Media New Atlas reported that 3D-printed products can be forged, as can products made in more traditional ways. A new system can help identify such counterfeit goods by printing unique code directly into an object.
The most common form of 3D printing is called melt deposition modeling, which involves the use of nozzles to place continuous thin layers of molten plastic. The plastic then hardens to form the final product, with the edges of each layer still visible on its outer surface. Typically, all of these layers have equal thicknesses.
However, a team from the University of Science and Technology (NAIST) in Nara, Japan, developed a system in which a series of adjacent layers (in a part of an object) are deposited at a particular slightly different thickness. This is achieved by changing the material flowing from the 3D printer nozzle and does not adversely affect the overall shape or structure of the product – after all, the same amount of plastic will eventually remain in the same position.
The result is a layer-thick pattern almost like a barcode, which is unique for the product. Simply place it on a flat part of the item, and simply read the code by placing the object on a regular document scanner that images and analyzes the layer thickness in the area.
To further block counterfeiters, you can apply patterns to multiple parts of a product. This means that even if one area is scratched, cut, or melted, it is still visible in other areas.
In addition to embedding product-specific security IDs, the technology is believed to be used to include information such as Web service links, or to identify specific printers used to manufacture specific batches of products.
The paper on the study was recently published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Multimedia.