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James LaDue By James LaDue • May 16, 2018

Post-Webinar Q&A: How to be Blockchain Ready for 3D Printing

Vishal K. Singh, CTO of LINK3D and Janet Kar, COO of LINK3D hosted a webinar yesterday, “How to be Blockchain Ready for 3D Printing” addressing LINK3D’s new Blockchain addition to its Digital Factory workflow software. Immediately following the in depth blockchain presentation and its impact on additive manufacturing, Vishal fielded some equally-in depth attendee questions, for which the transcription is seen below:

Service Bureau & OEM Experiences

The largest challenge when looking at scaled additive manufacturing is the integration of multiple software products, PLM platforms, multiple 3D Printing machines, technologies and disparate facilities or locations on a global scale. This is an area typically controlled by enterprise IT. How is the industry- and more specifically LINK3D- looking to address this?
This is an enterprise-related question. LINK3D provides technical and enablement solutions to make this problem easier to solve. As a quick example, LINK3D is providing different software plugins that enterprise organizations can use today, which all connect to the LINK3D Digital Factory workflow software. This can be enabled to connect with enterprise blockchain directly or using LINK3D.

For Service Bureau's how is the experience being tracked?
Digital Factory tracks experience every time you complete a part order. It is marked completed and logged on the Blockchain. That information will then be made available to your customer. We can go deeper in that topic. Perhaps we want to create another webinar for this topic!

I’m a Service Bureau and I don’t know how to operate my own Blockchain network. What should I do?
That's a very legitimate problem today. With LINK3D Digital Factory, you don't have to run your Blockchain - you just have to enable Blockchain on your Digital Factory account. You’ll be able to use it privately on our cloud or on a public ethereum-like network.

Can you share a specific example of a customer's use of Blockchain for 3D Printing and manufacturing? Ideally something in supply chain or traceability.
We can share some examples but we cannot go into company names right now.
For all practical purposes, when the part order is submitted to the correct internal facility, we maintain a log on the Blockchain for who submitted the part order. Also logged is when the internal facility received the order and the bid amount (or the internal facility code amount when the project was awarded to that facility).
There are other cases with several companies, for which we store metadata generated during the printing process. It depends on the kind of sensors on the machine - so we have to do some engineering to ensure the information could be extracted, stored and linked to the correct part order.

Blockchain Technicalities

Blockchain criticism includes such points of contention, such as irreversibility. For example, if something was made by mistake, it will be saved anywhere and become a rule for the next recall.
You don’t have to use a rule; you can update a Blockchain rule within the system and simply implement the next rule.

When I have a very heavy 3D print file, do I need to keep it on each block of Blockchain log to be sure it is the same?
The way the information is stored on Blockchain is meant for smaller transactions which need to be verified. So you want to store a ‘fingerprint’ of the file rather than the file itself. This uniquely identifies the actual file for IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) storage or another cloud.

How secure is adding new rules? Can someone else create new rules?
You can add a new validation rule, and Blockchain can be used to verify that rule. If someone creates a new rule, you’ll know because it stores who knows the rule.

Is it possible to have some unimportant parameter (which was initially considered important) removed from the parameter log? Like ambient temperature, for example?
Take, for example, an established rule requiring ambient temperature of 70 degrees. The assumption is Blockchain is immutable. But the user can create a new record and update the Blockchain with a new rule applied for validation.

I think that one of the biggest challenges lies in the monitoring and recording events that occur during the manufacturing process. This includes requirements for part certification and qualification, as parts need to be checked throughout the entire process and not just inspected at the end. How do you think about this? What are the potential solutions?
(See 26:32 for a quick product demonstration by Vishal) blockchain traceability data comes from LINK3D Digital Factory. So we have a workflow to generate the RFQ, submit the quote, award the project, plan the build, manage production and ship the part.

When production and order is complete, the transaction data are stored on the Blockchain (in this case, in a private network, then data is stored in the database). So we also have the actual data and therefore know who created the transaction because all the metadata is stored on the Blockchain.

If I want to use a private Blockchain, will my information be public to others? I’m concerned with privacy issues.
To answer this, we have to address how we use Blockchain for monitoring data and recording events that happen during the manufacturing process. All the streamed data can be stored on Blockchain and this data can be linked to the job being printed, and hence linked to the RFQ, the files and the certification process.

