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Shaping the future of additive manufacturing and 3D printed electronics

Overcoming Industry 4.0 Security Challenges with Additive Manufacturing

Industry 4.0

industry 4.0 security challenges Cyber attacks and theft of personal information are major headaches for any large company, and cyberattacks at major companies seem to make headlines almost weekly. Information security is no longer an issue for companies in the healthcare, eCommerce, or finance industries. As advanced manufacturers start building connected factories and implement digital manufacturing strategies, they also need to implement security measures throughout their IT infrastructure.

With Industry 4.0 on the rise, greater connectivity between new and existing manufacturing systems will create more points for unauthorized access. This is where manufacturers need to work with systems that allow them to take control over their security practices. Additive manufacturing systems can help manufacturers address these Industry 4.0 security challenges while enabling greater innovation among designers and engineers.

Manufacturing worker holding a finished electronic device

Advanced electronics manufacturers will have to face many Industry 4.0 security challenges.

Current Industry 4.0 Security Challenges

Cyber attacks on manufacturing assets around the world are not new. According to the UK Manufacturers' Organization (EEF), 24% of its members suffered a cyber attack in 2017, but were able to defend their manufacturing assets. Another 24% experienced financial damage due to a cyber attack in the same year. There is also a cybersecurity skills gap within the manufacturing sector, illustrating the lack of ability for most firms to combat or prevent security breaches. Overall, manufacturing is the second-most attacked industry after financial institutions.

These attacks in 2017 and earlier attacks around the globe were primarily engaged in attempts to damage infrastructure or product quality by attacking manufacturing assets directly. However, cyber attackers have also attempted to steal digital product designs and trade secrets from manufacturers. Both types of attacks can lead to serious financial or competitiveness losses, and they create a crisis of confidence in product quality.

As more factories become connected, both within and between manufacturing facilities, there are more potential points where manufacturing assets can be attacked, design data can be stolen or intercepted, and customer information can be intercepted. This is particularly problematic in highly sensitive industries like defense and aerospace. Cybersecurity measures in these industries are already subject to regulatory scrutiny, and the greater connectivity to be seen in connected factories requires manufacturers to rethink their security practices.

Data Security Challenges in Industry 4.0

According to a recent Trend Micro report, the majority of manufacturers still use outdated operating systems with unpatched vulnerabilities, as well as older or non-existent virus and worm protection measures. There is some justification for this; some software is not backward compatible with many industrial control systems like programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and their HMIs. 

These control systems were originally designed for use in isolated environments, thus adequate cybersecurity measures may not be in place for them. This creates the potential for critical control systems to be exposed on the internet as digital manufacturing assets become more integrated with traditional IT networks as part of Industry 4.0.

In addition to manufacturing assets and control systems being exposed to would-be attackers, systems that store supply chain data, payment information, confidential customer data, design information, and other intellectual property are tempting targets for cyber criminals. The aforementioned problems regarding outdated software and exposed IT systems offers cyber criminals plenty of opportunities to access and steal this sensitive data.

What Manufacturers Can Do Today

Given the Industry 4.0 security challenges and longstanding security vulnerabilities faced by many companies, manufacturers should focus on increasing their level of knowledge around on-premises and online security procedures.

Internal security procedures are best described in terms of network segmentation, where sensitive design, customer, and supply chain data, as well as the manufacturing assets themselves, are concealed in successive virtual and physical security layers. This resembles the cybersecurity approach taken by the defense industry and the U.S. military, known as the “castle approach.” In addition to segmenting external-facing portions of a network from the portion that controls manufacturing equipment and stores critical data, access to manufacturing assets and data by employees should be rigidly controlled to prevent internal theft and tampering.

Worker monitoring Industry 4.0 security challenges

Real-time monitoring will become more automated to address Industry 4.0 security challenges.

Manufacturers should focus on taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity. This involves ensuring physical and virtual network segmentation practices are followed and critical assets are isolated from external networks when possible. This also involves monitoring and implementing internal security controls over access to manufacturing assets, intellectual property, customer data, and supplier data. As distasteful as it may be, network administrators and manufacturing security firms can even focus on monitoring the Dark Web with the goal of anticipating upcoming orchestrated cyber attacks on their manufacturing assets and data.

How Additive Manufacturing Addresses Industry 4.0 Security Challenges

As an inherent set of digital manufacturing technologies, additive manufacturing systems help address a number of security challenges that are present in traditional factories. Products designed for production with additive manufacturing processes can be produced with a much smaller number of systems, allowing them to be physically and virtually segmented from the rest of the network with ease.

Additive manufacturing systems are ideal for aiding onshoring efforts as they allow near complete production of complex functional products. Products designed for additive manufacturing tend to require fewer parts and fabrication steps than the same product produced with traditional processes. This level of simplification for many products can be achieved regardless of product complexity, allowing a smaller number of flexible additive systems to be brought in-house. Bringing these systems in-house allows manufacturers to take full control over security, reducing the number of opportunities for contract manufacturers and other third parties to steal sensitive design data or tamper with manufacturing processes.

Using additive manufacturing systems to complement or replace traditional manufacturing assets provides significant benefits that span beyond security. This is especially true when one looks at the landscape for 3D printed electronics. Additive manufacturing processes carry unique cost drivers, where manufacturing costs and fabrication time depend only on the material required to produce a part, rather than the number of fabrication and assembly steps.

In addition, due to its ability to eliminate several of the design limitations associated with traditional manufacturing technologies, additive manufacturing of electronics is becoming a key tool in the creation of new products with complex geometries or the refinement of existing ones. This increases the pace of product development and at the same time enables discovery of ways of reducing costs. 

The fixed lead times provided by these systems allow suppliers to expand their digital inventory, creating a more responsive just-in-time supply chain. OEMs and equipment suppliers that keep a broad range of digital inventory can remain responsive to demand by their customers, allowing them to immediately send orders into production. If best network security practices are followed by these companies, orders can be sent into an in-house additive manufacturing process without exposing sensitive design data to potential attackers.

As more advanced manufacturing operations become onshored, bringing additive manufacturing capabilities in-house gives manufacturers these Industry 4.0 security challenges. The DragonFly LDM system from Nano Dimension is ideal for secure, on-demand fabrication of complex electronics with a planar or non-planar architecture. Read a case study or contact us today to learn more about the DragonFly LDM system.

Simon Fried

Simon Fried

November 12, 2019

A co-founder of Nano Dimension, Simon Fried leads Nano Dimension’s USA activities and marketing for this revolutionary additive technology. With experience working in the US, Israel, and throughout Europe, he has held senior and advisory roles in start-ups in the solar power, medical device, and marketing sectors. Previously, Simon worked as a consultant on projects covering sales, marketing, and strategy across the automotive, financial, retail, FMCG, pharmaceutical, and telecom industries. He also worked at Oxford University researching investor and consumer risk and decision making.

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