How the Blockchain ensures smart production processes

Thyssenkrupp 3D Printing

Source: ThyssenKrupp

Thyssenkrupp and IBM show us why the blockchain process could help industrial 3D printing achieve a breakthrough.

It was already a sprint. Four to be precise. Now the time has come for the agile team of Blockchain specialists, IT developers, designers and engineers to show what they have been working on for the past eight weeks in a time-limited project step (“sprints”): the final presentation to the customers at Thyssenkrupp’s TechCenter Additive Manufacturing. The key question is how the highly sensitive data from component production can be exchanged in such a way that the intellectual property of the companies involved remains protected at all times.

A team of Thyssenkrupp and IBM specialists has combined two technologies for the first time: International Data Space (IDS) and Blockchain. With these technologies, companies can safely share their data in an autonomous way, for example when they use additive manufacturing.

“The global exchange of data, including strictly confidential information such as design files, is becoming increasingly important in industrial production,” explains Dr. Joachim Stumpfe, innovation expert at thyssenkrupp. One example of this is additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. With the help of this technology, complex plastic or metal components for industrial use can be produced precisely, quickly and in a highly efficient manner. Instead of sending the parts themselves, the process simply sends data around the world. In this way, it decouples development from production. In the Mülheim TechCenter, for example, the team develops a single aircraft component which can then be produced by a print hub anywhere in the world.

Companies must be prepared to share their data. The prerequisite: manufacturers and developers can be sure that their valuable intellectual property will not fall into the wrong hands in the widely ramified global network. The goal is to provide customers with a platform with which they can remain in control of their data at all times in the process. Each user must be able to determine for himself who can view and process which data – and for how long. At the same time, it must be transparent at all times when and by whom changes were made.

The IDS is a protected space for data exchange. Sensitive information does not migrate to an external cloud but is exchanged “peer-to-peer” between authorized partners via so-called IDS connectors and only for the respective purpose. Data is only exchanged if it is requested and released by trustworthy, certified partners.

In conjunction with the blockchain, the process also becomes more transparent. The technology functions like an electronic logbook that is kept in parallel on the computers of all parties involved. This records all actions, such as sending design data or starting production of the 3D printer. Each change is written to all copies of the logbook (also called “Distributed Ledger”) in such a way that it cannot be changed afterwards. This is also important here: Not everyone can see everything.

Complex plastic or metal components for industrial use can be produced precisely, quickly and highly efficiently. Instead of the parts themselves, the process only sends data around the world.



Tags: ThyssenKrupp, Information Technology, 3-D Printing Aerospace Industry, Industry 4.0, Blockchain