Fingerprint for 3D printer accurate 92% of time
Source: University at Buffalo
27.04.2021 •

'Fingerprint' for 3D printer accurate 92% of time

University at Buffalo researchers identify machines by their unique ‘hot end,’ could aid intellectual property, security.

3D printing is transforming everything from health care to fashion and to transportation and toys. But this rapidly evolving technology, also known as additive manufacturing, can threaten national security and intellectual property rights. To reduce illicit use of 3D printers, Zhanpeng Jin, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University at Buffalo, is developing a way to track the origin of 3D printed items.

His concern was that, as long as people have the digital design for an item, which can be downloaded from the internet, sometimes as open-source material, people can print out anything they want, which can range from computer parts and toys to fully functional handguns and assault rifles. "So, what would be the best way to protect our intellectual property from someone else printing the same design using their own printer?" says Jin. "We wanted to find something internal. What would be the inherent signatures printed by my own 3D printer instead of another 3D printer?"

3D printers build three-dimensional objects by adding successive layers of printing materials according to the digital design for a 3D model. Each 3D printer has an "extruder," which pushes the building material along. The extruder's hot end then melts the material, and places it on the print bed to build the model.

In a paper, "ThermoTag: A Hidden ID of 3D Printers for Fingerprinting and Watermarking," published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security, a research team led by Jin describes how each extruder's hot end has its own unique heating properties, which impact the precise way that the 3D model is constructed.

Those thermodynamic properties can be used to identify the specific extruder and, thus, the model of 3D printer, as uniquely as a human fingerprint, or, as Jin calls it, a "ThermoTag."

Photo
Source: University at Buffalo

Jin compared the process to using a laptop to write a letter. Because software exists that can track keystrokes, an observer can see every step that went into the letter, including the writer's unique writing style. Similarly, because of the unique properties of each 3D printer's extruder, a researcher can examine the specific manner in which a 3D printed object was made, and compare that to a database of various extruders until a match is made. From there, once the model printer is identified, the purchaser of said model can be tracked down if they had, say, used the printer to build an illegal assault rifle.

According to the research, Jin and his team discovered that, by examining and comparing the ThermoTag features of 45 different extruders of the same model, they were able to correctly identify the source printer with an accuracy rate of 92%. "This ThermoTag will behave like the fingerprint of the 3D printer. When you print out a new product, you can use watermarking," Jin says, noting that watermarking can be used to invisibly embed such information as the printer's manufacturer, label and serial number in the product. "So that would make this watermark of this particular product unique."

It's possible, Jin says, that someone could replace their extruder to try to avoid detection. That's why it's important to create a database of these parts for comparison, he says.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles

A new medical device for monitoring vital signs

A new medical device for monitoring vital signs

A new device consisting of a 3D-printed wristband can remotely monitor patients' vital signs, such as body temperature, oxygen saturation, pulse, and respiratory rate.

Predicting leaky heart valves with 3D printing

Predicting leaky heart valves with 3D printing

Researchers have created a novel 3D printing workflow that allows cardiologists to evaluate how different valve sizes will interact with each patient's unique anatomy, before the medical procedure is actually performed.

Researchers use bioprinting to create nose cartilage

Researchers use bioprinting to create nose cartilage

Researchers have used 3D bioprinting technology to create custom-shaped cartilage. They aim to make it easier for surgeons to safely restore the features of skin cancer patients living with nasal cartilage defects after surgery.

3D biocomposites can repair large bone defects

3D biocomposites can repair large bone defects

Loosening hip implants can cause major damage to the bone and a simple replacement won’t suffice to carry the load during movements. Researchers have turned to bioprinting to solve this problem.

AI makes no-cath forecast

AI makes no-cath forecast

Researchers use AI software to predict coronary artery plaque composition and significance without the risks of invasive procedures.

3D printing in-cell protein crystals

3D printing in-cell protein crystals

In-cell nano-3D printer: Scientists have developed a promising approach for synthesizing protein assemblies from protein crystals.

Radiation therapy: 3D printed shields for protection

Radiation therapy: 3D printed shields for protection

To reduce tissue injury side effects from radiation therapy, researchers have developed 3D-printed gastrointestinal radioprotective devices that can be generated from patient CT scans.

Bioprinting mini pancreas to fight against diabetes

Bioprinting mini pancreas to fight against diabetes

EPFL spin-off Readily3D has developed a novel system that can print biological tissue in just 30 seconds.

3D Printing living cells with unprecedented precision

3D Printing living cells with unprecedented precision

The combination of a 2Photon 3D-printer with an innovative hydrogel-based bioink allows the direct printing of 3D structures containing living cells at both the meso- and microscale.

Popular articles

Subscribe to Newsletter