The Evolution of 3D Printing: From the Early 1980s to Now

The first documented iterations of 3D printing date back to the early 1980s in Japan, when a layer-by-layer approach to manufacturing was developed using a photosensitive resin that polymerized with ultraviolet light. This was followed by the invention of inkjet technology by Teletype Corporation in the 1960s, which enabled the printing of up to 120 characters per second and paved the way for consumer desktop printing. The first 3D printer, which used the stereolithography technique, was created by Charles W. Stereolithography has traditionally been an expensive commercial technique, with machines costing five and even six figures.

However, recent years have seen the emergence of professional desktop stereolithography printers that cost a few thousand dollars, as well as consumer systems that start with much less than a thousand dollars. Multi-jet modeling is an inkjet-like 3D printing system that sprays a glue-like colored binder onto successive layers of powder where the object is to be formed. 3D printing has become increasingly popular in various industries such as manufacturing, architecture and product design. It is now possible to design your own 3D models using one of the free online 3D design programs, such as Tinkercad.

The electronics, aerospace and medical industries are expected to experience the biggest growth in 3D printing technology. Printed electronics is a set of printing methods that allow electronic devices or circuits to be printed on flexible material, such as labels, fabrics and cardboard, by applying electronic or optical inks. Early consumer 3D printing also promised to help reduce waste with a little less built-in obsolescence. Doctors and medical technicians can use 3D printing to make prostheses, hearing aids, artificial teeth, and bone grafts, and to replicate models of organs, tumors, and other internal body structures from CT scans in preparation for surgery.

It has even been used as a solution to the growing housing crisis. 3D printing has come a long way since its inception in the mid-1980s. It has become an innovative technology that is used in many industries and applications around the world. With its emergence as a new and innovative technology, 3D printing has revolutionized how we create objects and products.