Signing Your 3D Prints


For all the 3D models out on the Internet, including the STL files on Thingiverse that are copied by other makers every day, there hasn’t been a good way to put your John Hancock on a three-dimensional piece of plastic you’ve designed. [Chris] has been thinking about the fact that an STL file released on the Internet is completely out of the creator’s hands for a while now, and he finally came up with a good solution to signing 3D prints.

[Chris] had been looking into ‘stamping’ a maker’s mark on the first few layers of a print, but this wasn’t always practical. Sometimes the bottom of a print needs to be a smooth surface, so [Chris] moved his initials up a few layers into the main body of the print.

By subtracting a 1.0 mm-thick version of his initials from the interior of a print, [Chris] is able to put his maker’s mark on the inside of a 3D object, visible only for a short time during the production process.

The signature isn’t impossible to remove, but it does give a little bit of credit to the original designer, all without some strange DRM scheme or metadata attached to an STL file.

You can check out [Chris]’ printer laying down a few layers of his logo after the break.


12 thoughts on “Signing Your 3D Prints

    1. what’s the point of an artist signing his work, or a coder leaving his name in a comment block?
      Pride in your work, evidence of work done (not just copied from others), and possibly a contact if someone would like to find the designer for help or future work

    2. Is “nartsism” anything like “narcissism”? I literally had to sit there for a few seconds and think about what the hell word you were trying to use. English, man, for god’s sake.

    3. While this isn’t exactly the Chevy bow tie the Ford oval the Mopar star etc. in regards to recognition, one has to start using a brand symbol at some point if thy desire to do so. However the first thing that entered my mind when I read the post headline was an in your face poke in the eye in regards to the thingverse TOS, if that’s still an issue for some. In my opinion the designer’s mark rightfully should be clearly visible in a finished print. Any effort to polish it off or editing the file by someone who doesn’t like it there is a small price to pay for using the work of another.

    4. I “signed” my latest Thingiverse upload, and somewhat ostentatiously, too, though it’s on the back of the object. (Subtlety doesn’t work too well with today’s FDM printers). Why the narcissism? Many reasons, I guess, including:

      -Plain old narcissism. I worked really hard on the thing and I’m proud of it.

      -As noted in the post, once released, I have no control over where the model goes. So, signing is branding — I want people to know that if they see my logo, they can print the object with confidence that it will work, or if there’s a problem with it they know who to contact. If they like the object, they know where to look for more.

      -After the thing’s been printed and sitting on a shelf for a year or two, if someone asks where they can find the model, they’ll at least have a clue.

      -I’m going for a nostalgic feeling in this particular toy(ish) object, and the toys of my youth all had logos on them that I wished to parody.

      The solution that Chris came up with is good and worth considering, but negates some of the benefits of a visible signature. Both our solutions can be removed by someone with a few minutes of work using free software, so perhaps they’re futile efforts, but until we hear a better idea….

      1. Not saying it would be a BETTER solution, but the industry could always move toward support for digitally signing the model itself. That, coupled with this sort of signature, would make it pretty easy to tell that the model had been modified since publication. I can think of a few reasons that’s a good thing – as 3d printers become more widely available, liability and dependability become a concern. You want SOME way to know that a model hasn’t been tampered with.

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