One of the challenges for writers, like myself, is that when you put forth a digital copy of your work, just about anyone can copy it and use those words or run those words through derivative software and steal it. This is why DRM or Digital Rights Management software was created. Many have considered that such a strategy could be used also for 3D printing code, thus allowing the designer or company owning that product a guarantee of royalty whenever their parts are produced.
Perhaps you can see the challenges already. In the writing format, anyone can take a book, scan it, and then make it digital then they have it, meaning the can plagiarize it, steal it whole, or modify it just enough to evade detection from copyright checking software. Okay so, what if someone uses a 3D scanner to scan a part or item, thus digitizing it, then once digitized, simply sells the code for others to 3D print, in essence they have stolen the design. This cannot be prevented, and it leads to all sorts of dilemmas in quality, brand reputation, loss of income to the designer or patent holder.
Policing that challenge is about as hard as policing counterfeited clothing with a counterfeit label, see that point. Nevertheless, many thinkers are now busy working on this problem, let's discuss one of the potential solutions considered so far shall we?
There was an interesting article in Manufacturing News where they discussed the problems with hackers and counterfeiting thieves stealing code on 3D printed parts, thus allowing others to steal those part designs without paying the royalty. The new concept is to put flaws in code to prevent counterfeiting, that faulty code would be deleted prior to printing but only under a specific set of conditions, counterfeiters would make the part with flaws however rendering it useless and the user then has wasted the material with a defective part.
Wow, that's rather interesting, and perhaps a nice strategy however it could also cause havoc to a scammed customer of an important part. What if the part is an important part, say for a car, part of the braking system, then what if someone buys that part assuming it is real, then that part fails causing the car to crash and occupants to become severely injured or even perish ? Then one could say that the original part maker knew of the flaw and sabotaged the hackers of its code, knowing that part might fail.
Who is to blame now? Surely there is more than one culprit, the hacker, the maker of the counterfeited product, the seller of counterfeited goods, and the original designer and / or maker of 3D printing code for the product with a purposeful and malicious flaw in the code.
Will national defense companies start doing this and our adversaries who copy us have their high-tech fighter planes, missiles, smart munitions, and helicopters crash? Will they in-turn attempt to inject malicious code into our 3D parts, have they already started? Will 3D printing vendors need to adopt a crypto-currency type strategy to ensure a part is authentic prior to printing to counteract the hackers – the stakes are high, and so they'll have to do something about this problem.
Suffice it to say; the future of manufacturing is getting very interesting if you ask me? And, I know you did, but thanks for reading this article anyway.