We’ve been seeing increased interest in incorporating Blockchain technology into the 3D printing world over the last couple of years, from being used in a military testing capacity to storing data of 3D printed aircraft parts. Blockchain, the underlying technology of decentralized cryptocurrency Bitcoin, is a set of records (blocks), that hold transactional data. In a secure transfer, important financial information, like recipient details, are then stored within the data set. Innovative companies all over the world are sitting up and taking notice, including LINK3D, which develops industrial 3D printing software to help organizations working to adopt Industry 4.0.
This fall, the AM software company, headquartered in New York City, introduced Digital Factory, its flagship, cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) that allows engineering companies to automatically manage all of their 3D printing processes for increased efficiency. Now LINK3D is announcing the first integration of blockchain technology for industrial 3D printing.
From creation to manufacturing, protecting the IP of a 3D design is challenging, especially when an STL file can be so easily shared from peer to peer. Watermark, a security application from 3D design library Treatstock aims to address this.
Speaking to 3D Printing Industry, Treatstock head of marketing Rufat Bayramov said that the company was inspired by the “prevalent issue of copyright violation” to develop the free online software.
Treatstock Watermark allows a designer to upload an STL file and integrate it with hidden “watermark” information before being put in the public domain. An STL file can also be uploaded to the platform and checked for security information.
OEM Renishaw has collaborated with software company Identify3D to produce an end-to-end, secure digital manufacturing process.
The collaboration between Renishaw and Identify3D will deliver secure manufacturing to supply chains in the aerospace, automotive, defence and medical sectors, as these industries make the leap to 3D printing.
Denial, compromise, sabotage, disaster
The issue of protecting intellectual property (IP) has faced almost all industries that use 3D printing, from design to manufacturing. It has formed the basis of questions that 3D Printing Industry has put to experts across the field, with many agreeing that additive manufacturing does not readily fit into existing IP protection structures.
Nefarious means of 3D printing, from guns to drugs to masks that outsmart facial-recognition systems, prompted one region to pass a law for businesses to register 3D printers.
Many areas around the globe have some silly laws you must follow, or require permits in order to do things. For example, tasks like babysitting, tagging, holding garage sales, and even panhandling need a permit somewhere in the world. In fact, the FAA now demands that drone users register their craft, and depending on use, a license as well. Fines can run from $400 to $5,500, and the registrations don’t look like they’ll stop.
The U.S. Department of the Navy has revealed its interest in Blockchain as a technology to secure data transfer during additive manufacturing processes.
Blockchain technology is no longer restricted to FinTech, financial institutions, and cryptocurrency adepts. The range of its applications is so wide that the U.S. Army is also showing interest in this technology to accompany its own additive manufacturing enterprise.
Global information technology company Wipro is developing manufacturing applications that are built upon a blockchain and targeted at 3D printer systems.
A chain of blocks?
Speaking to Automation World, Wipro’s general manager and business unit leader – Sanjeev Ramakrishnan explains how Wipro has developed a blockchain system with four main offerings. These include measures for anti-counterfeiting, aerospace certification, supply chain and additive manufacturing.
Blockchain as a decentralized network, resilient to malicious data tampering is seen as advantageous for data security and integrity. With cybersecurity increasingly making headlines, such characteristics are understandably appealing.
Next generation cryptocurrencies such as the Ethereum platform have added another level of sophistication to blockchain, for example the ability to execute scripts that permit automated negotiation via smart contracts.
Wipro’s additive manufacturing arm, Wipro3D recently partnered with US 3D printing consultancy firm Print Form to expand the company’s global 3D printing operations.
Defense and aerospace Industries have been facing the risk of bogus parts manufactured by 3D printers.
The issue of product safety in these industries is thus critical. Commercial airplanes, for example, are designed and constructed using hundreds of thousands of parts, and quality inspectors are continually working to ensure counterfeit parts don’t find their way into the supply chain.
According to ECN Magazine, 3D printing of aircraft and other defense parts certainly transforms the military support environment, but the threat of counterfeit parts might reach this market.
We focus so much on the benefits of 3D printing that we sometimes forget that every new process brings its own dangers and problems. But new research has shown that 3D printing could open the door to a new level of industrial sabotage on a scale we simply haven’t seen before.
The news sounds a little sensationalist and it seems like the precursor to a sales pitch for security systems. Indeed, the only way to read the full paper is to buy it.
But there is some solid reasoning going on here from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in JOM, The Journal of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.
Multinational security service company G4S have issued a warning about thieves who are using 3D printed security devices to disguise cargo thefts.
Crimes are committed by using 3D printers to create counterfeit copies of security devices, such as ISO 17712 high security cargo seals, locks or padlocks.
G4S have warned that by using 3D printing, thieves are able to create these counterfeit copies in as little as ten minutes. A spokesperson for the company told Securing Industry that:
“For a few hundred dollars, a person can purchase a 3D scanner that eliminates the need to understand computer-aided design and can not only provide the dimensions for any item but also creates the CAD technical specifications needed to produce a near-perfect replica.”