Prostep | Newsletter

Blockchain and additive manufacturing: can the two be combined?

By Martin Holland

Yes, they can. And we have demonstrated this within the framework of the SAMPL project. For almost three years PROSTEP, together with seven partners, has been developing an end-to-end solution for the forgery-proof exchange of 3D print data. The key to this is the use of blockchain, or distributed ledger, technology. On 10 October 2019, we will be presenting the project results at a user conference being held at the Center of Applied Aeronautical Research (ZAL) in Hamburg.

Additive manufacturing processes allow components like prototypes and spare parts, for example, to be produced quickly, but they also raise a number of security and copyright-related issues. When it comes to safety-critical components in particular, it must be possible to guarantee that only authorized persons have access to the data, that only the original data is used for a defined number of components, and that this data cannot be misused to manufacture pirate copies. This is exactly what the Secure Additive Manufacturing Platform (SAMPL), which we developed together with partners as part of the SAMPL project, does.

SAMPL is a consortium project sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). The aim of the project is to develop an end-to-end security solution that covers the entire process from creating the digital 3D print data to exchanging the data with 3D print service providers and their specially protected trusted 3D printers through to the tagging of the printed components (see www.sampl-3d.de). The consortium comprises the consortium head PROSTEP, the Hamburg-based companies NXP Semiconductors and consider it, 3D MicroPrint in Chemnitz, the University of Hamburg, the University of Ulm, Hamburg Technical University, the Frauhofer Institute ENAS in Chemnitz and Airbus, EvoBus and DWF associated partners.

SAMPL is based on PROSTEP's secure data exchange solution OpenDXM GlobalX, which we have expanded to include a digital license management facility based on blockchain technology. The solution supports the entire lifecycle from transfer of the CAD and process data to the specially protected 3D printers through to documentation of the entire printing process. The parts can be identified with absolute certainty by means of RFID or other features to ensure that only the printed original parts were installed.

PROSTEP has already used the SAMPL demonstrator at a number of different events and trade fairs to show how digital license management works. The event being held on 10 October 2019 at the Center of Applied Aeronautical Research (ZAL) in Hamburg will not only provide an opportunity to present the project results but also industry partners, such as Weidmüller, will report on their experiences with the integration of 3D printing and blockchain technology in the SAMPL project. In addition, the legal firm DWF will provide information on aspects such as IPP protection and the protection of corporate data, which impact on the forgery-proof exchange of 3D print data. Lively discussions can be expected. We cordially invite you to participate in the event and submit your own contributions. To do so, please send an abstract of approx. 100 words to Christian Gentili by 30.07.2019.

Further information will soon be available on the SAMPL website. Or you can contact the relevant project team member, Christian Gentili, directly.

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