What is 3D printing, and where did it come from? It might seem to have just appeared out of thin air for the younger generation, but it was a result of hard work and dedication. Today the market is full of different 3D printer models. Looking for a cheap 3D printer? You got it. Maybe you need the best 3D printer out there? That’s possible to arrange as well. But this technology wasn’t as easily accessible in the past. It was developed by engineers, scientists, and enthusiasts throughout several decades of research and progressive thinking. Let’s take a journey through the history of this phenomenon and see how it all began.
1981-1999: The Infancy of Additive Manufacturing
The roots of a 3D printer lie in a process called additive manufacturing (AM). The name speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Additive manufacturing is a process of creating a certain shape by adding thin layers of material in designated places until the whole shape is complete.
The idea of such a process being possible tickled the engineering minds in the 1950s, although it didn’t bring any substantial results at the time. Naturally, what’s significant about that period, is believing something like additive manufacturing could actually work.
In the 1970s, a machine called Liquid Metal Recorder was patented, which is believed to be the first device resembling a 3D printer. It actually worked on additive manufacturing, followed prototypes and used an on-demand pattern manufacturing technique.
Not long after, in the 1980s, Japanese, US and French engineers were already creating prototypes that were undergoing testing, and some of them had a real shot at working. But these devices were nothing like we have today. They were big, bulky and very expensive. Owning a 3D printer could add up to something north of £ 300,000.
The first-ever patent for a 3D printer was registered in the US in 1984. That year began the rapid development of yet another technological leap.
Another important landmark is 1992, when the patent for Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology was issued to Stratasys.
1999 – 2010: The Adolescent History of 3D Printing
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, 3D printing mostly developed along with computer technologies that started to develop faster than before. Now suddenly, there was software that could support all of the wild dreams of printing enthusiasts!
European EOS GmbH was the one to create EOS “Stereos” software for industrial prototyping. In other words, they started developing the 3D printing software that was used for a long time after that.
At the time, 3D printing was quite pricey and not widely accessible to everyone. Usually, 3D printing involved people who were in the manufacturing industry and programmers or developers who knew the software well and were creating 3D printer designs. But then slowly, 3D printing took off as an industry and got more and more substantial, slowly starting to replace machinery and entering our schools, universities, and, why not, living rooms and basements.
2010 – Present day. 3D printing in its prime
In the 2010s, the use of 3D printing or additive manufacturing became so diverse that it affects literally all the key aspects of our lives, from medicine to the automotive industry. All the major markets in the world offer a 3D printer, from home models to professional and construction printers. If you are looking for a 3D printer UK market has to offer, you won’t be disappointed. There are plenty of options out there for every taste and pocket. Even if you’re looking for the best 3D printer UK market can surely accommodate those needs as well.
Anyone interested in the process and the results can purchase a 3D printer kit that comes with 3D printer software and filament and go off exploring the delightful world of additive manufacturing.
Nowadays, there are many different 3D printing technologies around, which differ by 3D printing materials and overall technology. The most widespread of them is the FDM printer. Desktop versions of FDM printers mostly work with different kinds of plastic as 3D printer filament, that is fed to a nozzle, melted and then deposited on a platform layer by layer, bringing the prototype to life. There are also other systems like the SLA printers (second popular), which involve a pool of photopolymer resin. That resin is “cured” by a UV laser, creating the desired shape. There are many others as well, but the two listed above are the most widespread. Now that you have the printer, you’ll sure need a file to print!
Before the last decade, the prototypes available for 3D printing were scarce, but as 3D printing became more and more mainstream, hundreds of online libraries offer 3D printer files ready for purchase and print. Lots of libraries, although more limited, are free of charge. So even if you’re not particularly savvy in design software and computer technologies, you can still have all the fun of 3D printing and make toys, household items and anything else you might need.
Today 3D printing has entered an interesting phase, where it’s very diverse in technology and implications. Throughout the last decade, 3D printing has rediscovered itself in interesting sectors such as construction and medicine. Construction 3D printing is a promising field that can help solve the housing crisis by building affordable and sturdy homes for families in dire need of shelter. In the medical field, 3D printing is creating customised prosthetics and dentures that are created on-demand and fit each individual perfectly. Bioprinting is also an exciting field with lots of mind-blowing possibilities that will very possibly change the way we think about transplants and organ donation.
We all benefit from 3D printing technology in one way or another. Even if we don’t have the device itself in our homes, the progress is not happening “out there”. It’s happening right here, and we better be ready for it.