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Dutch software start-up CADChain has launched a new security tool that allows designers to closely track their CAD data during product development as a means of better protecting their Intellectual Property (IP).
Known as ‘BORIS,’ the new plug-in is designed to provide users with a way of securely monitoring digital assets as they change hands, via blockchains on which data cannot be subversively retrieved. When used alongside Autodesk’s Inventor CAD software, the firm says its security tool is capable of auto-licensing designs while tracking all interactions, to “democratize intellectual asset protection.”
“CADChain provides a game-changing solution needed by today’s designers,” says CADChain Senior Advisor Claudio Cocorocchia. “It mitigates real risks caused by the shortened and rapid product development cycles of today’s digital economy, where sensitive data is constantly being shared. The solution makes CAD files more secure, easier to control, share and in the future, license.”
Locking down with blockchains
For all intents and purposes, blockchains are ‘digital ledgers’ that securely track information regarding business transactions or assets, and simultaneously notify participants of any changes. When completed using blockchains, any such movements leave an immutable cryptographic ‘hash’ signature, meaning that if any ‘block’ in a ‘chain’ of moves is hacked, it would be quickly obvious to all users.
CADChain has now integrated this technology into a new software add-on that is built to plug a potential hole it has identified in the defense of designers’ IP. During product R&D, the firm recognizes that it’s normal for designs to be shared across multiple parties, but it says the “unprecedented rate” at which unprotected files are being exchanged, is creating “a perfect storm” that’s ripe for hacking.
According to the company, storing valuable CAD design data within a ‘digital vault’ is not a viable solution to this, as it doesn’t provide firms with 100% protection or any control over their data once shared, while the often-used non-disclosure agreement (NDA) often fails to cover everyone who gains access to files, such as subsidiaries and subcontractors.
CADChain’s BORIS solution
To help provide designers with peace of mind when sharing their CAD designs, CADChain has launched BORIS, an add-on that offers end-to-end data tracking capabilities. Working in tandem with existing CAD software, the plug-in monitors designs via a blockchain protocol that’s protected by state-of-the-art encryption, which is unique in that it shields data without needing to access any models itself.
To achieve this, the software creates a digital twin of users’ designs, and tracks any changes to it via a decentralized blockchain that’s said to be ‘immutable,’ hence any alterations can’t be reversed. Everything that happens on the BORIS chain is also linked directly to the IP owner, and the plug-in boasts a range of licensing tools that enable adopters to automate elements of their design sharing process.
For instance, CADChain’s plug-in includes integrated digital legal contracting, which allows users to securely sign digital smart contracts directly via their design software, as well as wrap up other agreements such as NDAs, or even sell exclusive annual licenses to their products, to ensure that they cannot be used elsewhere.
To help get it off the ground, BORIS has gained the support of blockchain backers Block.IS, and Europechain, in addition to the Limburg Technology Investment Fund (LTIF), and CADChain is now reported to have launched a beta testing program for its software, which is said to be focused on securing the transfer of files via Autodesk’s Inventor program.
Those interested in finding out more about BORIS or getting involved in the beta can reach out directly to CADChain via its dedicated website here.
AM’s blockchain applications
While blockchain technologies aren’t yet commonly-used within the 3D printing industry, they have often been experimented with during pilot defense projects. Back in August 2019, the US Air Force worked with SIMBA Chain to develop a secure, unhackable transaction platform that’s capable of tracking 3D printed parts throughout their entire lifecycle.
Likewise, the US Navy has previously deployed blockchain to control its 3D printers, with the aim of gaining end-to-end control over its additive manufacturing processes. The proof-of-concept project was also launched as a means of beefing up the cybersecurity of naval 3D printed parts, which are increasingly finding end-use among deployed forces.
GE Research has also invested extensively in developing a secure 3D printing blockchain network of its own. Known as the ‘Forge Lab,’ its system is said to encrypt data to such an extent that it’s able to withstand attacks by quantum computers, protecting additive manufacturing transactions right through from powder supply to the finished product.
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Featured image shows a suspicious-looking character attempting to hack into someone’s digital design files. Image via CADChain.