A new startup company hopes to provide DRM-like services for 3D printing. Authentise wants to solve the problem of "losing" 3D models by using two different approaches.
The first approach is to silently include "watermarks" within 3D models. In this way a print could theoretically be traced back to the legitimate owner. Forensics could perhaps identify the source of the theft. It may not work in every case, but the presence of watermarks carrying unknown details may deter some intellectual property thieves from acting.
The second approach is more complex, we feel. Authentise has created SendShapes, a service for distributing 3D models. They're trying to leverage the difference between a CAD 3D model and a printable STL 3D model.
A CAD model is a manipulatable design, composed of parametric elements that can be modified without affecting the rest of the model. Think "making the wheels bigger" or "changing the thread size on the bolt hole". The CAD model cannot be 3D printed directly and must first be converted into a stream of instructions for the 3D printer to use.
A printable 3D model has been compiled into printer machine code. This is specific to each 3D printing device and is effectively not modifiable as a CAD model might be.
Capturing the data stream between Model and Printer enables all kinds of interesting controls and statistics. Authentise can provide usage statistics for models, “pay per print” and other options.
Is this service ready? Yes, in fact it’s getting closer to reality:
Authentise team is very excited to share with you that our partners are already testing our Alpha release. We broke down the testing process by OS and printer groups and it has been great so far! Feels great to have the support, feedback and lots of data to improve our product and make sure we will be ready and confident to push it out the door soon!
You might not be buying this service from Authentise, but it may be that the 3D print service you’re using might. Expect to see this type of solution emerge to protect designer intellectual property from theft.