Jun 27, 2017 | By Benedict

The U.S. Navy's innovation arm says it plans to use blockchain technology, a kind of digital ledger used to govern bitcoin transactions, to bring added security to its additive manufacturing systems. The technology will be trialled across the Navy’s 3D printing sites this summer.

The U.S. Navy will trial blockchain technology this summer to secure its 3D printing operations

The Navy has made no secret of its willingness to adopt additive manufacturing in recent years. But with the addition of new technologies comes new risks: having 3D printable designs on file gives hackers an opportunity to steal military information, so the Navy (and other branches of the Armed Forces) must do everything it can to ensure data security for its 3D printing operations.

That’s where blockchain technology comes in. Blockchains, distributed databases used to maintain a list of records, are a secure means of conducting online exchanges, such as bitcoin transactions, without the need for a third-party moderator.

Since their conception in 2008, blockchains have become more and more common as a means of online security, and it now looks like the Navy will be linking up with the blockchain trend.

According to Navy LCDR Jon McCarter, the Navy will trial blockchain for its additive manufacturing operations this summer, with a view to adopting the technology in a broader way.

“When looking for a test bed for this technology, it quickly became clear that Naval Additive Manufacturing was a perfect match,” McCarter said. “The ability to secure and securely share data throughout the manufacturing process (from design, prototyping, testing, production, and ultimately disposal) is critical to Additive Manufacturing and will form the foundation for future advanced manufacturing initiatives.”

Blockchains have previously been used to secure digital currency transactions

McCarter says initiatives like the blockchain trail will push the 3D printing of critical pieces of gear and equipment “closer and closer to deployed forces.”

The lieutenant commander warns that, while the move toward additive manufacturing is “greatly helping” the Navy’s material readiness, it is also creating the potential for vulnerabilities. This, in McCarter’s words, “makes the need for a cryptographically secure, traceable, immutable, and controllable data flow of utmost importance.”

This summer, the Naval Innovation Advisory Council will conduct a series of experiments using blockchain technology to securely share data between 3D printing sites and secure the digital thread of design and production.

Come September, the Navy will issue a report showing how the technology performed. If the trial is successful, the report will purportedly illustrate “the ability to open the aperture and dramatically revolutionize other aspects of Naval operations.”

Over the last few years, several researchers and organizations have thought up ways to shore up additive manufacturing security. Just a month ago, researchers at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering suggested that a system of intentional defects in 3D printable files could protect businesses from cyber attacks.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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