GE Research has developed a quantum-secure Blockchain Network for 3D printing which is capable of managing digital transactions, from powder to finished part. The novel technology was recently recognized by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) which awarded GE Research a 2019 Manufacturing Leadership Award for Supply Chain Leadership.
As a mostly digital-driven process, additive manufacturing can benefit greatly from a blockchain-enabled supply chain, which offers an effective framework for securely managing additive manufacturing transactions for critical industrial parts.
In industries such as aerospace and energy especially, where critical metal components designed specifically for AM are produced, a sophisticated, secure and reliable system must be established for every step of the supply chain, from powder, to manufacturing floor, to post-processing.
Benjamin Beckmann, GE Research’s Blockchain Leader, said: “The demonstration of Blockchain for Additive is an excellent use case to build out our blockchain framework. We can create networks that allow for fine-grain control of materials flows, data, intellectual property and identity along the entire additive digital thread. The goal here is to provide security for the entire additive process from powder to print.”
The metal AM process relies on a consistent supply of high-quality metal feedstock—in this case highly reactive metal powders that have a set shelf life and limited reuse characteristics. Managing the source, quality and history of each part of the supply chain is thus essential to guarantee a high quality and industrially viable AM process.
The blockchain-enabled transactional system was developed by a multi-disciplinary team at GE Research’s Forge Lab, which conducts research at the cutting edge of feasibility. The resulting platform combines the need for pervasive data integration with a high degree of cryptographic communications and data storage enabled by quantum communication channels and ultra-fast quantum key distribution technologies.
The blockchain network is the first of its kind and could have an impact across a broad range of commercial and government operations. “We’re working on a range of applications addressing industrial-grade requirements for industrial, energy, healthcare and the defense industries,” said Beckmann.
“In the network, each identity associated with devices, designs, machines, materials, components and people can be quickly verified, qualified, documented and managed in an automated fashion with the highest degree of data integrity and assurance,” explained John Carbone, Principal Engineer at GE Research. “The system is based on modern cryptographic methods focused on data integrity, data ownership and rights plus automated workflow capabilities through distributed ledger technologies for contracts and transactions.”
The team behind the innovative quantum-secure Blockchain Network for 3D printing will be presented with its NAM award at the 15th Annual Manufacturing Leadership Awards Gala this June in Huntington Beach, California.