There’s real money in being a fake. Anyone that’s ever been scammed can tell you that. And sadly, it’s been that way for a while. As far back as the mid-19th century, we were being told about suckers being born every minute; Today, it’s nearly a rite of passage for grandfathers to warn about taking wooden nickels.
After a couple thousand years and counting, it feels like the human race’s innate hatred of being hustled will always be counterbalanced by our love of the great big scam. Cheating people is a global past time.
In the past, a busted moral compass and some smarts was enough to give a con man the edge. That’s no longer the case. As such, the unscrupulous hucksters of the world have become more calculating and more creative. That’s certainly the current situation in the bearing industry.
Bogus laser engravings, replicated UPC codes and packaging containing both real and knock-off products are just some of the tactics counterfeiters use to beat the system. To combat this, many bearing manufacturers around the world have departments dedicated to the counterfeit problem. And now they might have a new tool to help.
A multinational consortium of researchers from the Universities of Luxembourg, Ljubljana and Vienna have created a new process for producing one of a kind reflecting patterns that can be used on valuable objects. The best part is that these patterns can’t be cloned or copied.
The technology is essentially a new type of Physical Unclonable Function (PUF). Traditional PUFs currently reside in microchips as a way of authenticating silicon components from an authorized factory. Optical PUF’s, a sub-set of PUF, emit a response to light input that a camera can capture for identification purposes.
The entirely new optical PUF developed by the research team uses the unique properties of spheres of cholesteric liquid crystal to emit light patterns. Different liquid crystal spheres, in random arrangement, emit unique, singular, light patterns. This type of PUF could be just what the bearing industry needs.
Of course, quite a bit remains to be seen. The immediate concern would be weather or not this type of PUF could hold up to the rigors of packaging and transport. And that doesn’t even take us into what would happen once the bearing is in operation. If metal and grease have trouble surviving so many operating conditions, I’m not sure how well cholesteric liquid crystal would fare. Regardless, with the bad guys of bearings getting sharper every year, this technology is at least worth a look.