3dTrust is one of several startups tackling the problem of streaming print control, but they have a very unique feature.
Streaming for 3D printers is still a maturing function and various experiments are underway. The fundamental idea is that most 3D printers by default require the possession of the 3D model file to slice it for printing. In the case of distributed printing operations, particular between different legal parties, this is an impossible situation. The 3D model owner will not allow possession of the 3D model to pass out of their hands, presumably due to the effort required to create it.
Enter 3D print streaming. The idea here is to perform the slicing remotely where the 3D model exists, and the stream the resulting GCODE to the target 3D printer where the actual printing takes place. Since the 3D model never leaves possession of the owner, this opens up the opportunity for distributed 3D printing in areas where it wasn’t previously possible.
However, there’s still potential issues with this approach, specifically in areas of audit, security and reliability. That’s where 3dTrust’s technology comes in.
The France and Germany-based company has developed a streaming solution that uses blockchain as its foundation.
Blockchain, if you are not aware, is an information protocol that provides peer-to-peer based security features. It enables otherwise unrelated parties to communicate securely without requiring a third party to officiate activities. This protocol has been used elsewhere to create, for example, digital currencies like BitCoin due to the security features.
But there’s nothing stopping one from using the same protocols for securing a 3D print stream, and that’s exactly what 3dTrust has done.
The company can provide reliably secure streams and even create “one time” streams that can be used for printing only once. This enables providers to sell “prints” instead of 3D models remotely, without having to release the 3D model itself.
A side benefit of the protocol is audit: it is possible to fully trace the usage of the stream without the possibility of tampering.
As you might imagine, 3dTrust has patented their approach.
There has been tremendous interest in this system, because it enables many more companies, particularly larger entities, to gain the benefits of distributed 3D printing. You can imagine how a distributed manufacturer, such as AirBus or Boeing might be better able to work with their suppliers. Instead of less secure transfers of files between sites, they can instead simply stream prints. No possibility of tampering. In fact, it seems that AirBus is one of their investors through its startup business accelerator.
One key industry that could gain much from this is the military, who obviously require very secure systems. Such a capability could dramatically reduce their costs and enable new forms of activity not currently possible.
It is all good, and investors seem to realize the same, as 3dTrust has recently received an investment of €1M to accelerate their development.
Watch for these guys in the future.