3D printing may seem like a futuristic way of processing both end products and models, but really it has been around for quite some time. Nowadays a large amount of major companies and research groups use 3D printing as a means of reaching their final product goal or to simply create a more like-like model of the end product they are hoping to create. Already, 3D printing has provided producers with a great way of turning an image into an actual product you can hold, but many feel that the amount of possibilities able to be reached by 3D printing is just beginning to show its head. You have to go all the way back to 1986 to really discover how 3D printing as we know it got its start.
The man behind 3D printing goes by the name of Charles Hull and it was in 1986 when he first applied for a patent for what he called an “Apparatus for Production of Three-Dimensional Objects by stereo lithography.” This patent was applied for in March of 1986 and Hull stated that stereo lithography was the process by which a solid three dimensional object could literally be printed in front of your eyes by adding thin layer on top of thin layer successively until the final object is completed.
Once Hull was granted his patent, he then founded his company which was named 3D Systems. 3D Systems and Hull quickly created the first ever 3D printer, only at the time it was not called a 3D printer, rather, stereolithography apparatus. Only two years after 3D Systems was founded, and a patent for “3D printers” was granted, Hull and his company released the first stereolithography apparatus to the general public. In 1988, the first 3D printer available to the public was named SLA-250.
Stereolithography was the catalyst for the beginning of the 3D printing revolution, but by the end of the 1980’s there were a few other ways of producing 3D objects easily introduced. Besides stereolithography, once 1990 came around there was also Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).
Fused Deposition Modeling was created and patented by a man named Scott Crump and just like Hull, he shortly thereafter created his own company called Stratasys. Only a few years later, in 1993, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) created what they called “3 Dimensional Printing Technologies.” 3DPs were fascinating because they worked, printed, much like the paper printers that you and I are still used to using today. Two years after MIT’s creation, Z Corporation was given permission to produce 3D printers by making use of 3DP technologies. In 1996, three different types of 3D printers were introduced, and this year marks the first time the term “3D printer” was actually used.
“Genisys” was the product of Stratasys, “Actua 2100” came from 3D Systems, and finally “Z402” came from Z Corporation. From 1996 until 2005 3D printing lulled a bit, but it came back with a series of new printer releases from various companies around the world. Z Corporation gave the world yet another printer named the “Z510.”
Only a year later, the English discovered a printer that they named Reprap. Reprap was able to draw up and produce a variety of different plastic parts, functional ones too. The Reprap was such a breakthrough that the creators kept working with it and in 2008 “The Darwin” was released. An improvement of the Darwin was also released and goes by the name of “The Mendel.”
Finally, in 2010 there was a breakthrough that allowed 3D items to be printed in full color. Clearly, 3D printing is not old at all and improvements and new discoveries are being found all the time. Some companies use 3D printers to make realistic models of something larger than life where as others can use these types of printers to make fully functional parts for the product or products they are trying to make. As far as 3D printing goes, the possibilities are endless and many hope that 3D printing transforms into becoming the easiest way to produce a product.