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EDUCATION

Product Identification and Tracking in the 3D Printing Industry

4 Mins read
Product identification and tracking in the 3D printing industry
Product identification and tracking in the 3D printing industry/Source: Adobe Stock

There has been a lot of change and development in the 3D printing industry recently. The need of proper product identification and tracking has skyrocketed as technology develops and is adopted by more industries, such as the automobile, healthcare, and aerospace sectors. This article delves into the significance, techniques, and difficulties of 3D-printed product identification and tracking.

Importance of Identification and Tracking in 3D Printing Industry

In 3D printing industry, it is essential to be able to identify and track products for the purposes of quality control, IP protection, and supply chain management. They are the foundation of a reliable and productive business sector.

Quality Control

Quality assurance is more important as 3D printing is used more often to make expensive, complicated items. A manufacturer’s capacity to maintain standards, assure consistency, and offer traceability depends on its ability to accurately identify and monitor its products.

Intellectual Property Protection

Since 3D-printed designs are so easy to reproduce, protecting intellectual property is a major challenge in the field. Unauthorised duplication and counterfeiting can be prevented with proper monitoring and identifying measures.

Supply Chain Management

In the era of just-in-time production and on-demand manufacturing, inventory management and lead time reduction become impossible without accurate product monitoring across the supply chain. Various software options are leveraged to achieve these goals, contributing to the efficiency and responsiveness of 3D printing operations in 3D printing industry. 

The industry’s dedication to quality and honesty is shown in the importance placed on identification and tracking. It’s crucial to 3D printing’s long-term success and development.

Also read: 3D Systems and Biopharma Partners to Advance Regenerative Medicine

Methods of Identification and Tracking in 3D Printing Industry

In 3D printing, product identification and tracking technologies are both vital and varied. They range from basic image codes to more complex digital copies and blockchain technologies. This is a breakdown of each of them:

RFID

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags offer an advanced medium of tracking, providing real-time location data and other product-specific details. These tags that are corrosion resistant can be incorporated into 3D printed parts or attached to the exterior. 

Unlike barcodes, RFID tags can be read without line-of-sight, providing more flexibility in monitoring products. They also enable the collection of a more comprehensive data set, offering insights into temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors affecting the product.

QR Codes And Barcodes

These visual markers may be included into or placed on the exterior of a 3D-printed component for quick and simple scanning and identification throughout the manufacturing process. They are not only cheap, but also easily available because to their interoperability with any scanning equipment. Serial numbers, batch numbers, and even particular production details are all stored there.

Digital Twinning

Creating a digital twin of a physical thing enables comprehensive tracking and analysis of a product at every stage of its lifespan. This technique may be used to model the behaviour of a component or system in a variety of scenarios before it is ever built.
To further optimise maintenance and efficiency, digital twins can be continually updated with real-time data, allowing for dynamic responses to changes in the product’s surroundings or activity.

Blockchain technology

Blockchain technology offers a novel approach to keeping track of items from their inception to their final sale. Blockchain improves accountability and traceability by establishing a secure and immutable ledger. All parties involved may have faith in the product’s authenticity and integrity since each stage of the production and distribution process can be recorded in a transparent and secure manner. Because of the distributed nature of the system, the data is both safe and resistant to manipulation.

Accuracy and integrity are ensured throughout the product’s lifespan thanks to these approaches, which are reflective of the creativity and complexity at the core of 3D printing. Identification and tracking will play an increasingly important role as technology develops, redefining what constitutes success in the field.

Challenges

Innovative solutions are needed to the problems that prevent the smooth integration of product identification and tracking in 3D printing industry. Integration with existing production techniques, technological limits, and secure data storage are all obstacles. The in-depth analysis here:

Integration with Traditional Manufacturing

Problems arise when trying to harmonise 3D-printed parts with those made using conventional manufacturing methods. Existing tracking and quality control systems are widely used in conventional production. There may be inconsistencies when 3D-printed components are integrated into the system. Material handling, quality control, and stock-tracking practises might all be areas of variation. Integration and tracking of both sorts of components can be challenging without a unified approach, which requires compromise on both ends.

Technology Limitations

While revolutionary, 3D printing in 3D printing industry does have certain restrictions. The wide variety of 3D printing materials limits the use of some tracking methods.

Embedding RFID tags or QR codes, for example, may be straightforward in some polymers but difficult or even counterproductive in metals or ceramics. The tools and software used in 3D printing are constantly being upgraded to keep up with the industry’s fast development.

Because of this development, it may be necessary to invest much in regular upgrades and training. Investments in time and money may be necessary to implement cutting-edge identification and tracking systems. This is especially true for manufacturers on a smaller scale.

Data Security

Due of its digital nature, 3D printing is susceptible to cyber risks since it relies on software and internet platforms for design and tracking. Theft of confidential information might lead to the unlawful duplication of intellectual property or the manipulation of tracking logs.

When 3D printing industry is used in high-stakes industries like aircraft or healthcare, this might have disastrous results. Companies must now spend money on sophisticated cybersecurity tools, maintain a schedule of frequent system updates, and maybe even investigate offline backup options. Internal processes to prevent unauthorised access and leaks from within the firm are also necessary for ensuring data security. These obstacles demonstrate how difficult it is to implement a universally accepted system of identification and tracking in the 3D printing sector. In order to keep up with the constant changes in this industry, it is crucial to find solutions to these problems.

Conclusion

In the increasingly sophisticated 3D printing industry, product identification and tracking have emerged as critical factors. Quality control and supply chain management are aided by the combination of new technology like blockchain, digital twinning, and RFID with more established ones like barcodes. Investing in these options is crucial to 3D printing industry development as a sustainable, forward-thinking manufacturing method.

About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D printing. which publishes the latest 3D printing news, insights and analysis from all around the world. Visit our 3D Printing Education page to read more such informative articles. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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