star Trek using the same tech as transporters might be possible but highly unlikely. Replication as how you explained it using Jay's machine as an example will probably be in every home in 50 years or so, but very advanced of course. Natural things like wool, cotton, wood etc. won't be available in replicating machines, plastics, glass and metals will. Anything recyclable today will be available in those machines in 5 decades or so.

By the way, if a person is dematerialized off of a transporter pad and an exact copy produced on another location, it is not the same person. It is only an exact copy of the person down to the last molecule, I stress COPY! Even though the same energy is used to make a copy of the person, the part that came from his brain could be part of the copies big toe. In essence you destroy or murder the original only to produce an exact replica at the other end. It acts, talks and has all the same memories as the original and can fool the best of scientists and it believes to be the original itself, but once you step on the "transporter of death" you will find yourself in Haties and not at your intended destination.

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on June 25, 2009:

Well, good cooking will always trump replicated food. All waste gets reintroduced into the system, (except hopefully human waste), and gets turned into raw matter again which the computer will turn back into product, (you might be eating the pants you wore yesterday). Eventually, the nutrient part of the raw material cubes will need replenishing, so we will still have crops and real food to provide the necessary elements. I was not saying that it is perpetual energy, but there are many elements that can be divided into separate states and reused, (like your pants). The raw material "cubes" are collected elements from vegetables and possibly meat and metals and so on. The replicator turns these raw elements into product. So a computer glitch may force you to wear aluminum pants one day.

Your comment about waste was a good one in my opinion - that's why I had the example of the teenager abusing the replicator :-)

Zollstock from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW on June 25, 2009:

Talk about out of the box! It's not unfeasible that our modern technology will continually improve to replace man (or woman) power and feed people's need for instant, self-serving results. You touched upon the recycling aspect, but honestly, I am skeptical about humanity's ability to see the entire picture. This technology will require raw material and, if you ask me, invite even more waste. The first law of thermodynamics tells us that energy cannot be created out of nothing; it can only be converted. What happens if we run out of “raw material cubes”? I might just train my family members to run a treadmill and power the house, come to think of it. Exercise and light for all!

Alexander Silvius (author) from Portland, Oregon on June 23, 2009:

That's how science fiction works, many inventions originated from sci-fi books.

Utrecht11 on June 23, 2009:

Fascinating. If the mind can think it, it exists or will become a reality.

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