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History of 3D Printing

3D Printing, or additive manufacturing, is older than most people think. In fact, it has been around since the 1980s! Today we will go over this technology’s exciting history, from its earliest prototypes to today’s use. In this blog post, we will go over the history of 3D printing, from it’s earliest prototype to today!

While the concept of 3D printing has been around since the 70s, the first experiments began in 1981, when Dr. Kodama began research into a rapid prototyping technique. He was the first person to describe the layer-by-layer development that 3D Printing is famous for. Dr. Kodama used SLA (Stereolithography), which is a photosensitive resin that he then polymerized with a UV light. While it is clear that Dr. Kodama was the first to describe, he, unfortunately, did not file the patent in time.

In 1986, an engineer by the name of Charles Hull submitted the first patent for SLA. Two years later he founded the 3D Systems Corporation and released the SLA-1, the first, official, 3D printer.

1988 was a big year for 3D printing technology! That year, along with the founding of 3D Systems Corp, the University of Texas was also dabbling in the fledgling technology. Carl Deckard developed a patent for selective laser sintering (SLS) which is a 3D printing technique in which powder grains are fused together by a laser. At the same time, Stratasys Inc. filed a patent for fused deposition modeling (or FDM).

The 90s had its share of 3D printing innovations. But it wasn’t until the 2000s when 3D printing as we know it really gained traction, especially in the media. 2000 saw the world’s first 3D printed kidney, which put the spotlight on the technology. In 2004, home printers started to become more readily accessible, leading to a boom in the maker community that is still going strong today.

2008 saw the world’s first 3D printed prosthetic limb, 2010 the first 3D printed car. There seemed to be no limit to what this technology could do. And in 2013, then-President Barak Obama included it as a major issue in his State of the Union speech.

3D Printing is continuing to grow and expand, with sights focused on the ability to print in more materials. Today printers can use industrial-strength materials such as PEEK, PTFE, nylon, and even metals. There are also several types of research being done on the subject of 3D Bioprinting, which could completely change the medical industry. There truly is no limit to what this technology can do. We are just beginning to scratch the surface of what 3D printing can do.

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The Different Types of 3D Printing

3D printing has seemingly taken over the world! Because of it’s increasing popularity with both manufacturers and hobbyists, more and more 3D printers are being produced each year. There also many different types of 3D printing technologies, which vary in cost, effectiveness, materials used, speed and cost. These include:

  • Stereolithography (SLA)
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
  • Digital Light Process (DLP)
  • Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)
  • Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
  • Electron Beam Melting (EBM)

Because there are quite a few, we will be breaking this post into two parts, with the next part coming next week, so stay tuned! 

In the meantime, let’s discuss some 3D printing methods!

FDM Printing

FDM Printing


Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is one of the most widely available 3D Printing technology today. It uses a process called material extrusion, where a solid material, usually some form of thermoplastic (PLA, ABS, PET, etc.) is pushed through a heated nozzle attached to the printer head, melting the material. As the printer head moves along specific coordinates, it deposits the material, where it cools and solidifies, forming a solid object. 

  • Relatively Inexpensive
  • Ease of Use
  • Wide Variety of Materials


Stereolithography (SLA) uses a printing method called vat polymerization, where a material called photopolymer resin is exposed to an ultraviolet laser, which is used to draw pre-preprogrammed designs or shapes onto the material. This process is repeated for each layer until a 3D object is completed, and then washed in a solvent to remove excess resin. Because of this, SLA printing is often messy. You are also restricted to printing with resin materials, which can be expensive. The benefits, however, include:

  • Higher quality prints than FDM
  • Faster Print Speed
  • Stronger Finished Products

SLA Printer


Selective laser sintering (SLS) uses a laser to sinter powdered material together until a 3D model is formed. Unlike FDM and SLA, which have become incredibly popular in the hobbyist market, SLS has remained mostly in the realm of industrial manufacturing, because of the high cost (and potential dangers) of the lasers and materials. There are many advantages to SLS printing, including: 

  • The ability to print objects without support structures. 
  • High Strength and Stiffness
  • Good Chemical Resistance
  • Incredibly fast print speed

Stay tuned for next week for part two, where we discuss even more 3D printing methods!

by Jackie Johnson Jackie Johnson No Comments

Additive Manufacturing and its Benefits

You’ve seen them on the internet, in libraries and schools and maybe you even know someone who owns one. 3D Printers have changed the way the world and continue to provide many benefits for a number of industries. But how do they work?

Does additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, benefit the industrial market? Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, benefits the industrial market by reducing tooling costs, allowing for faster manufacturing, and eliminating the need for inventory.

How Additive Manufacturing Works

With additive manufacturing, objects are designed using computer-aided design software (or CAD software) and are then saved as .stl files which are then digitally sliced into ultra-thin layers. It is these layers that are extruded through a hot nozzle or print head and deposited onto the previous layer. The process is repeated layer by layer until a 3D object is formed. 

There are several different materials used in additive manufacturing. Thermoplastics are the most common materials used. These include PET, PEEK, Nylon, ABS, Polycarbonate, etc. Other materials that are often used include metal, ceramic, rubber, and even bio-materials. 

Additive ManufacturingWhat Are the Benefits of Additive Manufacturing?

The benefits of additive manufacturing, particularly for the industrial space, are many! 

Reduced Tooling Costs

Tooling cost is a major driver in the manufacturing industry. And the upfront cost can impede many low-volume manufacturing companies, where a significant amount of capital expenditure is required before the first unit is even produced. But with the lower tooling costs of additive manufacturing, low-volume manufacturers can finally enter the marketplace.  

Quicker Manufacturing

When the success of a business is won or lost based on speed to market, the ability to quickly manufacture goods is imperative. One sure-fire way to be one of the firsts to market is to leverage additive manufacturing to reduce lead time. With 3D-printing, the production time is reduced by weeks or even months. 

No Need for On-Hand Inventory

While traditional manufacturing requires warehouses full of premade parts and products, additive manufacturing allows a business to have a virtual inventory. Part information is stored in the cloud via .stl files and can be printed on demand. This removes the need for warehouse space, saving businesses space, rent money, and piles of parts. 


Additive marketing, or 3D printing, is the manufacturing process of the future. Because of its ease of use, quick turn-around, and relatively low cost, additive manufacturing (AKA 3D printing) is quickly becoming one of the go-to manufacturing processes for a wide variety of industries.

Contact us today to learn more!