Microsoft working on barcode-like ID tags for tracking 3D printed objects

Scientific article here:

Microsoft has revealed a technique for creating coded “tags” within 3D printed objects. The tags can be scanned from the outside to identify the object or gather other encoded information.

In a Microsoft Research release, principal researcher Andy Wilson revealed the tags, known as InfraStructs, are printed as disruptions within the object. These could be holes or extra material. Like a barcode, different shapes communicate different information.

These internal tags, called InfraStructs, can be read with an imaging system using terahertz (THz) radiation, which can safely penetrate many common materials. The idea is simple, 3D printed objects could have embedded coded tags that are placed within these objects.

InfraStructs can be made with the same layer-by-layer process used for producing the object. The code could be anything from serial numbers to images, or even simple programs. A terahertz scanning device can read and decode the information on those tags.

THz radiation falls between microwaves and infrared light on the electromagnetic spectrum. It can penetrate many common plastics, papers and textiles but, unlike X-rays, does not harm biological tissues.

The tags themselves come at no extra cost, said Karl Willis, a recent Ph.D. graduate in computational design at Carnegie Mellon. But THz imaging, still in its infancy, can be pricey.

“It opens up new possibilities for encoding hidden information as part of the 3D fabrication process,” Wilson said in the release. “A lot of people see 3D printers simply as tools for rapid prototyping. We want to think about 3D printing more deeply and approach it as a research topic.”

Microsoft working on barcode-like ID tags for tracking 3D printed objects | Gigaom.

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