A unique MIT research experiment reveals that with only an FDM printer and IR-transparent filament, it’s possible to incorporate machine-readable labels into 3D printed objects.
The technology known as infrared tags
is created by embedding a label into an object’s structure, such as a QR code or ArUco markers.That label may be detected by a camera and interactive potential is possible.
A wireless router with the SSID encoded on the side of the device and the password inserted in a separate code on the bottom to ensure that physical access is necessary to retrieve the password provides a simple proof of concept.
Metadata can be made a part of everyday lives,
as well as markers for augmented reality capabilities, such as monitoring objects in 3D.
What is the process of embedding the codes on 3D-printed objects?
With the right tools, the procedure is relatively simple.
The researchers used a speciality filament that seems nearly opaque in the visible spectrum but transmits around 45 percent in the infrared region.
The machine-readable label is placed within the walls of a printed object using
either a mix of IR PLA and air gaps to reflect the code’s geometry or a multi-material print combining IR PLA and ordinary (non-IR transmitting) PLA transmits
Both give enough contrast for an IR-sensitive camera to identify the label, but the multi-material variant performs slightly better.
Unfortunately, the usual mobile phone camera isn’t sensitive enough to read these embedded tags, so the study relied on readily accessible cameras that don’t have IR-blocking filters,
such as the Raspberry Pi NoIR.
For those who want to learn more, there is a PDF dealing with “How to” and below is a video detailing different applications.
Identifying the origin of 3D-printed objects is a topic of some debate in the industry,
and it’s not exactly difficult to see how technology like this could be used to covertly identify objects without compromising their appearance.