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Janet Kar
How Blockchain Secures Distributed Manufacturing for 3D Printing

Blockchain Security Software in 3D Printing

Link3D announced a blockchain security software module at the 2018 AMUG additive manufacturing conference.

The new distributed ledger security measure is a first in the additive manufacturing space. Integrated with Link3D, the LINK3D Blockchain distributed ledger provides to 3D printing trusted middleware to stabilize the expanding additive manufacturing network. It secures CAD Modeling software, PLM, MES, ERP, 3D printer build processor and monitoring software for design engineers, 3D printer manufacturers, service bureaus and OEM facilities, among others.  

With global spend on 3D printing expected to see a 22.3% five-year CAGR, and revenues reaching $28.9 billion in 2020 (IDC), securing operations is of increasing importance. Simplifying AM management, the Link3D solution promises file integration, IP integrity, real time data, supply chain tracking, file matching and authentication. 


How Blockchain Impacts 3D Printing

Blockchain's Impact Across 3D Printing Processes


The software provides beneficial solutions beyond imperative protecting data and IP security. It also increases quality control, for example. Ensuring repeatability, files being printed are cross checked with previous readings and measurements. And the more parts built using the Link3D Blockchain solution, the more data the module has to retrieve for production repeatability.  

The Blockchain addition can also be used to track each design file origin and its evolution. 

Validating ownership and authorship attribution, the Blockchain identifier is embedded in STL and OBJ files. This provides for designer accountability, “stamping” the file every time the file changes hands and affords designers credit for every new file printed. And with every design iteration thereafter, the software stamps the file with the owner designation. This demonstrates file ownership, design accountability and who is currently overseeing the file design.



Who needs Blockchain?

Who Needs Blockchain and Why?


Invest in Blockchain to Certify Service Bureaus, Protect Facility Data

Cyber crime is projected to top $6 trillion by 2021, more than double the 2015 figure, with 31% of American organizations reporting cyber theft. And with piracy posing a growing issue in 3D printing, losses are projected to top more than $100 million in 2018. 

Implementing blockchain not only protects your network from vulnerabilities, it certifies and validates build parts based on original parameters. It also ensures parts are produced with the correct production output to prevent other parties from reselling. In doing so, it ensures your IP is not being replicated for the blackmarket. 

To prevent your additive manufacturing facility from becoming a statistic, it’s more important than ever to invest in your IP protection. Blockchain security fills this void, protecting your parts and machines and encrypting all your data from unauthorized access. Without holding the actual file (so it can’t be breached), blockchain retains a ‘fingerprint’ to uniquely identify the actual file for IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) storage or another cloud. This, and the fact blockchain is based on cryptographic and consensus based protocols, makes it an impenetrable cyber storage mechanisms to keep your data safe. 

As a result, blockchain becomes an important solution for helping service bureaus prove their capabilities and fulfilment abilities when partnering with OEMs to produce mission critical parts. 

Multiple Features Beneficial to Your Facility

The Blockchain module also protects 3D printing file data integrity, attribution, IP protection and traceability. From conception, R&D, prototyping, production and delivery, the Link3D Blockchain data strand spans the 3D printing process from start to finish. Providing additive manufacturing security, the module verifies retrievable transaction data generated throughout the workflow. 


Blockchain For FIle Integrity & Traceability 

AM Application of Blockchain: Traceability


In order for a proof of work system to work, several participating entities need to mine and support replication of blocks to achieve the benefits of Blockchain technology. An alternative system, using proof of stake, which we are working on utilizing some of the concepts discussed above can be utilized but is outside the scope of this paper. In a proof of stake system, participants can launch their own nodes and new block can be selected based on stake to mitigate consensus building. 

The Blockchain module unifies the currently disjointed 3D Printing ecosystem for all industries with an end-to-end data trail. For example, if a facility needs to implement blockchain software similar to the Link3D module, it needs to communicate with its own blockchain network. But with the Digital Factory, the client just needs to turn it on.

“Validating the file and machine parameter metadata storage settings, Link3D's solution implements blockchain for 100% printing repeatability,” explains Singh. “Blockchain technology provides the backbone to unify the disjointed 3D printing ecosystem and provide an end-to-end data trail.”  

If deployed effectively for additive manufacturing, blockchain is useful for supply chain traceability. When a part order is submitted to the correct internal facility, for example, blockchain can track supply chain traceability. This is because an effective blockchain solution will track and log who submitted part orders, when the internal facility received an order and the bid amount. 

A robust blockchain ensures imperative information can be extracted, stored and linked to the correct part order. It will also store metadata generated during the printing process. These vary, of course, depending on the kind of machine sensors in place.


Blockchain for 3D Printing in Supply Chain

AM Application of Blockchain: Design File Integrity & Digital Rights Management


During the “How to be Blockchain Ready for 3D Printing” webinar, Vishal K. Singh, CTO of Link3D, filled in participants on the new feature. With it, service bureaus don’t have to run their own blockchain, rather, simply have to enable the module through their Digital Factory account. They can either implement it privately, on a public network or take a hybrid approach.  

How Blockchain Works in 3D Printing

When an order is printed, the transaction metadata are stored on the Link3D Blockchain network. All this information is completely traceable, including who initially created the transaction through its evolution. Design engineers, for example, can use blockchain to store file hashes to attribute ownership and STL file integrity for CAD design, modeling and PLM software. 


Blockchain Benefits to Your Supply Chain

AM Application of Blockchain: 

Meanwhile, facility managers and service bureaus using build prep software, processor software and 3D printing hardware also need blockchain security. It’s also useful to supply chain and logistic representatives using various Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), tracking and accounting software.


Blockchain for Validation & Proof of Capability 

Application of Blockchain: Service Burau Authentication & Proof of Capability

Implementing Blockchain at Different Levels

Blockchain Implementation


Implementing blockchain for encryption takes on a number of different forms. The LINK3D Blockchain solution, for example, allows the end user to deploy their blockchain on a private network, a public network or a hybrid option. 

The private solution is implemented on LINK3D’s own Ethereum Sawtooth distribution. The public option, meanwhile, is implemented on the standard Ethereum Network and charges the end user for each transaction. And lastly the Hybrid Blockchain option is enlisted on the Hyperledger Fabric, initiating the private network for internal transactions and the public network for external transactions. 

With a total 2020 projected revenue of nearly $30 billion across the 3D printing space, losses in the same field are projected to top more than $100 million this year. Encrypting data is imperative to mass additive manufacturing adoption across the aerospace, defence, automotive and medical industries. With blockchain, your company can achieve 100% repeatable additive manufacturing. 



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