Printing | 18 08 2022

The history of 3D printing

In the past 2 decades, there has been an unmistakable growth in the number of 3D printer owners. There are more and more experienced creators of 3D printer files and enthusiasts who are hunting for cool and original 3D models. However, the history behind the technology or models in 3D as we know it goes way back. Let’s have a look at some of the milestones in the history of 3D printing!

What is 3D printing?

3D printing is the action or process of making a physical three-dimensional solid object from a digital 3D model. The model is created by laying down thin layers of material that are deposited, joined, or solidified. A 3D print begins as a 3D model that is generated in a modeling program and there is a lot of software that is applicable to the 3D printing process.

When was 3D printing invented?

The 1940s mark the birth of the general concept. Back in 1945, science fiction writer Murray Leinster detailed an interesting phenomenon in one of his short stories. He described a construction process using a robotic arm that produces plastic that hardens and makes drawings in the air following drawings it scans. A few years later, in 1950, Raymond F. Jones described a similar process in a short story that was published in the Astounding Science Fiction magazine. The ideas of the two sci-fi writers were amazing, and yet someone needed to turn them into a reality.

The beginning of this reality was marked two decades later, in the 1970s, Johannes F Gottwald filed a patent for a machine named the Liquid Metal Recorder. The machine was very similar to today’s modern 3D printers. The inventor claimed that his creation was capable of prototyping and controlled production of various patterns. Gottwald was a talented visionary but unfortunately, he did not manage to make the technology a reality before the patent for his machine expired.

David E. H. Jones is the next name that should be mentioned when it comes to the history of 3D printing. Jones was a cheeky professional chemist, author, and college professor who had a regular column in the New Scientist journal. He was cherished by many readers thanks to his humorous portrayal of science. In 1974, the scientist exposed the concept of 3D printing in his column.

The 1980s were the decade when 3D printing ideas finally became reality. The first important name that needs mentioning is Dr. Hideo Kodama. Kodama was a Japanese inventor who created two additive methods for producing 3D plastic items using a photo-hardening polymer. Although he was not able to file the patent requirement for this innovative technology, Hideo Kodama is still considered by many as the first inventor of a manufacturing system that is an early version of the modern stereolithography machine. A few years after Kodama's invention, French researchers Jean Claude André, Alain Le Méhauté, and Olivier de Witte also tried to create a rapid prototyping machine that turns liquid monomers into solids by using a laser. However, they were not able to file a patent for the technology they invented.

Charles W. Hull is the man that remains known in history as the father of 3D printing. 1983 is considered the year when Hull invented stereolithography or 3D printing. That year he came up with the idea and managed to create the first-ever 3D printed part. His system for creating 3D models worked by curing photosensitive resin layer by layer. The patent for the technology was filed in 1986 and two years later, in 1988, Hull founded 3D Systems Corporation - the company that launched SLA-1, the first commercial SLA 3D printer on the market.

What is the future of 3D printing technology?

Over the past years, 3D printing technology has been spreading and advancing. From general production and the world of medicine to reducing fossil fuels and unleashing creativity - we are positively sure that 3D printing will make significant changes in the industry, the economy, and the culture in the years to come. So stay tuned, follow our blog for the latest news and innovations when it comes to 3D to print, and explore our selection with printable 3D files where you can find a wide range of inspiring models and free 3d print files made by talented creators all over the world!