Experts believe the new technology could be used in fingerprint sensing and matching.
Computer scientists have built the first 3D model of a human fingerprint.
The deveopment team at Michigan State University (MSU) believe that this development will not only make it easier to match fingerprints, but will also lead to improvements in security.
Professor of computer science and engineering, Anil Jain, along with his MSU colleagues and research collaborator Nick Paulter at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, developed a method that takes a 2D image of a fingerprint and maps it to a 3D finger surface.
The 3D finger surface, complete with all the ridges and valleys that make up the human fingerprint, is made using a 3D printer. It creates what the research team call a fingerprint "phantom."
Imaging phantoms are common in the world of medical imaging. For example, to make sure an MRI machine or a CT scanner is working properly, it needs to first image an object of known dimensions and material properties.
Jain said: "In health care, a 3D heart or kidney can be created. Because the dimensions are known, they can be put into a scanner and the imaging system can be calibrated."
In this case, the ultimate goal is to have a precise fingerprint model with known properties and features that can be used to calibrate existing technology used to match fingerprints.
"When I have this 3D fingerprint phantom, I know its precise measurements," said Jain. "And because I know the true dimensions of the fingerprint features on this phantom, I can better evaluate fingerprint readers."
While the 3D model does not yet have the exact texture or feel of a real finger, it could advance fingerprint sensing and matching technology.
"Tools like this would help improve the overall accuracy of fingerprint-matching systems, which eventually leads to better security in applications ranging from law enforcement to mobile phone unlock," Jain said.