Earlier this week General Electric filed a patent for new 3D printing adjacent idea. While most of the time these patents pertain to actual 3D printing processes, this one is different. The new patent spells out the company’s plans to develop a blockchain ledger for protecting 3D files. The company has stated the purpose of the patent is to validate the build file and the material identifier via a distributed ledger to verify the author of the build file or an origin of the particular manufacturing media.
A crucial paragraph of the filing states: “Current systems for additive manufacturing lack verification and validation systems for ensuring that objects produced by the process are appropriately certified. If, for example, a replacement part for an industrial asset is possible to produce via an additive manufacturing process, any user with access to an appropriately configured additive manufacturing device can reproduce the part.”
As a result of the ledger, GE hopes to stop counterfeit interactions and downloads of models. The system is aiming towards a more transparent online interaction when it comes to physical models. Blockchain provides a viable model for this, as everyone has a constantly updating ledger in their possession, thus keeping the entire system in check through multiple ends.
Blockchain Ledgers and Other Protections
This new blockchain ledger isn’t a surprising move. Even before 3D printing really took off, the discussion around file protection and authorship was underway. Many firms have been scrambling for some way to protect their products. The impending age of digital to physical production could cause the kind of disruption that music and cinema experienced.
Companies like Create it Real have also been developing platforms to combat this very issue as well. Most of these measures are pre-emptive as the boom in additive manufacturing has not reached the household. However, that does not stop copied or counterfeit designs from proliferating online. In many senses, this is GE getting ahead of the game.