Creatz3D Fun Fact Series #5 – History of 3D Printing

Welcome to another Creatz3D Fun Fact Series!

In our first few fun facts, we focused mainly on the terms FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) and FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) and their differences. Click here if you missed that.

For today’s fun fact, we will step away from that and instead go back in time to learn how the concept of 3D printing came about and evolved over the years to what it has become now.

Let’s go back in time briefly…

While 3D printing came into its own in the 90s, the first recorded mention of 3D printing actually began back in 1974.

Writing under the pseudonym Daedalus, David Jones was a physical chemist and writer who entertained readers of New Scientist, Nature, and the Guardian through his columns for more than 30 years. His ideas for inventions started from secure principles and wove a plausible tale through to the impossible – or so he thought.

In fact, many turned out to be feasible, one of which was 3D printing. As said in the article, he raised the possibility of forming and creating 3D models by shining precise lasers onto a vat of photosensitive monomers.


Getting closer…

1981 saw Doctor Hideo Kodama of the Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute filing a patent that described the principle technology of a layer by layer approach for manufacturing, using a photosensitive resin that was polymerized by UV light. But while his patent application came to naught, he is still credited as being the first inventor of this system.

Calling it rapid prototyping at the time and which is still frequently used today, it is referred to as the creation of the initial design of a product or object intended for proof of concept and pre-production testing.

A few years later in 1984, a trio of French scientists, Jean-Claude André at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). Olivier de Witte at CILAS, and Alain le Méhauté at Compagnie Générale d’Electricité (CGE, now Alcatel-Alsthom) sought to create a system that cured liquid monomers into solids by using a laser.

But their application also came to nothing.

The breakthrough

Just 3 weeks later, Chuck Hall filed the first patent for Stereolithography (SLA), which was born out of his frustration at being unable to print small parts. The technology created 3D models by curing photosensitive resins layer by layer.

In 1988, Carl Deckard at the University of Texas filed the patent for Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology which worked by fusing powders instead of liquid, with a laser.

At around the same time a year later in his garage, Scott Crump invented Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) which extrudes thermoplastic filament through a heated nozzle, building an object layer by layer. This came after a frustrating attempt to craft a toy frog for his daughter made from a hot glue gun.


The 3 technologies serve as the building blocks that lay the groundwork for what we are using today in less than a decade, and has offered opportunities to print complex parts that aren’t possible with conventional manufacturing.

From plastics to metals to ceramics, we can even print with carbon fiber now while some creatives are even experimenting with food and the bioprinting of tissues. It’s safe to say that the history of 3D printing is still being written with new innovations and ideas being developed every day as we integrate them into our workflow.

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