Project DetailsManufacturing is a critical pillar of the UK economy as evidenced by the recent decision to establish a National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland and the Factory 2050 UK initiative. Internationally, this is evident by the number of initiatives, such as Industrie 4.0 (Germany) and Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition/ Advanced Manufacturing (US), both aiming to digitise the manufacturing industry. Additive manufacturing is a disruptive innovation within this frame, removing the need for specialist supply chain or expensive tooling, reducing supply lead times and improving access and availability to (spare) parts as required, revolutionising service and maintenance amongst other aspects. However, the challenge of differentiating between original parts, copies or counterfeits has emerged.
Currently, the theme of plagiarism is strongly related to additive manufacturing (Holland et al. 2017). Therefore, transfer of design data and decentralised creation of objects by 3D printing is only economically reasonable when adequate security mechanisms exist to ensure compensation of the copyright holder (Holland et al. 2017). Therefore, ensuring this data remaining confidential is a key challenge to be solved before additive manufacturing can be used widely for spare part manufacturing. It should be noted that the music industry has embraced digital distribution of music only once secure means were established to share and ensure the record labels received fair payment for the purchase. Subsequently, there is a research need for developing a novel approach in securing the IP and confidentiality in additive manufacturing between the supply chain entities of IP owner and the user or the entity performing the additive manufacturing. Such an approach could entail the development of a digital sharing infrastructure whereby IP owners share manufacturing design data for component parts via a secure digital transaction. The emerging technologies of smart contracts and block chain have characteristics that could facilitate this process.
The research challenge lies in the fact that there is currently no solution identified to the IP and confidentiality challenge in additive manufacturing, and this is expected to be one of the main barriers for additive manufacturing to take off. Up to now, block chain has primarily been applied to secure IP in the financial sector; in the additive manufacturing sector research is extremely scarce.
The main research knowledge contribution will be the development of a framework to support use of emerging technologies for securing IP and confidentiality in additive manufacturing.
• Investigate the current IP and confidentiality challenges and their impact faced by additive manufacturing applications for spare parts within a supply chain context
• Investigate the key emerging technologies of block chain and smart contracts, their characteristics and potential relating to securing IP and confidentiality for additive manufacturing
• Develop a framework for applying block chain and/or smart contracts to address these challenges specifically for additive manufacturing
• Validate the framework for selected case studies with AFRC