3D Printing

3D Printing History


Image Source: https://me3d.com.au/2018/history-of-3d-printing/

3D printing comes out as a state of the art technology. What you may not realize is that its history dates back to the early 1980s. Dr. Hideo Kodama, a Japanese who is one of the early minds in the development and history of 3D printing, applied for the first patent in laser beam curing system.

Although he was unsuccessful in getting a patent, that marked the start of many inventions and development work in the history of 3D printing. Other scientists gave their best short between 1980 t0 1984 .but were significantly limited with a lack of funding for their projects.

The period between 1984 to 1992 marked real progress in the development history of 3D printing. Three crucial technologies in the history of 3D printing, the SLA, SLS, and FDM, were discovered, leading to 3D printing as we know it today.

Are you captivated with the 3D printing technologies and wondering when it started? If you are looking for facts on the history of 3D printing, then you are in the right place.

We share information you need on 3D printing history, so read this article to the end.


When was 3D printing invented?

The history of 3D printing and 3D printing technology, such as additive manufacturing technology, can be traced back to the early 1980s.

The early inventors: 1981-1984

Dr. Hideo Kodama, a Japanese scientist, became the first person ever to apply for a patent right for laser beam resin curving, a technology associated with 3D printing as we know it today. The Japanese inventor failed in getting the patent as his application ran out of the stipulated one year period due to lack of funds.

Early Inventors in France

Still, Scientists continued to work on the evolving 3D printing technology after the early work done by Hideo Kodama. Thus, the idea of rapid prototyping begun to take root.

Le Mehaute, a french scientist, working at Alcatel researching fractal geometry parts, wanted to produce those tricky parts. He engaged De Witte, who, as a scientist, was working on lasers. He knew a lot about liquid monomers and how they could be cured to solids using a laser.

The two noble scientists took the idea to Andre, who worked with the French Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) at that time. He bought the picture, but the project collapsed because CMRS failed to fund it.

In 1984, the trio filed for a patent all the same. The3 researchers abandon the project for lack of funding.

The invention of Stereolithography: 1984-1988

In 1984, Charles Hull became very frustrated with his inability to make small, custom parts. He worked in a tabletop and furniture manufacturing firm. So, he suggested converting the firm’s UV to a different use to cure the photosensitive resin in an additive process.

The company rewarded Hull’s initiative by sparing a small lab to continue with his research on the process.

In 1986, Hull eventually succeeded and applied for his patent terming the technology as ” Stereolithography.” In the same year, he opened a company in California called the 3D system. 3D system remains one of the world’s market leaders for 3D printing technologies to date.

An Era of Rapid Innovations: 1988-1992

Stereolithography- SLA

Image Source:https://formlabs.com/blog/ultimate-guide-to-stereolithography-sla-3d-printing/

Charles Hull’s success and subsequent acquisition of a patent right on Stereolithography heralded the 3D printing applications’ start using the SLA machine.

His success saw two different 3D printing technologies follow in quick succession.

Selective Laser Sintering-SLS

Image Source:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6c6XdFGxi4

Another vital 3D printing technology discovery followed the introduction of Selective Laser Sintering in 1988 by Charles Hull. The Selecting Laser Sintering is a 3D manufacturing process that uses a powerful laser to sinter 3D printing material into solid 3D models.

Carl Deckard, a student at the University of Texas, successfully applied for the SLS patents. Deckard’s first SLS printer was named Betsy, and history remembers it for producing only small chunks of plastic. However, that was not the primary purpose of these 3D printers. The 3D printers tested the idea of SLS additive manufacturing. That discovery proved a big step in the right direction in the history of 3D printing.

Fused Deposition Modeling-FDM

The history of 3D printing indicates that when the SLS patent was awaiting approval and another patent for 3D additive manufacturing technology was submitted to the Government.

Interestingly Fused Deposition Modeling technique is the simplest among the 3D printer’s technologies; it was the last to be invented.

Scott Crump, the Co-founder of Stratasys, a company in 1989, successfully applied for the patent. To date, the Minnesota company remains one of the market leaders in high-tech 3D printers in 3D printing history. Stratasys inc received the patent in 1992.

Who invented 3D printing?

The term 3D printing was first used in the early 1980s to refer to the 3D printing process by the early 3D technology inventors.

The history of 3D printing focuses on the scientists who invented the technology and the specific technology they developed. Some of the 3D printing history technologies are Rapid prototyping, Additive process, Stereolithography, Selective Laser Sintering SLS, and Fused Deposition Modeling.

