IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: The Evolution of 3D Printing TechnologyDecember 10, 2018 No Comments
While 3D Printing is drastically changing the future of manufacturing in America, its susceptibility to cyberattacks has made blockchain technology a necessary ingredient in securing data in the digital supply chain. Dr. Cosima Boswell-Koller, a Senior Project Manager at the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), discusses the importance of blockchain, as well as a new partnership between NCMS and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory – the Advanced Manufacturing, Materials, and Processes (AMMP) Program.
- Q. The growth of additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has fundamentally changed how companies manufacture and distribute their products. How has 3D printing technology changed the traditional manufacturing model?
A. You’re right. Additive manufacturing, which is more commonly known as 3D printing, is fundamentally changing how companies design, manufacture, distribute, and even maintain products. In a traditional, centralized manufacturing process, one organization is responsible for creating the design files, manufacturing the parts of products, and distribution. Additive manufacturing enables those responsibilities to be delegated digitally to multiple parties via a decentralized digital supply chain process. This means manufacturing can be done on-demand, when and where a specific product is needed, enabling faster production, accelerating time-to-market, reducing physical storage requirements, and transforming sustainment.
- Q. While 3D printing certainly has its benefits – including faster production and reduced storage requirements – why is it also so susceptible to cybersecurity breaches?
A. As highly sensitive product data increasingly travels between industrial companies, their suppliers, and subcontractors, the opportunity for counterfeit, maliciously modified, poor quality, or uncertified parts to enter the physical supply chain increases exponentially. As a result, all parties participating in the digital supply chain must focus on securing all data with blockchain technology. Doing so ensures the security and integrity of intellectual property at each stage of production.
- Q. How can blockchain technology be used to offset cyberattacks and secure data in the manufacturing supply chain?
A. Blockchain technology in the supply chain provides enhanced transparency, scalability, and trustworthy systems, limiting the risk of unauthorized intervention. Blockchain is ideal for processes involving real-time data, multiple handoffs, and need for flexibility. Adapting blockchain to the data generated by a 3D printed digital supply chain, however, requires an enterprise-wide commitment to understand the business need or problem and a human-centered, design-thinking focus tailored to the end-users who comprise each phase in the chain.
- Q. Is blockchain required at each phase of the digital supply chain?
A. Yes. In the design phase, file encryption ensures that only authorized users have access to the information enclosed. An encrypted digital container can be created for each part so that the design files cannot be accessed until decrypted by an additive manufacturing machine. Through a licensing mechanism, the intellectual property owner can define who has access to the data, for how long, and how the data should be used for manufacturing the part.
These files can then be transmitted via email, an offline system, or direct access to the distributor. Using a smart, contract-enabled blockchain, the digital distribution license can be authenticated, transported, and recorded by blockchain transactions. This allows all members of the blockchain to participate and enforce the distribution and asset management rules set by the smart contract.
From that point on, parts production may be licensed to multiple manufacturers. Each manufacturer can use the design files to produce parts in accordance with digital parameters set out by the licensing agreement. Production rules will control the number of parts that the manufacturer is licensed to print, ensuring both that quality standards are met and that counterfeits cannot be made using authorized equipment. Finally, when a physical part is manufactured, each part would be tagged with a digital reference recorded in the blockchain ledger, providing a link between the digital and physical thread that can trace the part back to its manufacturer, the machine that created it, and the original design creator.
- Q. How can blockchain technology be used to offset the risks associated with obsolete equipment which must be purchased from third-party providers?
A. Securing the digital supply chain with blockchain technology is critical, but not just because of lost revenuefromintellectual property theft.Forthegovernment,counterfeit parts represent both a safety and a national security risk. In a recent report, theDepartmentofDefense namedsupplychain integrity and counterfeit parts as two of its top concerns fortheelectronicssector. The same report identifies technological obsolescence as a key reason thatcounterfeitpartsenterthesupplychain.According to the DoD, 50% to 80% of suspect counterfeit parts were obsolete at the time of discovery. Additive manufacturing can mitigate those risks by allowing suppliers to store designs and produce the replacement parts on-demand, using the correctdesignfilevalidatedbytheblockchain.
- Q. NCMS and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory recently forged a new partnership designed to help U.S. manufacturers undertake large-scale 3D printing projects. Can you tell us about the Advanced Manufacturing, Materials, and Processes (AMMP) Program?
A. AMMP will bring together industry, academia, and government to advance, refine, and transition scientific breakthroughs in materials and machinery. Ultimately, we believe these breakthroughs in additive manufacturing will lead to unprecedented speed in parts production, new weapon system design and materials, dramatic cuts in costs and delivery times, and point-of-need part manufacturing.
AMMP is enjoying early momentum with new project calls and awards underway, A total of eight additive manufacturing projects have been awarded to date in keeping with ARL’s essential science and technology, feedstock, and prototyping areas of focus.
- Q. Where will AMMP be housed and how can U.S. manufacturing firms participate?
Dr. Cosima Boswell-Koller is a Senior Project Manager with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS). A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where she completed her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering, Boswell-Koller spent a year teaching Thermodynamics and Quantum Chemistry at Ohio University before joining the Corrosion and Wear Branch at NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD. There, she held leadership roles both in Acquisition, through support of the V-22 Osprey, and Science & Technology. She is serving as the technical lead of the AMMP Program.