Sometimes, the combination of some technologies leads to a powerhouse marriage that works for the benefit of all. This has proven to be true in certain applications where certain technology solutions worked seamlessly together to achieve the desired results; this has proven to be true in certain acquisitions which led to the development of more powerful products for industries, and today this seems to be working well when you associate blockchain and 3D printing in a decentralized production environment.
It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has expedited the need for a decentralized production environment for certain industries and with that need, professionals have had the confirmation that AM is the ideal production technology to utilize to manufacture parts. The thing is, relying on 3D printing in such environment comes with a share of risks that can only be addressed via a blockchain solution.
Interestingly, the concept of blockchain is not new in AM. Several companies have already attempted to highlight its importance in distributed manufacturing but little have made this technology their core business so that their impact has a greater echo across industries. Vistory did and for the first time, it seems that building digital trust will no longer be an abstract idea.
Alexandre Pedemonte, the CEO and founder of Vistory, is legitimate. After 20 years in IT consulting, supporting companies in their digital transition, he somehow navigated through the most pressing challenges industries needed to overcome. Seven years ago, the founding of Vistory also confirms the challenges he had decided to help industries address: enhancing digital trust while decreasing data-related risks.
The ideal cybersecurity solution for the right challenge
To address the aforementioned issues, the Vistory team has been developing cybersecurity solutions that have at their core the blockchain technology. The thing is coupling blockchain with AM is not common yet, hence the lack of factual information on the topic.
For Pedemonte, each of these technologies may have the same targets – industrials facing major and unprecedented challenges -, but they have different modus operandi:
“On the one hand, AM serves as a decentralized production mean, involving mechanical, material engineers. On the other hand, blockchain technology serves as a decentralized and autonomous control mean, involving software engineers, crypto-financial experts.”
Each of these solutions must be crucial to help industrials address challenges they might face in any situation: when there are “evolving regulations (change of practice), [during an] economic crisis and pandemic [where] resilience and sovereignty [become of paramount importance], [during an] ecological crisis [that should deal with] decarbonization of industrial processes, and when industrials need to fight against programmed obsolescence.”
Regardless of the industry involved, for the CEO of Vistory, at the end of the day the ultimate goal remains the same: “maintaining client satisfaction.”
So, what blockchain solution for the aforementioned challenges?
Named MainChain, Vistory’s blockchain protocol links users interested in a single 3D printed object together. Simply put, it’s a solution that bridges the gap between blockchain and 3D printing.
Designed to be implemented throughout the life of the print, from the issuing of the plan to its production and storage, the solution will create an encrypted identification key with the plan, its operating license and the 3D printing processes.
“MainChain provides all industries with access to decentralized production facilities by giving an end-to-end risk control over Industrial Property, liability, process, method, materials.
To do so, industries need a trusted third party, where blockchain technology streamlines the IT operations cost (OPEX), infrastructure setup cost (CAPEX) and offers a better resilience to cyberattack.
Blockchain is the right technical answer to address this double problem technical and financial (business model).There is a very short list of companies that partner together to ensure a secured cross-continent distributed Additive Manufacturing based on such blockchain protocol”, our guest in this Opinion of the Week completes.
According to Pedemonte, what makes MainChain outstanding today, is the triple guarantee it can provide clients: “our client’s trade secrets are protected; their Industrial Property is secured and no piracy (data) and no forgery are possible.”
Vistory’s journey reached a turning point when its technology has been using for the first time with 3D printing in 2019, and by the French Land Forces. The French army’s maintenance division called for Vistory to guarantee suppliers’ intellectual property while allowing the army to 3D print spare parts onsite. In this specific case, it was crucial for Vistory to focus on state-based international IP regulation needs. Indeed, the pitfall in such situation is to find oneself caught between the interest of private companies and those of broader market forces like governments, whose interest lies in freer IP markets.
The thing is, the owner of the information would certainly want to maintain the monopoly on its information while users ambition to wipe these monopoly concerns out. There might be some variants across countries but this dynamic is usually the basis of general IP law, a dynamic that the manufacturing shift enabled by AM is undermining.
The digital blueprint supplied to a military customer effectively cedes control over the intellectual property to the client. In order to continue free market practices, manufacturers must retain the customary control of their intellectual property. They need a means of ensuring that military units in overseas operations have printed the number of parts shown on the order form, or that they have respected prescribed manufacturing processes and methods. Stakeholders with divergent interests must be able to trust each other while adaptating the usual economic model to addative manufacturing production processes and shared data security, a report reads.
“By bringing operational maintenance closer to the military’s operations, blockchain and additive manufacturing allow the French Armed Forces to reduce their carbon footprint by decreasing the supply chain flow. The Forces are less vulnerable to mission-critical supply chain disruptions”, Brigadier General Claude CHARY adds.
“We made it with the French Land Forces, the world first blockchain deployed in overseas operations (Barkhane / Tchad – Mali – Nigeria), with the French Navy, Task Force 473 with the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, and finally with the Health Department of the French Army. Now we are scaling with the whole French MoD, and have proven that our product is resilient and resistant to many cyber threats. This a combat proven software which is also commercialized for private companies. We teleported spare part on the ground, on the sea and we work to do it in the sky (ISS) because we are now referenced by the ESA”, Vistory’s spokesperson comments.
Exploring new territories?
The French army has provided a great example of the type of industries that might need MainChain but the capabilities of this solution can be deported to any manufacturing industry which is looking to reduce lead time to deliver obsolete or unavailable parts (maximum 3 weeks), to reduce its carbon footprint drastically, and to optimize their balance sheet: “by streamlining their overseas exportation, like avoid Custom taxes, stock depreciation and its taxes, banks’ credit letters, while increasing their benefits with carbon credit”, Pedemonte explains.
Furthermore, while the focus has been made on the use of MainChain in a distributed manufacturing environment, the expert recalls that third party users can also use the solution for a secure, sustainable and eco-responsible industry.
“We can connect to any kind of devices and secure its transactions where they need to be trusted for ensuring clients' liability risk control”, he states.
Moving forward, the upcoming months will see the incorporation of two subsidiaries: “Dallas (TX) and Munich (GE) for an overseas scaling, Europe and North America first”, Pedemonte concludes.
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