Counterfeit consumer products are a booming business, one so large that it almost rivals the selling of actual, authentic goods. It is estimated that the worldwide value of all counterfeit goods and products sold is about $650 billion a year and makes up between 5% to 7% of the world’s trade. One of the largest segments of counterfeit products is shoes, primarily athletic footwear like high-end basketball shoes and sneakers. While many knock-offs are clearly identifiable by a collector or an expert, counterfeiters have begun to take great steps to make it harder, by replicating shoe boxes, dust bags and even tags. Each year about $25.3 million in counterfeit footwear is seized, and that is considered only a scratch on the surface of the amount of fakes available. Thankfully, 3D printing tech is stepping up to the plate.
Chronicled is a San Francisco-based startup that has developed a smartphone app and smart tag that they believe will put a huge dent in the trade of counterfeit shoes that is causing problems within the sneaker collector community. They recently partnered with local 3D printing manufacturing company Origin to create the unique, tamper-proof retail ‘smart tag’ that can guarantee the authenticity of sneakers and other high-value consumer goods. The smart tags and the Chronicled app will give retailers, consumers, re-sellers and collectors alike the ability to immediately identify knock-off products, and have access to its entire manufacturing and sales history.
Origin iterated more that seventy prototype tags for Chronicled in just a three-month period before they landed on their final design. The tags are manufactured using an Ember 3D printer from Autodesk, which uses a high-quality stereolithography 3D printing process using light-cured resin. The tag is printed around a tiny, onboard computer during the printing process, and Origin believes that this is the first time that 3D printing technology has been used to mass-produce a product like this. The computer chip within each Chronicled smart tag contains a completely encrypted and unforgeable digital authentication, similar to a Bitcoin, for the item that can only be accessed using the smartphone app.
“The 3D printed Chronicled tag is the first product that can be adapted to fit entirely different markets in minutes; we can match the product’s look and feel to fit brands, retailers, and consumer tastes in different luxury-good markets without additional costs or delays,” said Chris Prucha, CEO of Origin.
While the tag developed for Chronicled will primarily be used to authenticate shoes, the technology can be adapted to virtually any consumer good. Because the tags are 3D printed, they can quickly be designed, prototyped and finally produced at any scale needed without any additional cost. That means tags can be produced by Origin in large, mass production volumes, or small customized batches without any additional cost or the need to factor in the economy of scale. Branded smart tags allow legitimate retailers to permanently embed their stamp of authenticity on any products that they sell, which will follow it even if it is traded several times between collectors or secondary markets.
“In the past, consumers have had to rely on imperfect solutions when purchasing high-end items. Especially online, buyers have had to gamble on the trustworthiness of often anonymous sellers in a world where the quality and preponderance of counterfeit goods is increasing with each passing year. These 3D printed smart tags solve that problem by giving each item a unique, unforgeable identity running on a blockchain backend,” explained Chronicled CEO Ryan Orr.
The first consumer product that was equipped with the Origin-made Chronicled 3D printed smart tag was the GREATS Beast Mode 2.0 Royale Chukkah shoe released on Black Friday 2015. Starting this year sneaker collectors will be able to have their shoes authenticated with Chronicled 3D printed smart tags at sixteen Dunkxchange events. And in December high-end fashion label Dyne will be releasing a new line of clothing that incorporates smart tags that identify their clothing as authentic. The Chronicled smartphone app is available for download via the App Store and Play Store, you can find out more about the app and the smart tag technology here. And you can learn more about Origin and their 3D printing mass-production facilities here. Discuss this new technology in the 3D Printed Smart Tags forum over at 3DPB.com.