First Copy Protection Software for 3D Printers

Authentise, a Californian start-up, is preparing to launch the first commercial solution to the problem of unauthorised copying and sharing of designs that could emerge with the spread of 3D printers.

The company’s software streams a design to a 3D printer in such a way that it can be printed only once. This approach is similar to the way in which Netflix sends viewers at home video frame streams only as their computer needs them to play the movie. Similarly, instructions telling a 3D printer how to print material are sent to it only as it needs them. Once the process is done, the instructions are immediately discarded, leaving a completed print, but no digital representation of the design.

A version of this software called SendShapes will be launched in September. In order to print out a design, a person will have to download a programme that receives the streamed design file and passes it on to a 3D printer.

The software is not designed to make it technically impossible for a person to collect a streamed design file. Rather, it is aimed at making the process of paying for access to a protected design more attractive than unauthorised copying.