Ensuring that a printed item is the real thing is now possible, thanks to the scientists who built an “exploded” QR (quick response) code into it.
The number of products manufactured via 3D printing keeps increasing, therefore the potential for counterfeiting those products also rises. That is where QR codes come in.
Quality Parts in 3D Printing Services
Engineering scientists at the New York University have developed a system which tells 3D printers to include hundreds of tiny elements, made of inert materials located in the objects’ layers as they are being printed. Reportedly, those same elements don’t compromise the structural integrity of the object.
All the elements are visible inside the object when viewed using a micro-CT scanner, for example, and create a two-dimensional pattern. The operator of the scanner must know the correct position of the object and the pattern created will then make up a distinguishable QR code for the original product and its legitimate manufacturer.
QR Codes: A Counterfeiter’s Nightmare
If a counterfeiter attempted to CT scan a product from different angles to figure out its QR code, the elements inside the object would align in a variety of patterns, therefore creating multiple codes. The counterfeiter would not stand a chance in finding out the right code, if any, unless he knew exactly how the object was scanned in the first place.
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The conversion of a simple two-dimensional tag into a complex 3D feature made up of hundreds of tiny elements throughout the printed component allow the creation of many ‘false faces’. This method ensures that the correct QR code remains hidden from anyone who doesn’t know where to look.
So far, testing the system on various items such as cubes, bars and spheres printed from thermoplastics, photopolymers and metal alloys, has proven to be successful. It can also create 3D exploded bar codes or other identifiers with it as well.
Counterfeiters will always try to make and sell all sorts of inferior-quality 3D printed objects. Luckily, scientists keep working on making the most efficient QR codes in the hopes of dissuading the forgers, or at least making them break a sweat trying to crack the codes and failing miserably.