Are There Secret Tags on your 3D Prints?

Is there something hiding in your 3D print? (Image courtesy of Idea go /

Is there something “secret” hiding in your 3D print? (Image courtesy of “Idea go” at

You don’t have to read much of a newspaper today to run into an article about privacy concerns and how they intersect with the digital world.  From Bitcoin to the NSA, it seems nothing is beyond the reach of hackers.  This may soon apply to your 3D prints too

in order to potentially prevent copyright infringement and be able to trace the source of a 3D printed part or file.  IEEE Spectrum had an excellent article on secretly tagging 3D printed objects that talked about methods for tagging ranging from secret void spaces to a line of binary.  Paper printers have used similar technology for years to tag printer documents with near invisible information including date and even your device serial number.  You wouldn’t expect your average counterfeiter or ransom note writer to be aware of this the same way most 3D printer owners have no clue their objects can potentially be tracked right back to them.

3D printing has seen its fair share of libertarian thinking with things like 3D guns and no doubt this won’t sit well with many.  The 3D printer market is highly fragmented and that $100 printer you got on Kickstarter probably doesn’t contain such technology, but what about the future?  With rumors of companies like HP entering 3D printer market, we expect consolidation and only a few large corporate players.  That file you download may soon be tagged as well.  The legislation on this has yet to be written, so if this is important to you, don’t be silent, be involved.

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