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A Brief History of 3D Printing

September 9th, 2011  |  Published in Information

3D printing was developed by Charles Hull, the founder of 3D Systems in 1984. Mr. Hull, born May 12, 1939, was an inventor of over 60 U.S. patents in the fields of ion optics and rapid prototyping. In his patent for the “Apparatus for Production of Three-Dimensional Objects by stereo lithography”, issued on March 11, 1986, he defined stereo lithography as a method and apparatus for making solid objects by successively “printing” thin layers of the ultraviolet curable material one on top of the other. Originally called Stereolithography, in the early years the technological development of the 3d printer systems by 3D System using the Stereolithography technique was in parallel development to Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), invented in 1988 by Scott Crump, the founder of Stratasys. In 1993 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) added to the development of this field by patenting “3 Dimensional Printing techniques” based on modifications of 2D printer technologies, which was then licensed to Z Corporation for development of their 3DP printers.
In the year 1996 the world saw the first major release of 3d printers by Z Corp, Stratasys, and 3D Systems. At this time the use of 3d printer nomenclature became more widespread. In the course of further development over the next decade printer technology developed in respect to resolution and software capability, culminating in 2005 with the launch of the Spectrum Z510, the first high definition color printer in the market.
The next year, in 2006, a breakthrough open source printing project, named Reprap, was developed in England. The rep-rap was capable of manufacturing various plastic parts, roughly 50% of itself. The first version of the Reprap, the Darwin, was released in 2008. In continued development of Reprap printers the next model developed was the Mendel. The Mendel succeeded the Darwin in efficiency using a varient triangular core structure as opposed to the square frame of the Darwin. Following the Mendel several different research projects took the rep-rap in new directions, one of those directions being the Huxley, another the Prusa (a simpler streamlined rep rap offering), and others including mini-mendel systems. Concurrent development of extruder technology has allowed for the modification of most Reprap commercial printers, and with the capability of self-replication, these printers are an effective means to generate additional copies and 3d printing capability.

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