The History of 3D Printing, From Past to Present

Early 3D printing machine
Early 3D printing machine

3D printing, as we know it today, has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the 1980s. This post is dedicated to the history of 3D printing, from its earliest days to the present. Interestingly, we will also be exploring the future of 3D printing and what it might hold in store for manufacturers and hobbyists.

3D Printing Technology

3D printing is a type of technology that uses molten material or powder to print three-dimensional objects. This technology has been used in different forms and industries for over four decades now.

Depending on the type of printer in use, the 3D printing process may involve using fusing filaments together, sintering powder particles, or any other method.

Applications of 3D printing include making small plastic toys to large-scale metal parts for use in construction and even human organs.

Understandably, 3D printing wasn’t always the high-tech process that it is today. It has come a long way since its inception many years ago. Let’s now trace the history of 3D printing from its earlier days to the present.

Older 3D printing technique
Older 3D printing technique

History of 3D Printing

When was 3D printing invented? Who invented 3D printing? These are questions we will be answering in this section for those who are curious about this technology came to be.

The origins of 3D printing can, according to available information, be traced way back to the early 80s. During that time, specifically in 1981, a Japanese man named Hideo Kodama was credited with inventing the earliest 3D printing technology.

Hideo Kodama’s technology involved using UV light to solidify photopolymers. This was done layer by layer until the desired three-dimensional object was created.

Unfortunately, Hideo Kodama’s technology was never commercialized and it would be another few years before 3D printing would make its way into the market.

An older 3D printing machine
An older 3D printing machine

3D Printing History Timeline

Below is a chronology of the major events that led to the development of 3D printing technology as we know it today, from the 1980s to the present:

3D Printing History (1980-1990)

  • 1981: Hideo Kodama invents the earliest type of 3D printing. However, he doesn’t get to see his technology commercialized.
  • 1983: Чарльз Халл invents stereolithography, which is a process that uses light to solidify photopolymer resins. This technology would later form the basis for 3D Systems, and is widely considered the first successful commercial 3D printing process.
  • 1987: Carl Deckard files a patent for selective laser sintering, which is a process that uses a laser to fuse together small particles of plastic, metal, or ceramic powder. This technology is still used in some industrial 3D printing systems today.
  • 1989: At the same time, Scott Crump invents fused deposition modeling, which is a process that uses melted plastic to create three-dimensional objects. This technology would later form the basis for one of the techniques used in the 3D printing industry today.

3D Printing History (1990-2000)

  • 1997: Aeromat becomes the first company to commercially sell a selective laser sintering 3D printer.
  • 1999: The world’s first 3D-printed organ, a bladder, is successfully implanted in a human patient. This marks an important milestone in the use of 3D printing in the medical field.

3D Printing History (2001-2010)

  • 2004: Andrian Bowyer invents the first replicating 3D printer in a project named RepRap, which is short for “replicating rapid-prototyper”. The goal of the RepRap project was to create a self-replicating 3D printer.
  • 2007: Organovo, a biotechnology company, creates the world’s first 3D-printed liver tissue. This technology helps to popularize the idea of 3D printing among the general public.

3D Printing History (2011-present)

  • 2011: The world’s first 3D-printed aircraft (unmanned) is successfully flown in what is seen as a major breakthrough for the technology. This happens amid growing interest in 3D printing among hobbyists and manufacturers.
  • 2014: The world’s first 3D-printed car, the Strati, is unveiled, confirming that 3D printing technology is capable of making complex objects such as automobiles.
  • 2019: Patents for 3D printing expire, making it possible for anyone to use the technology without having to pay royalties. This sees new companies and individuals entering the 3D printing industry, leading to even more innovation in the field.
  • 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerates the adoption of 3D printing technology as a way to quickly produce essential medical supplies and equipment such as face shields and ventilator parts.
 3D printing today
3D printing today

3D Printing Today: What Has Changed?

  • Today, the 3D printing market is a rapidly growing industry with a wide range of applications. It is currently being used in many different industries such as healthcare, aerospace, automotive, and manufacturing.
  • 3D printing is being used to create prosthetic limbs, eyeglasses, dental implants, and even human organs. In the future, it is expected that the technology will become more widely used in the manufacturing of consumer products.
  • What’s more, the technology is now available to anyone with a 3D printer. You can even buy one for your home, office, or school. This wide use of 3D printing is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.

What is the future of 3D Printing?

The future of 3D printing is shrouded in potential but fraught with challenges. The industry can be said to be in its early stages of development and there is much to learn about how best to utilize this technology.

However, the potential applications of 3D printing are vast. This technology could change the way we live, work, and play. Only time will tell what the future holds for 3D printing, but one thing is certain: it is an exciting time to be involved in this industry.


3D printing is an exciting and rapidly evolving technology. It has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing and change the way we live and work. Many businesses today are built around 3D printing technology, including those that manufacture 3D printers, produce 3D-printed parts and products, or provide services related to 3D printing.

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