Ultimaker: History of 3D Printing

The history of 3D printing is an ongoing and an interesting one. Although it feels like it is a relatively new technology, the first examples of 3D printing dates back to 40 years ago.

It first began when Dr. Hideo Kodama invented the first rapid prototyping machines that were able to create parts layer by layer in 1981 What Kodama did was to use a resin which could be polymerised by UV (ultraviolet) light. Then, in 1986, Chuck Hull filed the first patent for Stereolithography technology, or SLA. In this sense, Hull is considered to be the inventor of 3D printing as he created and commercialised both SLA and the “.stl” file format, which is the most common file type used in 3D printing. Then, Carl Deckard licensed SLS technology in 1988 when he was still a student studying in University of Texas. After that, Scott Crump filed the patent for Fused Deposition Modelling, or FDM, technology, which is also known as FFF. It was in the 1990s that a great deal of growth for the early 3D printing industry took place. However, the first SLS printer became commercially available in 2006 The RepRap Project made 2005 an important year for 3D printing. The project aimed to re-think Additive Manufacturing starting with FDM/FFF technology as a low-cost technology. The RepRap Project became an inspiration for every successful low-cost 3D printer. The RepRap 3D printer is made of many plastic parts, which can also be printed by RepRap. This project was successful, which became a catalyst for the rise of commercial 3D printers. Furthermore, 2011 marked the foundation of Ultimaker in the Netherlands, inspired by the RepRap project as well. Today, 3D printers are used in industries such as aerospace, architecture, manufacturing, automotive, healthcare, construction and many others.

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