Even with all the promise offered by additive manufacturing (AM), some people are still wary of the potential pitfalls exposed by the technology. Leaving the notion of 3D printed guns aside, there are very real concerns about how intellectual property (IP) will fare in a digital manufacturing world, or how any single company can protect sales of 3D printed objects. Piracy is often seen as only a 3D scanner and printer away.
A company named Quantum Materials may have the solution to some of these concerns. The company is in the business of manufacturing, among other things, quantum dots. These tiny structures are constructed from semiconductor nanomaterials, and can be embedded within 3D printed objects. A partnership with the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and the Design, Research, and Education for Additive Manufacturing Systems (DREAMS) Laboratory at Virginia Tech has resulted in a method of using quantum dots to act as a sort of fingerprint for objects built using AM.
“The remarkable number of variations of semiconductor nanomaterials properties QMC can manufacture, coupled with Virginia Tech’s anti-counterfeiting process design, combine to offer corporations extreme flexibility in designing physical cryptography systems to thwart counterfeiters, said David Doderer, QMC VP for research and development. “As 3D printing and additive manufacturing technology advances, its ubiquity allows for the easy pirating of protected designs.”
The quantum dots work to foil counterfeiters by creating a unique signature for each item that is only known to the company producing that item. This will allow for rapid recognition of counterfeit items without requiring destructive testing methods. Additionally, Quantum Materials offers a number of semiconductor nanaomaterials that further increase security. If you are familiar with computing, the addition of unique materials improves security strength in a similar way as moving from 128-bit to 256-bit encryption, according to the company.
With the recent boom in medical AM, both for rapid prototyping and end-use, this type of security can offer companies some assurance that they’ll see a return on investment for all the hard work put in to designing new devices. The use of quantum dots should also reassure other manufacturers who are on the fence about the use of AM that their patents will be upheld by more than a piece of paper and a handshake.
Below you’ll find a video about the invention of quantum dots.
Source: Quantum Materials