(Re-Posted Article: by Heidi Milkert · June 30, 2014: Original Post in Va. Tech NT News) Quantum mechanics, it’s certainly an intriguing and almost spooky field, but over the next decade or two we will see a major shift in the understanding and utilization of the various applications of quantum physics. One company based in San Marcos, Texas is already working on 3D printing technologies which are within the quantum realm.
Quantum Materials Corporation has been researching and producing quantum dots for several years now. Quantum dots are the tiny little nanocrystals which are produced from semiconductor materials. They are so tiny, that they take on quantum mechanical properties. Today the company announced that they have secured a specific type of quantum dot technology which has been developed by the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and the Design, Research, and Education for Additive Manufacturing Systems (DREAMS) Laboratory at Virginia Tech.
The technology is based around a patented process which embeds tiny quantum dots into products during a 3D printing process, so that their manufacturers can detect counterfeits. The quantum dots are embedded in such a way that they create an unclonable signature of sorts. Only the manufacturers of the products which have these signatures embedded, know what they should be, making it easy for them to detect illegal copies. Such a security feature would work well within a variety of markets.
“The remarkable number of variations of semiconductor nanomaterials properties QMC can manufacture, coupled with Virginia Tech’s anti-counterfeiting process design, combine to offer corporations extreme flexibility in designing physical cryptography systems to thwart counterfeiters, “stated David Doderer, Quantum Materials Corporation VP for Research and Development. “As 3D printing and additive manufacturing technology advances, its ubiquity allows for the easy pirating of protected designs. We are pleased to work with Virginia Tech to develop this technology’s security potential in a way that minimizes threats and maximizes 3D printing’s future impact on product design and delivery by protecting and insuring the integrity of manufactured products.”
The security that such a technique offers is quite high. Not only can Quantum Materials Corporation print quantum dots into object, and have those dots emit specific colors, but they can print the dots into an object shaped in several different ways. In addition the company has the ability to use dual emission tetrapod quantum dots to give off two different colors at once. Such technology should easily slow down product counterfeiting, by giving each product a nanoscale signature, that only its manufacturers know exists.
As 3D printing technology expands, we will find ourselves in a world rife with intellectual property theft. This new quantum dot technology could give companies the ability to 3D print their own products, while maintaining the ability to make sure others are not doing the same with their proprietary designs.