Rights reserved: A new digital watermarking process for 3D printing styles

“I imagine this patent has good potential and will play an significant job in stimulating the enhancement of 3D engineering,” Professor Hing Kai Chan commented in a new push launch. “Getting a patent is the 1st phase.”

It’s a stage that has taken Professor Chan, and his colleagues at College of Nottingham Ningbo China, 3 years. The Ningbo campus is one particular of two abroad branches of the University of Nottingham and has schools of firms, humanities and social sciences, and science and engineering.

Within the latter, Professor Chan, even though cooperating with the Regulation Educational facilities of the College of Exeter, Durham University and the University of Sussex in the Uk, not long ago filed a patent for a ‘digital watermarking process for 3D printing models’ that tracks and guards intellectual assets (IP). Prior to the filing of this patent, Professor Chan thinks it has been all way too simple to pilfer the IP from a 3D printing design.

“The most important problem is the electronic character of the resource CAD information,” he explained to TCT. “The information can be encrypted, but not the printed objects. Hence, it is a make any difference of computational time for a person who possess the information to unlock the encrypted contents and then produce the products, illegally.”

Although ordinarily the anti-counterfeiting of a 3D printing design has been reached by embedding a electronic watermark into an STL file, Professor Chan, and the additive producing distributors and buyers he interviewed throughout his study, experienced problems around the efficacy of these watermarks and the subsequent impact on adoption and application. The alternative invented by Professor Chan and his team is an algorithm that transforms the ‘3D spatial matrix similarity problem’ into a ‘2D image matching problem’, remaining practically invisible to the naked eye so as not to affect the visual appearance of the part, but not likely to be shed for the duration of the design and additive manufacture of the aspect. It enables the tracing of item-amount info, together with the 3D printing system employed and the unique liable for the style, to defend IP legal rights.

“The patented algorithm provides a watermark on actual physical printed objects, so the electronic documents will be altered each and every time a new digital file is desired, for each batch of manufacturing, for a new buyer, etcetera.,” explained Professor Chan. “The watermark can be changed – in principle – for each printed object. Via a proper licensing mechanism, the designer keeps the first design and sends the “watermarked files” to the prospective buyers appropriately. As a result, we can trace the source of the information. Reverse engineering can not deal with this defense scheme. In addition, this concept presents companies who are keen to pay the licence charge with a channel to recognise IP concerns.”

Professor Chan was determined to invent a new alternative for IP safety in just 3D printing because of the regularity in which IP is stolen and since, when it does take place, it is ‘difficult, if not impossible’ to trace the supply of infringement. He thinks this adds substantial threat to the adoption of 3D printing which, with his background in industrial engineering, he assesses has the capacity to optimise generation and operation procedures.

“3D Printing is a common example of these types of progressive creation course of action that could convey organization functions to a superior level” he presented. “That claimed, if this is compromised by IP difficulties, companies may possibly not be capable to achieve the intended rewards introduced out by the technology by itself, thanks to inadequate diffusion. [And] without mass applications, the technological innovation will not be absolutely utilised.”

To provide a contribution to assistance the possible of 3D printing to be completely utilised, Professor Chan is now in the process of making use of for funding to create a licensing system to get the patented technological innovation into the business area. As with 3D printing, Professor Chan thinks his invention holds a great deal of opportunity, but he also recognises much more can be accomplished to protect IP legal rights.

“The 3D printing equipment designers and companies participate in an crucial job in this defense,” finished Professor Chan. “For case in point, the patented thought can also be implemented by means of their printers. They are truly the immediate actors who help transform the electronic data files to actual physical objects. If they are taking section in this, it will be less difficult for other researchers to establish IP defense techniques like ours.”