Lisa Strama: Protecting Additive Manufacturing Workflow with Blockchain Technology

From CEO World Magazine

Each December, CEOWorld magazine identifies the top five technology trends poised to transform the world in the New Year.  In 2018, Blockchain and Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing were two digital platforms recognized for the dramatic impact they have on global enterprise, particularly in leading industries such as manufacturing, government, and supply chain.  As more industries are realizing the benefits of additive manufacturing (AM), it follows that the transportation, distribution, and security of the digital files AM generates using blockchain-enabled solutions are gaining momentum for the future of business in the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0.

The products produced by AM technology are only as viable as the integrity and traceability of the digital files – and printers – that create them.  Unsecured data carries with it a greater risk for counterfeit, maliciously modified, poor quality, or uncertified parts entering the physical supply chain.  For the manufacturing sector the threat is real as the third most targeted sector for cyberattacks after the government and financial sectors. For this group, unsecured data and parts can represent lost revenue, safety risks, and the theft of valuable intellectual property (IP).  For the government, counterfeit parts can impact national security:  supply chain integrity and counterfeit parts are two top concerns cited by the Department of Defense (DoD) in its last Annual Defense Industrial Capabilities Report.

Fortunately, there is a consortium helping to connect these various industries for the purpose of developing, demonstrating, and successfully transitioning innovative technologies like AM and blockchain efficiently, with less risk and lower cost known as the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS).  Established 32 years ago by executive order to improve the strength and competitiveness of the U.S. industrial base, NCMS’ network of leading industry, government and academic partners is currently investigating how blockchain-enabled security solutions can improve the AM digital supply chain and facilitate new manufacturing and sustainment models by including data integrity, compliance rights, feedback monitoring, counterfeit mitigation, and revocation.

Enhanced transparency, scalability, and trustworthy systems limiting the risk of unauthorized intervention are some of the advantages afforded by blockchain technology in the supply chain.

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