When Were 3D Printers Invented?

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The term 3D printing, also referred to as additive manufacturing, has recently garnered a lot of attention from the general public, subsequently making it the newest watchword in the world of technological innovation.

3D printing is a manufacturing process whereby a 3D printer deposits materials layer by layer to create a three-dimensional object according to the digital model of the object. Therefore, thanks to this device, the manufacturing of complex items have been simplified, and this allows you to do so in the comfort of your home.

These machines are easy to install and cheap hence why their popularity has soared in the recent past. Additionally, it allows you more customization options, which makes it better to create an object at home instead of purchasing it from the store. So when were 3D printers invented? This is a question most people ask, and you will be surprised by the answer to this. Therefore, sit back as we take you through the history of when 3D printers were invented.

History of 3D printers

Additive manufacturing has weirdly enough been around since the late 1980s. Whereas this might seem hard to believe, here is a comprehensive guide taking you through the various stages this innovative technology has passed.

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Stage 1: The Infancy of 3D Printing (1981 to 1999)

This ground-breaking technology is started by Dr. Hideo Kodama, who worked at the Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute in 1981. It while at this research institution that Dr Hideo published his rapid prototyping discovery that was fully functional using a material known as a photopolymer, a kind of light-activated resin.

This saw the creation of the first solid, 3D printed item with every print cycle, adding a fresh layer to the preceding one. Consequently, these layers corresponded to form a cross-sectional slice within the 3D model. Dr Kodama’s efforts to file for a patent for the Rapid Prototyping technology failed because he did not file the complete patent requisites in good time despite being a patent lawyer.

Four years later, a team of French engineers started working on this technology, with a keen interest in stereolithography. Nevertheless, they too, would eventually abandon this project as they felt additive manufacturing lacked any business value.

Fast forward to 1984, Charles Hull took over this project from the French engineers. Hull would go on and successfully invent the stereolithography (SL or SLA) technology that would enable designers to build 3D models by making use of digital data files. Subsequently, they would upload the files to the 3D printer, and it would start to create actual physical 3D objects gradually.

In 1992, Charles Hull achieved his goal of creating the first-ever SLA machine in the world. Thanks to this invention, anyone with the money could now make sophisticated 3D objects as well as to object parts. Moreover, this process took a much shorter time in comparison to other traditional methods.

DTM Inc., still in 1992, created the first selective laser sintering (SLS) device, which operates by shooting a laser at powdered materials instead of a liquid.

Stage 2: The Adolescent Stage of 3D Printing

This stage runs from 1999 to 2010, and this technology was still not unfamiliar to most people. It was during this stage that the first 3D printed organ, a human bladder, was created by scientists working at the Wake Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

For them to achieve this remarkable feat, they began by 3D printing synthetic folds of a human bladder. They then went ahead and coated it with real cells removed from living patients, after which surgeons implanted the newly-formed tissue into patients. Additionally, the immune system of these patients did not reject these implants as they were made using body cells. Whereas this innovative technology this day still looks mindboggling, it happened, and better and bigger advancements are on the way.

This past decade has seen the field of medicine fully embrace 3D printing technology, and as research continues, other astounding medical uses of 3D printer have emerged. These include:

  • The first-ever prosthetic leg with sophisticated components
  • The first fully functional miniature kidney
  • The first bio-printed blood vessels that use human cells

Stage 3: 3D printing in its prime

3D printing has, without a doubt, already accomplished but a lot, but there is still is plenty in store as there are no boundaries. This technology is always advancing at a tremendous pace and is covering everything regardless of whether you are a small business, home user, or hobbyist.

Furthermore, there are other factors too that have played a part in making 3D printing popular to the general public and these include:

  • 3D printers are nowadays more accurate and keep getting even better
  • The price of 3D printers has fallen
  • New and exciting advancements are continuously being unveiled
  • Designing 3D models is now easier as a result of free software programs
  • 3D printers are user-friendly so can be used by anyone

Despite Charles Hull knowing this technology was a great discovery, he never thought it would end up becoming this big. Thanks to this technology, you can nowadays print using other materials not only plastic, and the various option includes glass, metals, wood, paper, and many others.

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Some of the objects you can print to help keep this industry alive and thriving include household items, musical instruments, clothing accessories as well as jewelry. Moreover, future additive manufacturing aim at developing 3D printed drones, homes, foods, cars, and other parts of the human body. Therefore, with this technology, the sky is the limit.


The general public is nowadays more conversant about 3D printing, so you most probably know what this technology is all about, as well as some of its capabilities. Nevertheless, only a small section of the public makes use of these machines at home to create 3D models despite the price coming down by a substantial amount in recent years and the technology getting better and better. Therefore, owning a 3D printer right now might be out of your reach, but this will change soon due to the different kinds of items you will be in a position to print in 3D using different materials.

Moreover, you will not need to own a 3D printer to print in 3D since presently you can design your three models using free online 3D design programs and then finding an online or local service to print the 3D model. Since this technology is very straightforward, you should not miss out on this exciting invention, which still has a lot to offer.

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