Researchers from Columbia University in New York have developed an innovative method of embedding physical tags into 3D printed objects.
Coined ‘AirCode’, the method uses air pockets to contain information in a 3D printed part.
The research paper refers to the presence of digital tags such as barcodes and QR codes and explains how there is an opportunity to incorporate these into objects using 3D printing.
The AirCode technique is imperceptible to the human eye and requires a computer imaging method to retrieve the data.
This approach, the researchers believe, has particular application in embedding metadata, robotic grasping and watermarking.
The paper explains the AirCode could hold also additional information about the object,
“For example, after designing an artistic statue, the artist can embed a link to a webpage about the background of this statue or the artist’s personal website or copyright claim in the statue before fabricating it.”
Such a technique could be useful in 3D printing scans of sculpture such as those captured by the Scan the World community. The tags could provide more details about object and where it was scanned.
After 3D printing the object with embedded air pockets, the researchers use a “computational imaging method” to later scan the tags.
Notable benefits of the AirCode technique are that it requires no post-processing and could be incorporated as part of an existing 3D printing workflow.
The method could also have significant application in IP protection. Users could 3D print objects with the air codes in order to prove their validity.
In a similar manner, another New York research project recently looked to improve the level of security in 3D printed parts. They did so by embedding deliberate mistakes into the 3D printed objects if the correct settings are not used.
The article, titled ‘AirCode: Unobtrusive Physical Tags for Digital Fabrication’, has been published online and is available here.
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Featured image shows figure 9 from the paper which demonstrates how the embedded air pockets resemble QR codes.