One of the biggest concerns surrounding the growing industry of 3D printed fashion is the question of how to prevent designs from being pirated, how to keep them exclusive. Even Kanye West expressed a worry that the growing technology would hurt the textile and fashion industry just as downloading MP3s has hurt the music industry. Well, while we may one day have to address these concerns, it seems that right now 3D printing technologies are actually helping in the authentication of designer items. That is, Brooklyn-based sneaker company Greats has started using 3D printed smart tags that can track the designer sneakers back to the factory, effectively proving their authenticity.
The 3D printed smart tags, which were developed in collaboration with Chronicled, a shoe and fashion software authentication company, and Origin, a San Francisco based 3D printing company, were created for Greats’ new Beast Mode 2.0 Royale Chukkah sneakers, released in late 2015 and endorsed by NFL player Marshawn Lynch. The aim with the 3D printed smart tag was to crack down on shoe counterfeiting, an illegal industry that itself is worth about $240 billion.
What is interesting about the new shoe tags and what sets them apart from other anti-counterfeiting techniques like complicated and precise stitching for instance, is that they were inspired by cryptocurrencies, specifically, Bitcoin. The digital currency, which was invented by Satoshi Nakomoto, has been made counterfeit proof through a digital technique called blockchain, which is essentially an encrypted database that links every single Bitcoin transaction to the one before it. With the capability to trace transactions and every person who has spent that particular Bitcoin, the currency can easily be proven to be either real or fake.
Drawing inspiration from the Bitcoin blockchain system, developers at Chronicled realized they could apply a similar system to designer sneakers, making it easy to prove they are real, no matter how good the fake is. So how do the smart tags work? Well, each tag is distinguished by an identity code which is stamped into it that corresponds to a single pair of shoes. Essentially, the tag is embedded with an encrypted NFC chip (the same chips that are placed in passports nowadays) that can be easily scanned and tracked with a smartphone. Additionally, the NFC chips are physically embedded into the tag through 3D printing processes, meaning that they cannot be removed from the plastic tag without the whole thing breaking.
When you scan the 3D printed smart tag with your phone, a specially created blockchain will be read which will tell you not only whether the pair of shoes you are holding is authentic, but who owned the shoes before you. If you decide to pass on the designer shoes, the selling process is also similar to Bitcoin in that you simply have to transfer ownership of the tag through the Chronicled app.
While so far the technology has been focused on the designer sneaker market, there is a lot of potential for it to expand to other fashion sectors specifically because of the versatility of 3D printing. As Chris Prucha, Origin CEO explained in a press release, “The 3D printed Chronicled tag is the first product that can be adapted to fit entirely different markets in minutes, we can match the product’s look and feel to fit brands, retailers, and consumer tastes in different luxury-good markets without additional costs of delays.”
Aside from Greats’ Beastmode sneakers, high-end fashion label Dynes also expressed interest in incorporating the technology into their designs. And according to Chronicled, the company will also try to break into the vintage sneaker market, offering sellers the chance to authenticate and tag their sneakers before selling them.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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