Here is a list of known inventors in 3D printing history.

Dr. Hideo Kodama

Dr. Hideo Kodama came from Nagoya Municipal Research Institute in Japan. He published an article that explained how reliable models are fabricated by exposing liquid photos to hardening polymers through ultraviolet rays.

3D printing history shows Dr. KOdama failed to meet the patent requirement due to a lack of funding.

Jean Claude Andre, Oliver de Witte, and Alain Mehaute

This team of french scientist was next in line. They, too, pursued 3D printing and made remarkable progress. Their significant contribution was to make actual objects.

They, too, abandoned the project for a perceived lack of commercial viability.

Charles Hull

History credits Charles Hull to invent 3D printing because he was the first person to obtain a patent successfully. He developed the first Stereolithography 3D printer, the SLA 1. He applied and was awarded a patent by the US government.

His discovery of using concentrated UV light and UV curable plastic filaments to produce three-dimensional parts from a computer file remains remarkable.

Emmanuel M. Sachs, John S. Harggerty, Michael J. Chim and Paul A.Williams

This team of researchers s credited for inventing the binder jet printing. The binder jet uses inkjet printing to apply adhesive binder to successive layers of powder selectively. It remains the first 3D printer technology that uses inkjet in the history of 3Dprinting models.

They got credited with the innovation in 3D systems that enabled 3D printing with different kinds of material like plastic, metal, sand, and ceramic.

Scott Crump

Scott Crump is the researcher who invented the 3D printer that most 3D printer users would easily recognize today. He discovered the FDM 3D printing techniques. This 3D printing technique enables a 3Dprint to be created by people using 3D printing materials. You create 3D objects through the layering of the hot filaments that come out of the 3D printer nozzle and let it cool.

He equally invented the breakaway and soluble support that allow FDM undercuts and hollow designs.

Carl Deckard

He invented using a laser beam to sinter tiny particles of powder, layer by layer, to create a 3D substantial part. Therefore, credit went to him for inventing the Selective Laser Sintering.

  1. Adrian Bowyer

Dr. Adrian Bowyer was the mastermind behind discovering the open-source 3D printers that can manufacture 3D prints or objects from their components.


Where was the first 3D printer made?

In 1981 Dr. Hideo invented the first documented iterations of 3D printing as people know it today in Nagoya Municipality in Japan. In developing a rapid prototyping system, he discovered the layer by layer approach for manufacturing 3D products.

Although he couldn’t get a patent for his work, many people recognize him as the original inventor of 3D printing.

3D Printing in the Late 1980s

The history of 3D printing finds its base in the 1980s. Here is a summarized catalog of the historical events of 3D printing in the late 1980s.


After several unsuccessful attempts by the pioneers of 3D printing in the early 1980s, Charles Hull took over the work on Stereolithography and completed it successfully. He later earned his patent for this marvelous work.


The year 1988 marked the invention of the SLA-1, 3D printers. The SLA 3D printer invention in 1988 was followed closely by the discovery of the SLS machine. These machines were produced and taken to the 3D printing marketplace by DTM Inc in 3D object manufacturing.

When 3D Printing First Became Popular

3D printing history suggests that 3D printers and 3D printed objects became popular since their inception in the 1980s. The early popularity of the 3D printers was so in the general sense but among various industries as it offered rapid prototyping of industrial products.

The technology was quick and cost-effective, offering an affordable price to 3D manufactured objects and designs.

When you consider the growth of 3D additive manufacturing processes’ popularity, you can put them into three categories.

Infancy Stage: 1981-1999 In The History of 3D Printing

During this period, the 3D technology and its products or 3D models were at the infancy stage. Only a few industries knew about 3D printing methods and 3D printers.

Adolescence Stage: 1999-2010 In The History of 3D Printing

1999-2010 fits the bill of the adolescence stage in the history of 3D printing.

The popularity of the 3D printing processes gained momentum and applied in most industries and professions.

But a lot of work was still going on to better the new technology.

Adult Stage: 2011 to Date In The History of 3D printing

Much innovation ground covered in recent times that adds value to 3D technology. Take the example of a 3D systems corporation company that provides three-dimensional 3D printing solutions to people. Its state of the art 3D printing services has endeared it to 3D printing hobbyist.

The open-source movement encourages the use of 3d printers, as Sanders prototype proved in its pursuit to get leadership CAD tools usage at home and amongst other industry players.

Some people say the 3D technology is currently at its peak, while others intimate that a lot is yet to come out of the 3D printer technology.

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