Hit Rewind…The History of 3D Printing

The term 3D Printing is being linked to numerous industries and new products daily. By now we have all heard about the benefits that 3D printing brings to the business community and how it is allowing people at home to print some fun and useful items; but when exactly was this technology developed and how did it come to be?

The History of 3D Printing:

  • 3D Printing was developed by Charles Hull in 1984.
  • Mr. Hull, born May 12, 1939, was an inventor of over 60 U.S. patents in the fields of ion optics and rapid prototyping.
  • Mr. Hull’s patent for the “Apparatus for Production of Three-Dimensional Objects by stereo lithography”, issued on March 11, 1986, defined stereo lithography as a method and apparatus for making solid objects by successively “printing” thin layers of the ultraviolet curable material one on top of the other.
  • After obtaining the patent, In 1986 Mr. Hull founded 3D Systems and developed the first commercial 3D Printing machine. However the term “3D Printer” was not used by that time and the machine was called only as Stereolithography Apparatus.  *Watch Chuck Hull explain Stereolithography (video).
  • In 1988, 3D Systems delivered its first version of the machine, named SLA-250, to the public.
  • While Stereolithography systems had become popular by the end of 1980s, other similar technologies such as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) were introduced.
  • FDM was invented in 1988 by Scott Crump who founded Stratasys in the next year to commercialize the technology.
  • In 1993, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) patented another technology, named “3 Dimensional Printing techniques” (3DP), which is similar to the inkjet technology used in 2D printers.
  • In 1995, Z Corporation obtained an exclusive license from MIT to use the technology and started developing 3D Printers based on 3DP technology.
  • In 1996, three major products, “Genisys” from Stratasys, “Actua 2100” from 3D Systems and “Z402” from Z Corporation, were introduced. It was only during this period, the term “3D Printer” was first used to refer rapid prototyping machines.
  • In 2005, the Spectrum Z510, was the first high definition color 3D Printer in the market, launched.
  • In 2006, a breakthrough open source printing project, named Reprap, was developed in England. The rep-rap was capable of manufacturing various plastic parts, roughly 50% of itself.
  • In 2008, the first version of the Reprap, the Darwin, was released. In continued development of Reprap printers the next model developed was the Mendel.
  • In 2010 the first 3D printer was introduced that could produce functional prototype parts.
As you can see, 3D printing technology is not very old and has progressed at a rapid speed. We believe that the options are endless with the continued advancement and improvement of this technology. Where do you see this technology going from here?
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References:
  1. http://buildatron.com/history-of-3d-printing
  2. http://www.mahalo.com/3d-printers/
  3. http://www.3ders.org/3d-printing/3d-printing-history.html
  4. http://nicsu.up.nic.in/knowdesk/3D-Printing-Technology.pdf
  5. http://www.3-d-printers.net/2011/the-history-of-3d-printers
  6. http://www.3dsystems.com/news/25th-anniversary/

5 Comments. Leave new

Sculpteo Team
April 10, 2012 11:35 AM

Great article! Innovations are going very fast in the field. Could be very interesting to write an history of 3D printing materials as well.

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