If you keep up with the latest news in the world of technology, you have surely heard plenty about 3D printing. This topic has been such a huge part of the discussion in the tech world in recent years because of its incredible potential. Projects that would have been thought to be impossible just a short time ago are now readily achievable through the power of 3D printing. Also, 3D printing has become a popular hobby for individuals to take up, and that popularity has only grown the exposure and development of the field as a whole.
In this article, we’d like to take a closer look at the history of 3D printing. How did we get to where we are today? Looking back can often tell us a lot about where we are headed, so a quick 3D printing history lesson is in order. Whether it is prototype manufacturing, hobby projects, or anything in between, the future of 3D printing is exciting because of the groundwork that has already been laid down.
Turning Back the Clock
You may be a bit surprised to learn just how far back you have to look for the roots of 3D printing. Long before many of the modern technologies we take for granted had been invented, some in the engineering world were thinking about the idea of 3D printing. Early ideas in this realm date back to the 1970s, and the early 1980s saw some of those ideas pressed into action.
While there are always many different people and groups involved with the development of any kind of groundbreaking technology, the name Chuck Hull is one that is often associated with the invention of 3D printing (also known as stereolithography). Hull began to work with this concept in 1983 and would be awarded a patent in 1986. This would lead to the founding of his company, 3D Systems, which continues to operate to this day.
First to the Market
Along the stages of development for any new technology, there needs to come a time when that technology hits the open market for the first time. There are plenty of notable achievements and breakthroughs before that point, of course, but it is when a product is taken to market that more and more people start to take notice.
In the history of 3D printing, this moment was the commercial release of the SLA-1. This product, released by 3D Systems Corporation, set the wheels in motion for where we find ourselves today. The kinds of rapid prototyping and other services that are available thanks to 3D printing would not be present today without the SLA-1 getting it all started.
By the time the calendar turned to the 1990s, 3D printing was becoming established as a technology, but it was far from what it has become today. The SLA-1 had been released in the late 1980s, which was a big accomplishment, but there was still a lot of work to be done.
Among the notable developments to take place in the 90s are MultiJet Printing 3D printers, ColorJet Printing 3D powder-based systems, and more. The field as a whole was still flying somewhat under the radar, with regard to the general public, but the writing was on the wall that this technology was soon to make a big impact on the world.
A Move Toward Open Source
Another important development in the history of 3D printing was the start and growth of the open-source movement. In the technology world, “open source” means that source files are freely available for projects so people can build on the work of others. The availability of open-source projects makes it easier for interested individuals to get involved in the field with very few barriers to entry. Ultimately, that means the technology can develop even faster, with more capable minds working to solve problems and make breakthroughs.
One of the notable achievements of the open-source movement was the Reprap Darwin 3D printer. The idea was relatively simple, although it was incredibly difficult to accomplish—the goal was to develop a 3D printer that was capable of producing all the parts necessary to build itself all over again. More than the practical application of such a device, this accomplishment was important because it highlighted what could be done with 3D printing and helped advance the technology in the eyes of the public.
Another Public Boost
When the online fundraising platform known as “Kickstarter” was founded in 2009, it was not launched specifically with 3D printing in mind. Rather, it was developed as a way for people working on all sorts of various projects to get the financial support they needed to get those projects off the ground.
With that said, the availability of a platform like Kickstarter did wonders for the 3D printing community. Again, it helped put 3D printing into the public eye, and it also funded many projects which would show the power of this technology. When a Kickstarter backer is browsing the site looking for projects to support and he or she comes across projects that are set to be created with a 3D printer, that discovery is sure to spark interest and curiosity. It is largely due to Kickstarter that so many people are now aware of 3D printing.
The Future – Who Knows?
We are already in an exciting place in the history of 3D printing. So much as already been accomplished, and so much more is sure to come. For instance, 3D printing of human organs is already possible, which is a stunning achievement, and the sky is the limit for how much those printed organs could do to help patients around the world. Also, rapid prototyping services are also now available, making it easier for companies to test out ideas and determine which ones should actually make it to the market.
As far as where we are headed with 3D printing from this point, it’s impossible to say—and that’s exactly what makes it so exciting! Just as no one could have predicted 30 years ago that we would be at this point today, no one today can be sure where this is all going. With so many smart people working on so many exciting projects, it’s safe to say that there are some amazing things in store. From hobbyists to the biggest companies in the world, 3D printing has something to offer everyone.
Contact Laszeray Technology, LLC Today
As you can see, the history of 3D printing stretches back farther than many people would imagine, and the technology has already undergone many important changes and advancements. There are sure to be many exciting developments to come in the years ahead, but so much is already possible. At Laszeray Technology, LLC, we work closely with our clients to bring their ideas to life. To quickly and accurately develop the product that you have in mind, contact us online or call +1 (440) 582-8430 today to get started.