Anyone who wants to trace production data back to an individual component or check the authenticity of a component must be able to identify it unambiguously. With »Track & Trace«, the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM in Freiburg has developed a system for tracing mass-produced components that recognizes workpieces without any additional markings - solely on the basis of the individual component surface, which provides a quasi unique »fingerprint« for each component. The system has now been expanded to include the »Track & Trace Fingerprint mobile« variant. With this portable reading system, users can thus check the condition and history of components throughout the production hall, for example.
Under the microscope, almost all technical surfaces exhibit random features such as microstructures or color textures that uniquely identify the associated component. Each mass-produced component, each connector, each individual screw is thus as unique as a fingerprint. While established marking methods require additional production steps, such as engraving a serial number, applying RFID labels or data matrix codes, especially for high-priced components, the marker-free inspection method does not incur any additional costs and can therefore be used economically even for mass-produced components that cost only a few cents. In addition, alternative methods quickly reach their limits for workpieces that are difficult to access, such as sealing surfaces or small components. »Track & Trace« just like the »Track & Trace Fingerprint mobile« variant is suitable for a wide range of materials, from smooth plastics to aluminum and cast iron to painted surfaces. The stochastic »fingerprint« of a component can be uniquely identified every second, even in batch sizes of several 100,000 pieces, enabling component-related data to be assigned in the production cycle.
The system uses an industrial camera to record the structural parameters of the surface in high resolution and converts them into an individual digital signature. This ensures the traceability that is so important for all Industry 4.0 processes and at the same time provides intrinsic product counterfeiting protection. The signature is calculated from the image capture at a defined point on the component surface with its specific structural gradients and their positions relative to one another. To identify the component at a later point in the production process, the entire process is repeated at the same component position and the newly determined signature is compared with all signatures already stored in the database. If a match is found, the searched component is identified and the ID is returned.