A development in 3D asset management may assist the control of 3D models for printing.
Capassity is introducing something they call “ARToken”, an ecosystem for 3D content exchange. They explain:
We believe the AR/VR revolution will be driven by content creators. That’s why we are introducing the first platform that leverages blockchain infrastructure to create, rent and sell 3D content. This approach ensures decentralized and trustless copyright storage and content exchange within the AR/VR ecosystem.
You’ll note that they are clearly focusing on the AR/VR market (Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality), and not mentioning 3D printing.
That’s not surprising, given the recent buzz regarding AR/VR. When you have a startup venture, you go where the easier money exists.
However, a 3D asset management system is a 3D asset management system, and 3D assets are a key part of the 3D printing ecosystem. You can’t print without a 3D model.
One of the key barriers to free-flowing 3D models in 3D printing has been the security of the asset once published. All too often 3D models have been captured by others and incorporated into for-sale repositories. In other words, others capitalize on the works of designers. Sure, there are plenty of free, open source 3D models, but I imagine that far more interesting 3D models would emerge if there was a way to pay for them without losing control of the asset.
Now Cappasity has introduced ARtoken, a system that uses Blockchain to secure the assets. Their proposition is to easily incorporate 3D assets into AR / VR projects as per this video:
I don’t know the specifics of how the system operates, but I suspect that the secure “token” is used to pull the asset into the consuming system as required from a repository.
Adapting this approach for 3D printing would be somewhat different, as the need to transfer the file to a 3D printer would be required. Likely they would supply a 3D print slicing feature in the cloud, which would then stream the resulting GCODE directly to the 3D printer.
Would this work? Technically, I see no reason it could not. However, there may be market challenges.
3D printer manufacturers typically provide their own (or recommended) slicing systems, specific systems that are sometimes critical for successful print operations.
And these systems invariably require raw, unsecured STL files as input.
If you had a problem with a print and asked the manufacturer about it, they would inevitably ask how you sliced the 3D model. If you didn’t use the manufacturer’s recommended product, then they would insist you do.
And therein lies the problem of cloud-based slicers, and likely the adoption barrier to a 3D print version of ARtoken. Perhaps this is why they chose to work on AR / VR first.