3D Printing

PrinTracker tech could match sketchy objects to 3D printers that made them

PrinTracker tech could match s...
The system establishes a "fingerprint" for any one printer, based on a combination of factors
The system establishes a "fingerprint" for any one printer, based on a combination of factors
View 1 Image
The system establishes a "fingerprint" for any one printer, based on a combination of factors
The system establishes a "fingerprint" for any one printer, based on a combination of factors

Although 3D printers are able to produce some amazing objects, they can also crank out counterfeit goods, illegal firearms, and other not-so-nice creations. Soon, if someone is suspected of making such items, it could be possible to match the objects to that person's printer.

Commonly-used Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printers produce objects via a nozzle that moves back and forth, depositing a filament of molten thermoplastic in successive layers. Within each of these layers are tiny wrinkles known as in-fill patterns.

These are supposed to be of a precise and uniform width, which is less than one millimeter. In fact, though, they're typically off by 5 to 10 percent, due to variations between different printer models, nozzle sizes, and other factors. Led by Prof. Wenyao Xu, a team from New York's University at Buffalo determined that these imperfections create a "fingerprint" that is unique to each individual 3D printer.

For their study, the researchers started with 10 FDM printers along with four stereolithography 3D printers – the latter utilize lasers to selectively solidify resin, as opposed to depositing plastic from a nozzle, but they still leave distinctive in-fill patterns. The fingerprint of each printer was obtained from items printed by it.

All 14 printers were subsequently used to produce keys. When scanned to analyze their in-fill patterns, those keys could be matched to the printer that made them with an accuracy rate of 99.8 percent. That rate remained the same when the test was repeated utilizing the same machines 10 months of use later, and dropped to a still-impressive 92 percent when the keys were intentionally damaged in order to obscure their patterns.

The identification system, called PrinTracker, is being presented this week in Toronto at the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Computer and Communications Security.

Source: University at Buffalo

Keys are small enough that the FDM printers will be close to the limits of their resolution, where any small differences will be magnified. But more important, 3D printers are made from easily-replaceable parts (especially nozzles, pulleys and belts). And are cheap enough these days to be discarded with minimal regret. So this kind of fingerprinting will likely catch the same kinds of criminal as get caught nowadays trying to run counterfeiting operations with an ink-jet printer.
But this is assuming that the same nozzles used the same type of plastic filament is used and the same speed what if I just modified my speed or for that matter what if I heated the item to distort the lines.
Gregg Eshelman
As worthless as firearms "fingerprinting". Just change the nozzle, change the extrusion parameters and the "fingerprint" will be no longer a match.
This is fear mongering at its absolute laziest.
The second you change anything about that printer, including a nozzle, feeder, main board, slicer software, literally anything, and that printer's unique verifiers will be obliterated.
Expanded Viewpoint
Once someone knows what the identifying data points being looked for are, they can then make changes to obscure them. What, nobody has ever heard of the art and science of camouflage before??