We then need to determine that we can use it for certification, qualification and how these work with other processes in the ecosystem. Depending on the company’s own certification process, the solution can be built out. Blockchain is easily used for monitoring and recording data.

I’ve heard that Ethereum is slow and the transactions are limited. Will I hit a scalability problem?
If you choose to use ETH or the Public Blockchain option in the Digital Factory and your transaction amounts are too high, you could run into a scalability problem. Right now, with all the ICOs going on, this problem will take some time before it happens.

Moreover, ETH is also switching their solution in making it more scalable, using techniques like sharding, side channels and switching their network to Proof of State from Proof of Work - so this problem might go away.

IP Protection & Blockchain

If I want to use a private Blockchain, how will my Blockchain operate with another OEM?
The way the information is stored on Blockchain is done so through “‘fingerprinting” of the file rather than the entire file itself. The data provider must be Blockchain enabled, for which they will ideally provide an interface allowing users to observe their Blockchain data.

I’d like to hear more about digital fingerprinting on the Blockchain. For example, IP on the Blockchain and specifically, your thoughts about it being built into CAD systems (and any benefits in that)?
Great question! Yes, I think the 3D Printing industry needs it and we are working on it. If it is built in the CAD system and on the Blockchain, it will be right at the source - where it should be. There are several technologies utilizing geometric algorithms and machine learning algorithms, which could make that happen.

All 3D Printing requires STL or OBJ files. Can a Blockchain identifier be embedded in that file so that the designer would get credit every time that file is printed?
Yes. This is one of the main reasons IP protection, attribution of ownership and authorship is done using Blockchain.

3rd Party Software Systems Integrations
Do you already have working APIs for Materialise (esp. Magics & Robot) software?

Today, we don’t have working APIs with Magics. Rather, we have for some of the more open CAD software like SolidWorks.

How is your approach different from MOOG's Veripart -- their recent Blockchain supply chain system. Is the Link3D SW talk with their network?
I’m not deeply familiar with their solution. But, yes, multiple Blockchains can talk to each other.

What makes the Blockchain impenetrable as compared with other cyber storage mechanisms?
Because Blockchain is based on cryptographic and consensus based protocols, a single piece of information is replicated at multiple nodes. In order to really break the system, you have to have compromised all the nodes, which is simply not possible in a Blockchain-based network.

We currently use a 3rd party file transfer service with a customer. When I stumbled upon Siacoin, I thought that technology could be very helpful for that. Would you rather propose a private Blockchain between customers and suppliers for that or is Siacoin a potential solution for this?
Blockchain should not be used for storing files because at some point they will meet storage limitations. It should be used more as a reference to the files being stored. So, if you’re using a solution like IPFS (interplanetary file system) or something like Amazon Cloud, you should use that kind of secure system. For example, we allow for transfers of up to 5GB with 256-bit encryption.

You need to use a system which allows for big data and big file storage, whereas Blockchain is meant for smaller transaction which needs verification. So, fingerprinting that file is something that should be stored on the Blockchain. I’m not familiar with Siacoin, but I’ll definitely take a look into that!

How can Blockchain benefits a closed system like that of Carbon?
One of the the 3D Printing ecosystem challenges is there are a lot of different systems. The whole industry needs to take a step forward to make it more open and interoperable. If Carbon needs to implement Blockchain software for their customers, it needs to communicate with its own Blockchain network. Or the company can simply implement LINK3D Digital Factory, which already talks to block chain.

Let’s say Shapeways is used to make parts. How much work is needed to get them to provide their Blockchain data?
For Shapeway, we can provide you the data only if Shapeway’s blockchain is enabled.  And, depending on what technology is used, the company will provide its own interface for tracking the blockchain data.

Tokens & Coins

Is issuing tokens and coins irrelevant topic in this topic?
Issuing tokens and coins is not because that is the crypto aspect of Blockchain. We are mainly using Blockchain as a distributed ledger technology.

Thanks again for joining our webinar!

We’re convinced that Blockchain will influence the additive manufacturing industry in a positive way and put us on the road for achieving 100% repeatability, traceability and security throughout the 3D Printing processes. This unifies the disjointed 3D Printing ecosystem for all industries with an end-to-end data trail. This is why Blockchain technology is the future of security in the additive manufacturing space.

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