Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Storing Data in Everyday 3D Printed Objects

A team of researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a technique for storing data in everyday 3D printed objects. The technique has been dubbed the "DNA of Things" and uses DNA as the storage medium to allow users to hide information in the printed objects. 


storing data in everyday 3d printed objects via DNA of things
A 3D-​printed plastic rabbit. The plastic contains DNA molecules in which the printing instructions have been encoded. Credit: ETH Zurich

“With this method, we can integrate 3D-​printing instructions into an object, so that after decades or even centuries, it will be possible to obtain those instructions directly from the object itself,” says Robert Grass, Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences at ETH Zurich.


From the ETH Zurich article: "Several developments of the past few years have made this advance possible. One of them is Grass’s method for marking products with a DNA “barcode” embedded in miniscule glass beads. These nanobeads have various uses; for example, as tracers for geological tests, or as markers for high-​quality foodstuffs, thus distinguishing them from counterfeits. The barcode is relatively short: just a 100-​bit code (100 places filled with “0”s or “1”s). This technology has now been commercialised by ETH spin-​off Haelixa.

At the same time, it has become possible to store enormous data volumes in DNA. Grass’s colleague Yaniv Erlich, an Israeli computer scientist with whom he is now collaborating, developed a method that theoretically makes it possible to store 215,000 terabytes of data in a single gram of DNA. And Grass himself was able to store an entire music album in DNA – the equivalent of 15 megabytes of data"


Read more about storing data in everyday 3D printed objects via DNA of Things at ETH Zurich

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