Blockchain: Protect the Transmission of Data in 3D Printing and CNC Machining

RAYMOND CHENG | June 15, 2022

Blockchain is a distributed database system consisting of a series of data blocks generated by cryptographic methods. Each block contains the hash value of the previous block, which is connected to the current block by the original block to form a blockchain. It overlays (chains) encrypted data (blocks) in chronological order to produce permanent and irreversible records.

Decentralization, independence, security, and other features characterize blockchain technology today, with decentralization being the most noticeable and vital attribute. Each node realizes information, self-verification, transfer, and management through distributed accounting and storage. Because of its encryption and security properties, it plays an important role in data file security in manufacturing.

Blockchain — Assurance for CNC Machining Data

As the potential of blockchain technology has grown in popularity, it has garnered the attention of various other industries, especially the machine shop industry. The computer numerical control (CNC) machining process is often used to machine critical parts for a variety of industries, from aerospace to medical. The process involves using computer-controlled machines to remove material from a workpiece to create the desired shape. Because CNC machining can be expensive and time-consuming, it's important to protect the data associated with the process.

Blockchain technology can be used to protect CNC machining data in several ways.

1. Blockchain provides a secure, immutable ledger that can record all aspects of the machining process. This means that if any changes are made to the data, they can be easily tracked and traced. Furthermore, because blockchain is decentralized, it can provide an extra layer of security by distributing the data across a network of computers. This makes it much more difficult for hackers to tamper with the data.

2. Blockchain can help with the management and tracking of inventory. In the past, machine shops had to rely on paper-based tracking systems, which were often inefficient and prone to error. With blockchain, each inventory item can be assigned a unique digital identify that can be tracked throughout the supply chain. This would allow machine shops to have a more accurate and efficient way of tracking their inventory.

3. Blockchain can also help machine shops manage customer orders. In the past, machine shops have often had to deal with a lot of paperwork when it comes to processing customer orders. With blockchain, however, all this information can be stored on the ledger in a secure and tamper-proof way. This would make it much easier for machine shops to process customer orders and ultimately lead to improved customer satisfaction.

Blockchain Promotes Distributed 3D Printing

In theory, 3D printing is the perfect mode of production for distributed manufacturing. Digital files can be easily transferred, regardless of geographical restrictions, as long as there is a 3D printer, and it is equipped with the right material to print anywhere. But it is only a good vision, and there are still many problems in the real implementation.

First, if the 3D printing model is downloaded by the user, there is a risk of being tampered with or forwarded at will; if the model is distributed to the service provider or manufacturer for remote printing, it is also possible to print more than authorized, which will lead to intellectual property theft.

Designers have largely no control over how many designs can be printed after they are sold, which means they are often compelled to sell designs at higher prices, whether users plan to print one or thousands of them. The high price is also unfair to individual users who are using it solely for their own printing.

Perhaps, we can solve the current problem with the help of Bitcoin's blockchain technology.

The Blockchain of How to Perform 3D Printing

1. Protect 3D printed files by hashing algorithms. The encryption algorithm generates a fingerprint of a unique hash value for each file based on its contents. This is a sign that ensures the uniqueness of the file with a short message that is related to every byte of the file, and it is difficult to find the reverse rule. The blockchain does not store the file itself but a hash value that verifies its authenticity. Unless identical, no two files will have the same hash value; changing anything about the data will result in a different hash value. Through the improvement of this technology, the 3D print file is converted into a digital workpiece on the blockchain, and the unique fingerprint of each workpiece is used to verify its authenticity and uniqueness.

2. Protect access to data through encryption. After the first step, the encryption conversion of the 3D printed file has been realized, and then the access rights are marked and bound to the stored hash value of the file. When a 3D print file is shared, the recipient gets a token that allows access. The file cannot be decrypted without this token, ensuring that the 3D printable data is authenticated. With the methods mentioned above, we can effectively encrypt and protect the transferred model files, thus preventing the model from being downloaded and forwarded at will, because each step is recorded and required to be used through a specified token. However, if you want to further limit the number or number of prints of the model, you need the support of 3D printers.

The Benefits of 3D Printing Using Blockchain

The biggest advantage is the establishment of trust. The designer no longer has to worry about the illegal use of his design. Designers just need to concentrate on improving their skills to make a better model. Individual users can also choose different ways to print files, either by the number of times or by directly downloading the files, but now the price will be relatively lower, and the source of the model is transparent. Manufacturers can also choose to produce locally near their customers, which in turn reduces storage and transportation. On-demand production is also good for environmental protection and carbon neutralization. In addition to selling real goods, brand manufacturers can also sell printable documents to customers for replacement parts, customization, and accessories. This is all because their IP will be protected by the blockchain.


In short, the 3D printing blockchain will to a greater extent promote the use of 3D printing technology, while the blockchain will give 3D printing transactions in the form of "tokens". Think about the early days of Bitcoin and, in turn, look at the monetization of the 3D printing blockchain. Maybe one day, the usage time of our machines can also be sold online, and 3D printed documents can be traded in a variety of monetary ways.
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This site is intended only for residents of the United States and its territories. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well.