The history is generally told from the 80s to refer to the appearance of 3D printers. However, the origin dates back many years including events that predate 3D printers until they were useful.

History before history

The first ideas related to the automatic recreation of objects in their three dimensions were born in the 19th century. The French sculptor François Willème developed and patented the process called Photoescuplture in 1860, which consisted of placing 24 cameras to take simultaneous photographs that built a three-dimensional image. In 1892, Joseph Blanther developed three-dimensional maps and patented them, using a layering method similar to the technique used by 3d printers today.

First attempts

In 1981 the first project appeared in Japan with a patent from the Nagoya Institute, directed by Hideo Kodoma, who intended to create solid pieces by hardening photopolymer with UV light.This project was never developed like that of some French Alcatel workers: Alain Méhauté and Oliver de Witte. His proposal was to produce complex parts in a faster and easier way. De Witte, an expert in working with lasers, discovered that laser polymerization might be possible to cure liquids, so they turned for support to their friend Jean-Claude André, who worked at the French National Center for Scientific Research ( CNRS), this company never approved the project because they considered that it had no potential in other areas.

The 80s, the decade of the born of 3D printing

The second half of the 80s mark a milestone in the history of 3D printing as an industry, during these years, patents and companies were created that officially materialize the SLA, SLS and FDM 3D printing technology.

The beginning of SLA 3D printing

Chuck Hull invented stereolithography (SLA) in 1984, a layered 3D printing method using the laser as a synthesizer.Hull patented his invention and founded 3D Systems in 1986 being the first 3D printing company and the first to offer a commercial SLA printer with the launch of the SLA-1 model.

Welcome SLS 3D printing

In 1987 Carl Deckard, a researcher at the University of Texas, created the first alternative 3D printing system with selective laser synthesizing (SLS). The machine devised by Deckard is called Betsy and works with a laser like Hull's, but synthesizes powder instead of liquid resin. The SLS 3D printer model didn't reach the commercial world until 2006, so great advances are expected for this type of printer in the future.

Birth of 3D FDM printing

In 1988 S. Scott and Lisa Crump patented fused deposition modeling (FDM) and founded Stratasys the following year. The method of this printer, which is the best known today, was born from Scott Crump's desire to create a toy for his daughter using a paint gun filled with hot wax and thermoplastics.This technique didn't work, but it led him to think how to carry out the same process through the superposition of thermoplastic layers; from there arise the method that is based on heating the filament to be extruded through a nozzle that is deposited on a hot platform.

3D printing in different professional areas

In the 90's companies like 3D Systems Corporation, Stratasys, Z-Corporation, ARCAM and Object Geometries appeared and started with 3D bioprinting, with the creation of the first organ in a laboratory developed by scientists at the Wake Forest Institute of Medicine, using a technique based on the regeneration of organs with their own cells.

A new century for 3D printing

3D printers were still an expensive product in the 21st century. However, it was reaching new sectors such as: construction, jewelry, automotive, among others. But it isn't until the advent of open source 3D printers in 2005 that another milestone is marked in the history of 3D printing. Here appears the RepRap initiative with Adrian Bowyer, this project proposes to create an open source 3d printer where you can print your own parts to make new prints. However, the Fab@Home project is the one that brings the first open source 3D printer to the market, allowing access to 3D printers to ordinary people in their homes or study centers, starting the maker movement as a hobby of 3D printing.

Access to 3D printers increased in 2009 thanks to the Makerboy company with the first 3D printer kit that allows the user to buy 3D printers in pieces to be assembled and calibrated by themselves, lowering costs.

Although we don't know exactly the future of 3D printers, we can predict that the history of 3D printers is just beginning, due to the examples that we constantly see of what these machines are capable of.

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