General Electric (GE) has recently filed a patent application that would allow them to use blockchain technology to validate and verify 3D printed objects on its supply chain.
As both 3D printing and blockchain technology are adopted into our daily lives, there have been a number of instances where the two have converged to create groundbreaking applications. We’ve recently seen the development of the 3dP-Token by the manufacturing service provider Makerslab24.com, a cryptocurrency that provides customers with greater accessibility to 3D printed products at a lower cost.
Now, in yet another intriguing example of these two technologies intersecting, the industrial powerhouse General Electric (GE) has recently filed a patent application that would enable use of the blockchain to verify 3D printed parts in its supply chain. In this case, blockchain technology would be utilized to create a database that validates and verifies 3D files and the 3D printing process.
According to the filing, GE is planning to create a blockchain-based manufacturing history that would track and authenticate 3D printed objects. This would address one of the most glaring issues found with industrial additive manufacturing: the lack of verification and validation systems that are able to ensure the certification of 3D printed parts.
“It would therefore be desirable to provide systems and methods for implementing a historical data record of an additive manufacturing process with verification and validation capabilities that may be integrated into additive manufacturing devices,” GE states in the filing.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released the application just last week. The patent application itself was filed by GE in December 2017.
GE Sees Blockchain Technology as an Answer to 3D Printing Security Problems
While GE is certainly the biggest name in industrial manufacturing to try and link blockchain technology with 3D printing security, they’re far from the first. Back in 2016, Cubichain Technologies released an application that uses secure blockchain networks to store encrypted data of 3D printable parts.
The increasing adoption of additive manufacturing technology has conjured up security concerns for industrial manufacturers, particularly with 3D printed models being compromised or changed. For instance, in GE’s patent filing, they explain that if a 3D printable replacement part is shared with users, the user on the receiving end of the model is unable to verify whether the part was produced using the correct build file and manufacturing process.
Therefore, the ability of blockchain to verify and authenticate data makes it the perfect safeguard to prevent a 3D file or printing process from being modified without authorization. And so, GE is planning to use this technology to verify their own parts on the supply chain, allowing them to track and certify every part that goes into production.
GE seems to be entering the blockchain space from a few different angles, having also joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), which is a blockchain consortium that aims to use the technology to improve the cargo transport industry.