A new technology utilising “addictive fingerprints” could be of help in tracing 3D printed weapons. Developed by engineers from The University at Buffalo, the technology reveals unique fingerprints of 3D printers. This could help track counterfeit goods, including weapons.
This technology, dubbed PrinTracker examines the in-fill patterns that 3D-printed objects have. Objects printed from the same 3D CAD software should be theoretically the same on different printers. However, some factors like model type, nozzle size, filament and others cause slight imperfections in the patterns. The patterns still remain unique to each printer just like fingerprints and are consistent over time.
This means the patterns of the objects can be used to match a 3D printed object to its source and this is what the technology employs. Such an advance could be of assistance to authorities who would want to track the origin of 3D printed counterfeit goods, guns and other products.
The 3D CAD software and its 3D printing have quite a lot of wonderful uses but it is also a dream come true for counterfeit goods producers. This was according to Wenyao Xu the lead author and associate professor of computer science and engineering at Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Xu added that what is more concerning about 3D printing is the capacity to make firearms more readily available to individuals not allowed to possess them.
In a test to determine PrinTracker’s capability, the research team made door keys, 5 each from 14 common 3D printers, 10 fused deposition modelling (FDM) printers, and four stereolithography (SLA) printers. Then the team used a common scanner to create digital images of every key. After that, they enhanced and filtered each image to identify the elements of the in-fill pattern.
This helped them to develop an algorithm that aligns and calculates the variations of every key, verifying the authenticity of the “fingerprints”. Now the researchers had a database of the fingerprints which they were able to use to match the key to its printer. The matching had an accuracy of 99.8% for the first time.
After 10 months, the team of researchers ran a separate series of tests to determine if the continued use of the 3D printers could affect the effectiveness of their PrinTracker of matching objects to their source. They got the same results they got the first time. Xu explained that the capacity of the Technology is similar to the existing method of matching documents to a conventional printer. Xu says this is what the law enforcement and businesses have been utilising for decades.
He added that they have determined that the Technology, PrinTracker is an effective, robust and reliable method that certain related sectors can utilise. Enforcement agencies and businesses concerned about intellectual property can trace the source of 3D printed products.