The History of 3D Printers

3D printers are such marvellous and intriguing machines created to allow the printing of physical models. Whilst the 3d printer may seem like a huge step in advancement for technology, many people are not aware of how old the 3d printer is or the history of 3d printers at all.

A lot of people may think that 3d printers are relatively new, but they are actually quite the opposite. Many also think that 3d printers were invented in the ’00s, but they have been very real since the ’80s.

the history of 3d printing


When did it all begin?

The first attempts at 3d printing were done by a Japanese man called Dr Kodama in 1981. He was the first person to approach 3d printing with a layer by layer printing method. His goal was to be able to create a rapid prototyping device, but due to time and money restraints, he was unable to pursue his idea. Later on, a few years down the track, a man by the name of Chuck Hull was successfully able to craft a functioning 3d printer.

Chuck Hull, the man behind it all, was once a furniture manufacturer who became frustrated and tired of all the time it took to make new parts and longed for a way in which he could make it all easier. Hull suggested using Dr Kodama’s layer by layer method with the help of a U.V lamp to polymerise resin and eventually resulting in a custom part.

Luckily for Hull, he was granted permission and given a space in which he could then work on bringing his vision to life. Not long after being given his own space, he became successful and then applied to become patent of his invention and named it stereolithography.

Within the same year, the patent for Hull was issued and he then created his own company called 3D Systems and is located in Valencia, California.

SLA was the dawn of a new era.

Hull’s invention of SLA was only the beginning of 3d printing. In 1998, a man named Charles Deckard purchased a patent for SLS technology. SLS is essentially grains of powder which are fused together by a laser. Around a similar time frame, one of the co-founders of Stratasys Inc created another technique for 3d printing and that was Fused Deposition Modelling or FDM for short.

It took all but less than ten years for the main 3d printing technologies to acquire patent rights and thus the birth of the 3d printer took place.

Taking us into the ’00s

the history of 3d printers

The early ’00s was when 3d printing technology really started to up its game. The year 2000 was a special time when we saw the first 3d printed kidney and over the years, scientists have been working round the clock to produce functioning organs safe for human transplant. Fast forward to now, and scientists have been able to successfully manufacture a functioning heart made from human tissue.
2004 was when we saw self-replicating 3d printers. This was an open source project which saw the input of ideas from many creative minds.
2005 was when the first high definition colour 3d printer was made.
2008 was when the 3d printer started to gain some real recognition amongst the media and medical experts because it was around that time that the first prosthetic limb was printed. This was good news for those in the medial industry because it meant that prosthetic limbs and such would be cheaper and easier to obtain for patients in need.

Taking it even further.

first 3d printed car

2010 up until the present day has seen some unbelievably remarkable innovations. A company named Urbee was able to 3d print a prototype of a car, a 3d food printer was created at the University of Cornwell and NASA even plans to 3d print some kind of model from outer space. Due to the advancements in 3d filament technology, we are no longer limited to just printing plastics. We now have a wide range of materials in which we can print, ranging from wood to metal and even human tissue.

When we stop and think about 3d printing and its advancements, it may seem as if we have really pushed the barrier and its limits, but in reality, we still have so much to learn. One thing we have learnt for sure is that 3d printing is the way of the future.