3D printing has taken the world by storm in the last decade, but the technology isn’t as new as you might think. Believe it or not, the idea behind that desktop-sized 3D printer in your shop dates back to the 1980s. Let’s take a closer look at the history of 3D printing and where it might go in the future.
The 1980s — The Birth of 3D Printing
The first attempt at creating a 3D printer occurred in 1980. Dr. Hideo Kodama filed a patent in May of that year. This new 3D printer relied on photopolymer materials — liquids that could be printed, then exposed to light to harden into plastic. While this plan does sound like a viable one, Kodama never commercialized the design, and the 3D printing industry seemed dead on arrival.
In 1986, Chuck Hull invented the SLA-1 — the world’s first 3D printer that could build objects one layer at a time. In this case, the SLA-1 used lasers to cause selected chains of molecules to link together, forming plastics or polymers. The next year, Carl Deckard of the University of Texas came up with a different type of 3D printing — Selective Laser Sintering, or SLS. Deckard’s machine built an object out of layers of powder, then used lasers to melt the powder, hardening it into the finished plastic.
In 1989, S. Scott and Lisa Crump, a married pair of inventors, came up with the 3D printing technology that we know today — fused deposition modeling. The machine would melt a polymer filament and deposit it onto a substrate layer by layer until it finished the design.
3D printing had officially been born, but these early models lacked something — an easy and user-friendly way to design things for printing.
The 1990s — Computer-Aided Design
Designing something for a 3D printer might seem easy now, but imagine doing it without a CAD program at your fingertips. That’s what the early 3D designers had to do — create plans to build their objects without the assistance of a computer-aided design program. Commercial CAD programs became more readily available throughout the 1990s, though purchasing a 3D printer was still often too expensive for the home inventor.Continue reading The History of 3D Printing