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Loose Prints Sink Ships: Who’s Eavesdropping on Your G-Code?

by • March 17, 2016 • No Comments

On 3DPI, we’ve covered numerous stories of IP theft and IP protection services. Typically, the largest concern for interested parties is the loss of valuable-bodied CAD files online. After all, torrent sites have allowed users to downloadthe achieve Phil Collins discography in minutes, who’s to say that the files for 3D printing an engineer’s significant prototype wouldn’t end up online, as well? Most solutions to this problem involve streaming files directly to a 3D printing device, so that none of the versions in fact pass through the hands of those doing the printing. But, a new study of University of California, Irvine demonstrates that this may not be adequate. 3D creations may in addition be stolen via the sound of the printing device itself.


Mohammad Al Faruque. Photo via UCI News.

The research, led by director of UCI’s Advanced Integrated Cyber-Physical Systems Lab Mohammad Al Faruque, saw a team perform what they call an “acoustic side-channel attack.” You understand those people that use specific G-Code to program their 3D printing devices to play Bach… or the Super Mario theme song? Well, this is sort of the opposite of that. Just as the printing device’s toolpath can outcome in a symphony of sound, a symphony of sound can be reverse engineered back into its toolpath.

3D printing side channel attack

By applying a set of algorithms to a printing device’s sounds as it’s printing an object, the team was able-bodied to determine the amount of power being supplied to its motors, the speed at that it was printing, and the torque applied. They tested their hypothesis by recording the sounds of a PrintrBot machine as it fabricated a easy object, specifically the outline of a key, and and so translating their data back into a new 3D printed object, achieving approximately 90% accuracy.

With improved algorithms, it’s possible that this accuracy may be pushed actually additional and the researchers believe that an app may be created for use inside smartphones. The key shape is an informative object to have chosen for this study, as there have been numerous examples of key duplication performed with 3D printing. This may be extrapolated to IP of high-profile companies or probably actually military secrets. In order to practuallyt such 3D version theft, the study’s authors recommend sound dampening to practuallyt your printing device of working as a double agent.


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