3d Printing Origins

The concept of 3d printing is based on a culmination of ideas and techniques which actually began in ancient Egypt three and a half thousand years ago, in the 14th Century BC. East African artists designed a technique of carving large blocks of stone into shaped sections which when stacked on top of one another would form huge, megalithic statues and monuments.

Centuries later in 1860 François Willème developed a technique of creating 3d sculptures. His method was to place 24 cameras around a person or object to take a 24 photographs from evenly spaced angles around the subject. The profile of the subject from each photo would then be transferred and enlarged  to balsa wood using a pantograph. The 24 profiles were then cut out and then arranged around a cylinder to produce a 3d model.

In 1890 Blanther devised a method of map making (topography) whereby layers of wax plates would be stacked to form 3-dimensional geographical reliefs on the surface of the map.


Early Years

In 1981 Hideo Kodama wrote a document describing how modelling based on plastic hardened by exposure to light could be used for rapid prototyping of manufactural design.


First Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) Machine - 1991

The first actual automated printer was the FDM machine built by Stratasys in 1991. It utilised a method of squirting layers of hot plastic onto a print bed to form objects.


First Stereolithography SLA Machine  - 1992

A machine using another technique known as SLA was produced in 1992 by 3D Systems. The SLA machine was based on 

a technique patented in 1984 by Charles Hull whereby a 3d object would be formed by laser focussing a laser beam into a tank of liquid resin. Solid shapes are formed in the tank where the laser light causes the resin to harden.


First Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) Machine - 1992

Also in 1992 DTM created the first SLS machine which worked in the same way as SLA but instead of liquid resin, models were formed by exposing powder to laser light.



The History of 3D Printers