James Griffin (Associate Professor, University of Exeter), Onyeka Osuji (Professor, University of Essex), and Hing Kai Chan (Professor, Nottingham University Business School China) have developed a digital watermarking technology that enables the tracking and tracing of 3D Printing (3DP) content, from its creation through to its destruction.
A watermark is embedded into creative content; the team’s research made the technology easier to implement and difficult to remove, thus enabling new forms of 3DP works.
The technology was successfully demonstrated operating at a conference in China in 2017 and received widespread and acclaimed international press and television coverage. It has been granted a patent in China in August 2020.
The research team’s next task, with James Griffin as principal investigator in the impact follow on research, is to develop the technology further for implementation into licensing systems. They will do this with two China-based companies. The AHRC awarded Griffin, Osuji, and Kai Chan £65,774 for the project.
Professor Osuji’s role is mainly to apply contract law to 3D printed watermarks, provide training sessions concerning contracts and lead the development of the best practice code.
Attaching the technology to an existing licensing platform will allow for the use of 3DP content in new creative ways, leading to new artistic forms. For example, the technology could be attached to 3DP materials themselves, resolving an ongoing problem in ensuring the quality of materials that are used for printing. This could allow for more complex artistic works; it could even lead to organic works involving 3DP biological material.
The technology would open up new markets, even overcoming existing regulatory hurdles. This is because the technology would enable right holders to guarantee sources of materials and can be used to check if the structure of a 3DP object has changed internally.
More details about the project can be found here.