News > Blog

The History of 3D Printing

Kira Newman, Tech Cocktail

The hype around 3D printing is fairly new but the technology has actually been around for about 20 years. Let’s take a step back to understand the major milestones in its history.
1984-1986: Charles Hull invents and patents stereolithography (one form of 3D printing) and cofounds 3D Systems.
1986: Carl Deckard files for a patent for selective laser sintering, another 3D printing technology. The first commercial machines are built in 1989 by DTM (acquired by 3D Systems in 2001).
1989: S. Scott and Lisa Crump, the cofounders of Stratasys, invent and patent “fused deposition modeling,” a technology for 3D printing where a material is extruded out of a nozzle and creates a 3D object layer by layer.
1992: 3D Systems makes its first commercial sale of a stereolithography system.
1993: MIT developers invent 3D printing techniques called 3DP and license them to Z Corporation (acquired by 3D Systems in 2012).
2001: Luke Massella receives one of the first 3D-printed bladders thanks to the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. It’s a combination of 3D printed biomaterials and his own cells. 

2007: Objet (later acquired by Stratasys) launches the Objet Connex, the first 3D printer that can print an object with multiple materials.
2007: RepRap, an open source project to create 3D printers that can print their own parts, creates its first-generation Darwin.
2009: The patent for fused deposition modeling expires, helping ignite the industry.
2009: MakerBot starts selling DIY kits to make your own 3D printer. The first kit to build a Cupcake CNC sells for $750.
2010: Bespoke Innovations is founded by Scott Summit to bring customized, beautiful 3D printed leg coverings to amputees.
2011: The first car with a 3D printed body, Urbee, is created by Kor Ecologic in partnership with Stratasys. It gets up to 200 mpg.
2011: An 83-year-old woman gets a 3D printed jaw thanks to researchers at Hasselt University in Belgium and a company called LayerWise.
2011: i.materialise is the first to offer 3D printing with gold and silver.
2012: President Obama awards $30 million to the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Ohio, which hopes to bring additive manufacturing and 3D printing mainstream.
2013: At SXSW, MakerBot announces plans for the Digitizer. The Digitizer is a 3D scanner that can transform objects into 3D models, which can then be printed again. Digitizers start shipping in October.
2013: The first 3D printed gun, called the “Liberator,” is created by Defense Distributed. The company was forced to take down the blueprint for the gun from its website by the Department of State. 
2013: Staples starts selling 3D printers made by 3D Systems.
2013: MakerBot is acquired by Stratasys in a transaction valued at $403 million.
2014: 3D printing had its own TechZone at the 2014 International CES.
What do you think is next?

Check out the gallery below to see 3D printing photos from the 2014 International CES.