3D Printed Objects Used to Embed Data

The popularity of the 3D printer has risen astronomically in recent years. From middle school kids printing small animal figurines to doctors utilizing the technology to fashion heart valves, the technological capability of these printers seems to have no limits.

The full vulnerability of these objects has not been thoroughly tested though. In an experiment in 2016, researchers changed the code on the computer for one of the propellers on a drone. When looked over, the propeller met all specifications and looked flawless, when in truth it was altered to be weaker than the others.

This was proven when the altered propeller failed and sent the drone plummeting to the ground. This brings up the worry of security and the integrity of 3D printed materials for things other than childish fun.

A team at Nara Institute of Science and Technology recently formulated a new method within the 3D printing framework that could be used to embed data amongst the 3D printed object. This newly formulated method can be read with a simple consumer document scanner.

The premise of a 3D printer is that a pattern consisting of code is selected and uploaded to the printer. The printer then heats up plastic filament and layers the hot plastic on top of itself creating the pattern that was imputed. Usually, these layers are smooth all the way around.

This new method would input code that would change the way that the plastic is placed on top of itself in each round. There would be specific divots and raised sections that are almost undetectable to the human eye. The goal is for these to be QR compatible.

There has always been a high level of concern regarding the capability of 3D printers and the security threats that they may impose. If it is possible to 3D print anything, where do you draw the line? The scare can be enforced with the idea that National Security could be threatened by a 3D printed dog who has data embedded within.

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