How 3D Printing Has Impacted Anti-Counterfeiting Initiatives

By scoutadmin - February 16, 2017

Counterfeiting is serious business, and it affects everyone – not just businesses – but also our overall health and safety. According to a Black Market Watch study on the NASDAQ OMX 30 Stockholm Index, “73% stated that counterfeiting and IP theft had increased in the past 5 years.”

A large majority of these counterfeited products (75% to be exact) “implied risks to human health and safety.” Think about it: counterfeit makeup, clothes, even automotive parts. With technology’s fast pace, nothing is quickly becoming an off limits frontier to the bad guys.
This is especially true with 3D printing – this technology has changed the entire name of the game when it comes to counterfeiting. While not fully mainstream yet, it’s rapidly shaping and altering the boundaries of what can (and cannot) be replicated for unlawful profit.

That said, there’s another side to 3D printing when examined from an anti-counterfeiting lens. This duality is what makes awareness and next steps toward handling it such a double-edged sword in the counterfeiting realm.

3D Printing: The Double Agent

On a surface level, 3D printing can spell trouble for any brand selling products because all that’s needed to replicate is to possess it. And what’s easier than buying the product you’re planning to fake? It’s only a few clicks away – and whoosh. Your secret’s out, and IP in jeopardy.

While digital rights management (DRM) has been tossed around as a method to curtail and discourage counterfeiters using a lock system, it’s not likely to be sustainable for long.

Here’s where the double-edged sword/double agent analogy comes into play. One side: 3D printing helps anti-counterfeiting. The other: it equally hurts anti-counterfeiting efforts.

Companies like InfraTrac, whose light-based authentication sets a taggant for 3D printed objects underneath the surface based on a spectrometer for polymer printing, are at the front lines of this war on counterfeiting. This spectrometer can detect fingerprints and immediately compare to the manufacturer’s list of authentic users. If it’s not, they’ll know within seconds.

It’s these continued efforts that will keep us ahead and safe.

The Effects on Verticals

It’s easy to bring up the conversation about knockoff purses and clothing – it’s what everyone’s hardwired to think about due to its salacious nature.

Of course anything counterfeit constitutes risk and caution, but what of the other verticals leveraging technology that we’re less apt to think about, such as automotive, pharmaceuticals, and medical that our friends and family depend on for safety?

The inherent danger of faking a bolt or electronic part in a car can mean the difference between life or death. Manufactured parts, pills, or medical equipment are created and extensively tested for safety. Buying counterfeited parts in any of these industries is extremely dangerous.

With 3D printing, this is becoming more common – especially in airplanes and cars.

In 2012, a Senate Armed Services Committee uncovered more than 1 million “bogus parts” in the Pentagon supply chain. The suspected components were found in mission computers for important missiles, military aircrafts and helicopters. The violations were traced to China for more than 70 percent of the occurrences.

Moving Forward in Anti-Counterfeiting

In the end, it all boils down to awareness, education and vigilance on staying ahead. When you think you know everything, think again.

3D printing will continue to push the envelope of manufacturing and bring the next industrial revolution, or what’s being called “industry 4.0.”

No matter what your vertical, it’s time to step up to technology and use it to your advantage rather than seeing it as a threat. If you’re wondering how to stay ahead of your counterfeiters, there are lots of places you can start. Feel free to subscribe to our blog for more updates on case management software and other anti-counterfeiting initiatives out there.

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