In the 3D printing world, there are a few problems that continuously crop up, and they range from mere annoyances, like poor bed adhesion, to serious concerns like intellectual property theft. Many have tried to solve the problem of copyright violation, but it’s an issue that remains pervasive. It’s just too easy to claim a design as your own when it’s posted by someone else online, and there are few 3D designers who aren’t at risk, whether they’re manufacturers sending a file to a customer or designers posting their work on an online marketplace or file-sharing platform.

Treatstock, which acts as a 3D printing service provider finder as well as a 3D model marketplace, has plenty of reason to be invested in the prevention of 3D model theft. Thus, the company developed Watermark 3D, a patent pending solution that allows designers to safeguard their work against copyright violation by embedding hidden information into STL files. The free software application enables the user to embed information into their 3D models, protected by a password. No visual or structural changes are present on the 3D printed object itself; the only way the watermark can be detected is to upload the STL file to the Watermark 3D website and enter the password. If the password is correct, the watermark is detected and the concealed information inside the file can reveal the owner of the IP and its origins without anyone else, particularly potential thieves, being aware.

Treatstock is also developing a system that will track and notify a watermark’s author when their file appears on any website. Watermark 3D is a helpful tool for those who want to protect their 3D models before giving access to someone else. If a designer shares or distributes a file through multiple different platforms, they can use a different watermark for each customer or marketplace to which they send the file. If they then discover that the file is being distributed illegally, they can use the unique watermark to trace the source of the illegal distribution.

Treatstock is using Watermark 3D to automatically place watermarks on files sent to different manufacturers on the site, so if the files are distributed illegally, Treatstock knows which manufacturer is the culprit. The company is in talks with other large 3D file-sharing platforms about integrated Watermark 3D into their systems, and encourages all interested platforms to get in touch. Currently, Watermark 3D only works with STL files, but Treatstock is working to incorporate it into other types of files as well.

“Without a doubt, Watermark 3D is a big step towards compliance with copyright in the world of 3D designing and can help authors to protect their IP from malicious users,” says Treatstock. “However, the key to success lies in the cooperation with other market players and to achieve consistency across the board, as well as the further development and improvement of tools such as Watermark 3D available to owners of intellectual property.”

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