Now that it seems there is positively nothing that would surprise us in terms of uses of blockchain, the US Patent and Trademark Office is officially thicker by one more patent. This time we’re talking using blockchain to verify and track 3D-printed objects, an area which is still in serious need of control and regulation.

3D printers work by adding layers and layers to metal, plastic, or whatever objects, and for that reason, the process is called “additive manufacturing”. Did you read that right? Addictive? Well, it can be, especially if we’re talking 3d-printer-manifacturing chocolate bars or movie tickets, but “additive” as in “adding”. Just to make things as clear as possible, according to the patent,

“The term “additive manufacturing” refers to processes used to synthesize three-dimensional objects using digital models or other electronic data sources. So-called “3d printers” are capable of receiving a series of instructions corresponding to a particular object and controlling the hardware utilizing a manufacturing medium (e.g., metallic alloys, resins, rubbers, clays, photopolymers, ceramic matrices, and the like) to construct that particular object.”

, although we’re sure you’ve seen masks in Mission Impossible so you know how it works.

We’re also sure you have heard of General Electric, which is a conglomerate responsible for a wide variety of tools, devices, and products that will make your life definitely worth living. GE is also responsible for some of the most innovative and impressive breakthroughs in the industry, including this kickass additive smashproof sphere. Now that you have some idea of how impressive additive manufacturing can be, the question is:

How do you make something that holds this much power safe?

Blockchain with its many uses can still be seen by many as a weapon, and there are sure many grey areas still in terms of regulation. Nevertheless, now that the genie is out of the bottle, its awesome and unbridled power can definitely be used for good.

Blockchain with its immutable all-seeing eye can verify the integrity of the 3D manufacturing process, which means that 3D-printed objects can be tracked, and also that they will have a history that can be checked. This is just like the process Everledger implemented with their diamonds. Leanne Kemp, the CEO of Everledger, describes a similar technique:

“Everledger takes current industry certification (4Cs – cut, clarity, carat, and color) and adds 40+ pieces of additional metadata and high-res photography which is then linked to the laser inscription found on the girdle of the stone. We then take all this information and write it into the blockchain creating a permanent digital thumbprint of the diamond.”

3D printers, however, as you can imagine, are quite tricky. Creating parts of mechanisms that have been designed on a 3D printer can be done by anyone but that doesn’t mean that the parts will be of a good quality. A set of instructions has to be followed, if we’re talking industrial manufacturing, to make sure that the parts are up to specifications. We knew you wouldn’t settle for that oversimplification, so here is the official statement:

“End users who purchase or otherwise receive such a part of no way of verifying that a replacement part manufactured in this way was produced using a correct build file, using correct manufacturing media, and on a properly configured additive manufacturing device. A fault, failure, or non-standard condition at any step of the additive manufacturing process or with any material component of the produced part may result in a catastrophic failure of that part when installing in the industrial asset.”

Why do we think blockchain can be helpful?

For one, using blockchain would greatly help reduce the amount of red tape. As have learned from the example of HSBC using R3 Corda blockchain to transport a ship full of soya beans all the way from Argentina to Malaysia, completely avoiding usage of paper documents, blockchain can do wonders in terms of saving effort and maximizing payoffs.

And there is also the fact that blockchain is, well, the future:

[The] Bitcoin protocol and network today is that foundational layer. It is [a] value transfer network. Beyond that, it is a core, backbone security service securing contracts, physical and digital property, equities, bonds, robot AI and an enormous wave of applications which have not yet been conceived.”

Jeff Garzik, Bitcoin core developer, and CEO, Dunvegan Space Systems.

Also, if we’re talking effective work and cycle time, blockchain has been proven to increase the speed of transactions and effectivity of the working process, which has always been, according to worldblockchainsummit.com, an efficiency game. Besides, blockchain is a great alternative to banks. 

We think there is great potential in blockchains of all sorts if one of them can be used to make the world a safer place. We have our concerns over compatibility issues, of course, but time will tell whether the world is ready for blockchain. For now, all the evidence to prove that it is ready is there, and we are certainly looking forward to a world in which complete transparency means freedom from corruption, bureaucracy, and generally hold-ups and incompetencies of any kind.

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