Untraceable 3D-printed guns may soon be traceable.
In a paper published earlier this week, a team of researchers said they had discovered a way to trace 3D-printed objects back to the 3D printers that made them. The team's identification system, dubbed "PrinTracker," use patterns etched on the surface of the 3d printed object to identify the printer that produced the object.
As part of their research, Xu's team found that 20 years ago the Federal Investigation Bureau had looked into fingerprinting paper -- recognizing patterns on paper -- in order to identify fake documents. That inspired Xu and his team to use the same concept to trace 3D printers.
The study is based on hardware variants of each printer that create unique patterns similar to fingerprints on objects printed by the printer. Even different units of the same make and model of printer won't perform exactly the same way, Xu says, each leaving its discrete mark on whatever it prints.
In addition to tracking 3d-printed guns, PrinTracker can be used to identify counterfeit products made by 3D printers.