Standard 3-D printers work by laying down material layer after layer in order to form shapes. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found a way to potentially speed up the process, using a machine they call the Replicator.
Named after the devices in the Star Trek universe that can create solid objects out of thin air, the Replicator works much like a CT scan in reverse. They start by taking 2-D images of an object from every angle and then compile them into a video sequence. The sequence is then projected onto a rotating cylinder filled with a synthetic resin that hardens when exposed to certain levels of light.
The final product is much smoother than typical 3-D printed objects because it wasn’t created layer by layer. The machine is currently limited to centimeter-sized objects, but if it could be enlarged, it could be useful in printing medical components or for encasing objects in resin.