Copyright is a tricky thing. As manufacturing becomes more and more automated through robotics, IP (intellectual property) theft becomes easier and easier. 3D scanning too makes illegally copying of physical components more accessible. Chinese clones of popular electronics has been an ongoing problem for some time; even the 3Doodler has been cloned. Of course, digital piracy has troubled businesses in every country since I was in high school. 3D printing occupies a space that’s both digital and material as far as design goes, so copyright protection gets especially hairy. And here steps in Fabulonia, creators of FabSecure, a cloud based file management and encryption suit that networks 3D printers and protects prints.
Typically when an STL is prepared for a printer it’s just sliced into gcode, which is then sent directly to the printer. There’s no security whatsoever. Anyone that has access to the STL can duplicate, modify, and print it. With FabSecure, STLs are encrypted through a patents pending Multidivision Encryption device and stored on a cloud that’s networked to all your printers and any printers that are shared with you. The device just hooks up to any network and does its thing. Prints (files) are never sent in their entirety; rather, they’re streamed through a(nother) patent pending protocol. This allows users to control access to designs/prints and monitor how many times each object has been printed (as well as if each print was successful. The control panel allows designers to share their prints for collaborative purposes without fear of them being stolen.
Encrypting prints is not new; Layer by Layer does something similar by sending prints instead of printable files. FabSecure’s method of streaming prints is unique though; it detects and blocks intrusion attempts and tolerates network interruptions. The suite also allows the sharing of printers, so office mates can all use one printer and have different levels of access to the same designs.
I’m not sure how much the device is, or how much the subscriptions cost, though the lowest tier plan has no monthly fees. The highest tier plan lets users monetize their designs through online stores. The site says FabSecure works with any printer, but it also states that it’s compatible with MakerBot Replicators, so maybe they’re planning on adding other printers over time. If the costs are reasonable and the service does indeed work with any printer I can see people using FabSecure.