History of 3D Printing You Need to Know

3D printing is a technology that has been with us for quite some years. It entails creating 3-dimensional objects using computer technology The whole process encompasses additive manufacturing whereby layers of material are laid on top of each other until a final product is formed.

You can now use 3D printing to make anything that you want. Auto parts, parts, parts of airplanes, toys, weapons, utensils among many others.

3D printing is a big business and those who have invested in it are enjoying the returns. But, where did this technology come from?

Read on as we have a look at the history of 3D printing.

History of 3D Printing You Need to Know

The infancy of 3D printing

The possibility of 3D printing was explored in 1981 by Hideo Kodama, a Japanese scientist working at the Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research. He made a publication on the creation of polymers using a functional rapid-prototyping system.

Kodama proceeded to create a solid product using ultraviolet rays (photopolymers) which mainly hardened the rays. This product comprised of a solid object that was built using layers of polymers. Each layer matched with the cross-sectional area of the model.

This critical step paved the way for stereolithography (SLA).

Later on, in 1984, Charles Hull had his name written in the History of 3D printing by inventing stereolithography. This is technology is similar to modern 3D printing and it entails creating smaller versions of an intended object. This allows the creators to test these small objects before working on the final big object.

Through stereolithography, designers were able to create 3D models using the given digital data. These models will, later on, be used for creating the actual objects.

The main material for stereolithography was a photopolymer which is an acrylic material.

UV beam was used to shape and harden the material until it gets the desired shape and design. The new technology ( stereolithography) enabled inventors to test their models before making any big investment in the final product. This was a big step towards risk management during the manufacturing process.

Another major milestone that was made during the infancy period was the creation of stereolithography apparatus (SLA) machine in 1992. This machine was created by 3D Systems- a company owned by Charles Hull.

The SLA machine made it possible for inventors to create and fabricate complex parts one layer after another within a short time. Doing the same job using traditional manufacturing methods was hectic and time-consuming.

Still, in 1992, a new company by the name DTM produced the first selective laser sintering machine9(SLS). This machine is designed to shoot a laser at a powder instead of a liquid.

All the technologies that were invented during the infancy stage were not 100 perfect. They had some serious defects. The machines that we have mentioned were also expensive and not economical for small-scale use.

Adolescent stage:1999-2010

Since the foundation of 3D printing had already been built, it was now time to take the technology to the next level. In 1999, scientists at Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine used 3D technology to print scaffolds of a human bladder. They then coated this model with human cells. The regenerated tissues were then planted into patients.

The innovation paved the way for the application of 3D printing in the field of medicine. After that, scientists, from different institutions started experimenting with the possibility of using 3D printing for making other body organs. Prosthetic legs and even miniature kidneys were created out of such experiments.

Its also during this adolescent stage that talks open-source development started infiltrating 3D printing. The goal was to allow different players to get into 3D printing with minimum restrictions.

This resulted in the creation of different 3D printers. Quite a good number of printers were launched during this period. The first commercial SLS was launched in 2006. This accelerated the demand for the 3D-printed parts and products. There was also a sporadic rise of companies that printed such products.

It is also during this period that collaborative services and co-creations become popular in the 3D printing market. This was motivated by the open-source nature of the technology which had eliminated many barriers to entry.

The Prime of 3D Printing: 2011-Date

As other industries have been developing technologically, 3D printing has not been left behind. It has capitalized on the growth of other related industries in the past decade to grow itself.

Modern 3D printers seem to have reached a prime of 3D printing in every single aspect. One of the aspects is the speed of printing. They are fast and can produce many models within a short time.

Apart from speed, modern 3D printers are more accurate than they used to be some years back. This has increased the reliability of this technology as people can fully trust it to execute any given task.

3D printing is also more versatile in recent years. It is utilized for making a wide range of tangible products. Sensitive fields such as medicine, aerospace, and many others have fully embraced additive manufacturing for making their products.

What about the price of 3D printing? Well, it has gone down by a significant margin. Right now more people can easily afford 3D printing services, unlike it was in the past.

History of 3D Printing You Need to Know


I hope that from this history, you can appreciate where 3D technology has come from and where it is going. As you can see, the growth of this technology is a continuous process.

More research and development is still done on it with the goal of making it better and more effective.

We have also seen that 3D printing is becoming more versatile. This means that more products can be produced through this manufacturing technology. 

From the history, it is also vital to appreciate the accessibility of 3D. Some years back, additive manufacturing was limited to large companies that could afford it. Things have changed and now the technology can be accessed even by small businesses and individuals.

For instance, if you want affordable 3D printing services in China, you may consider contacting 3DLT. We provide premium 3D services are reasonable costs.