How Has 3D Printing Evolved [Timeline Breakdown]

This is brief article we will discuss how 3D printing technology has evolved over time since the mid-1980s, and where the technology is at now.

Let's check out what has changed.

Core Applications

Faster and more efficient method of making things

  • Increased efficiency - With 3D printers, you can print multiple products at the same time. This increases efficiency and saves time.
  • Reduced costs - Quickly get a prototype made and tested before mass production

3D printing technology allows people to take an idea from concept to reality faster than ever before. This technology offers many benefits that make it great for companies large or small; one major advantage is that there's no need for expensive prototyping services when you can print your own product prototype at home.

This technology also allows employees at any company - even those without technical knowledge or training - to help bring their ideas into physical form by using this technology to produce parts.

It eliminates the need to hire a third-party engineering company so they can build their own 3D models, which not only saves money but also time.

First 3D Printer That Actually Works - 1980s - 1995

Insert Image

In May 1981, Dr Hideo Kodama at the Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute published details concerning a ‘rapid prototyping‘ technique.

The research started a method which preceded stereolithography, and also spoke about cross-sectional slices of layers which lay on top of each other to form the 3D object.

However, Dr Kodama didn’t fulfill the patent application before his deadline and was never granted the patent. There were multiple people filing patents for the process, but all abandoned the project because of lack of business perspectives.

Later, a French engineer, Charles ‘Chuck’ Hull filed his patent successfully for stereolithography. Long story short, his process used ultraviolet light to cure photopolymers using the new STL file format. By 1986, Chuck Hull formed 3D Systems and released the first-ever 3D printer, the SLA-1.

1988 - 1992 - Competitions

Insert Image

Stereolithography had competition in the 3D printing space, however, with rival processes in development.

In 1988, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology was introduced to print metals, and the technology uses UV light and a laser to trace and solidify layers of powder polymers.

In 1989, the patent for Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), it's probably the most well-known 3D printing technology today. 3D Systems and Chuck Hull may have had a head start, but competitors were hot around this time.

In 1991, Stratasys has released their first FDM 3D printer. This was the first time 3D Systems saw their real competition, as each had the patent rights to two very different 3D printing technologies.

1999–2010: Seriously Taking Off

Insert Image

Between these times, bioengineering was making massive progress and 3D printing technology just made it even better.

Complex medical devices, miniature kidney, prosthetic leg, heart and blood vessels are possible with 3D printing to help people.

Medical implant procedures that were nearly impossible in the past such as cranial plates, now can be patient matched to create the most optimal solution to the patient compared to before.

In another word, the dimensions, thickness, curvature and all other specs fit the patient instead of using a assembly line made product.

2011–Present Day: 3D Printing in Its Prime

Insert Image

At this point, additive manufacturing is much more mature, and more and more consumer grade 3D printers are available varying from all different price range.

Anything from printing basic PLA, PETG to Nylon are now possible inside a person's home.

Students can learn from it and have way better access to the technology than in the past. This allows young upcoming engineers to gain skills on 3D drafting and material science on their own time, and it's much better than traditional scheduled classroom time.

Additionally, the range of materials available for 3D printing has also grown exponentially, from bioprinting human tissue to making aerospace grade parts that can take significant amount of stress load.

Leave a Comment