3D printing uses computer technology to create 3-dimensional solid objects. 3D printing combines the additive process or layering the material in thin horizontal cross-sections, and the computer program to print solid objects. You can create almost anything from 3D printing including toys, guns, or machine parts. The history of 3D printing is important to understanding the future of manufacturing as this technology becomes more popular and more available to the public.
The History of 3D Printing and its Development
The earliest record of 3D printing through the additive process was the Japanese inventor Hideo Kodama in 1981. He created a product that used ultraviolet lights to harden polymers and create solid objects. This is a stepping stone to stereolithography (SLA).
Charles Hull invented stereolithography, a process similar to 3D printing that uses technology to create smaller versions of objects so they can be tested before spending time and money on creating the actual product. The object is printed layer by layer, rinsed with a solvent, and hardened with an ultraviolet light. The process uses computer-aided designs (CAD) to create the 3D models.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is another, more advanced, form of 3D printing. It uses additive manufacturing and a powder polymer—typically nylon—to create objects. SLS uses a laser to fuse the powder together, layer by layer, into more complex shapes than SLA is capable of creating.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), developed by Scott Crump, is the most common form of 3D printing today. It is known as the “desktop 3D printers” because it is the most commonly used form of the technology. To form an object, the printer heats a cable of thermoplastic into liquid form and extrudes it layer by layer.
Overall 3D printing has changed and improved over the past thirty years. SLA, SLS, and FDM show the history of 3D printing, and thus how it became a vital tool for manufacturing. It allows you to make virtually anything simply by creating a computer file.