3D Printed Fingerprints Help Test Accuracy of Fingerprint Software


Until about 20 years ago, fingerprint scans weren’t that common, and were generally only used for law enforcement to identify criminals. Today, however, fingerprints are used in various situations, from border security to commercial applications such as the iPhone unlocking touch ID.

Typically, when a new fingerprint scanner is created, researchers run millions of fingerprint images through the system’s software. However, this testing procedure isn’t without problems. The 2D images aren’t as accurate as real 3D fingers are, and researchers have been looking for a way around this problem.

Michigan State University researchers, together with National Institute of Standards and Technology, have come up with the 3D printed fingerprint. The team, led by Anil Jain, an alumnus from Indian Institute of Technology Kapnur, has created what the world’s first 3D printed fingerprint.

3D printed fingertips could help both sensor manufacturers and algorithm developers improve the hardware and software of fingerprint matching systems, said Anil Jain.

The development is a method that transforms a 2D image of a fingerprint into a 3D finger surface. The 2D images are mapped to a 3D finger surface. The 3D printed “phantom fingertip” surface is as close to a finger as you can get, with all the loops, curves, swirls, and other images that make a fingerprint as realistic as it can be.

With more and more systems resorting to using fingerprints for everything from increased security to commercial applications, it’s important that the systems are as accurate as possible, which is what the 3D printed fingerprint is designed to improve.