Current methods of identifying a unique part involve adding a unique serial number to the part. There are many reasons that manufactured parts receive a serial number. They enable traceability of a part throughout its lifecycle, and ensure the part is not a counterfeit; however, labels and stamped codes can be removed or replicated.
A method was developed that embeds a unique serialization structure within an additive manufactured part, providing a much higher level of confidence that the identifying code will remain unaltered on the part. This technique works on additive manufactured parts, also known as 3D-printed parts.
Additive manufacturing machines have optimum processing parameters to produce the desired part. These parameters are based on the materials being used, part geometry, build technique, etc. Using these optimum parameters ensures consistent material properties throughout the part. Among these properties is density. In this technique, the processing parameters are temporarily set to a non-optimum configuration. The result is an area with what is traditionally considered non-ideal material properties, or porosity. Porosity is random and has features that are smaller than the machine can purposely print (machine resolution). This is important because if the features were not smaller than the resolution, it would be possible to print another part that duplicates the porosity.
This porosity is the key to the unique fingerprint. The specifically located density variations and porosity become the unique fingerprint. Using various nondestructive techniques such as X-rays or computed tomography (CT), this code can be examined. After a part is manufactured, it would be scanned to record the fingerprint details, and that file would then be used as the master to compare future scans to identify and validate the authenticity of the part.