The evolution of 3D printing

Everyone is talking about it as it were the newest and most innovative trend wherever, but it is not.

3D printing is actually an ’80s technology that only in a decade has developed its 3 main typologies: SLA (stereolithography), SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) and FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling).

Not sure about what I am talking about? Wondering on which is the one with the pen? Ok, let’s dig a bit on the dawn of 3D printing:

  1. SLA (stereolithography)

In the 1981 Hideo Kodama invented a rapid prototyping technology and 5 years later Charles Hull developed the SLA process, based on the concentration of a light photopolymeric source (in a resin bath UV lamp or laser). The light hardens the resin in predetermined patterns, building the 3D object layer by layer with the usage of photopolymer resins.

  1. SLS (Selective Laser Sintering)

Afterwards, in 1989, Carl Deckard patents the SLS (Selective Laser Sintering), where a metallic powder bed is sintered layer by layer with a laser beam (200-400W). This technology will give birth to DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) and SLM (Selective Laser Melting), the latter extremely accurate and therefore widely used for medical and dental purposes.

  1. FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling)

In 1992 Scott Crump invents a new 3D printing technique, la FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), where a filament, made from polymers and heated by a resistance, is passed through a nozzle, which layer after layer solidifies and manages to give form to the object. This technology has been conceived to rapid prototyping and has become the most largely widespread giving rise to the “Makers”.

And afterwards?

You are probably asking yourself why all this fuss on 3D printing nowadays if the technology has been invented almost 40 years ago. Well, the event that made the very boost on this incredible and fast growing sector has been in 2005 when Adrian Bowyer invented the first open-source self-replicating 3D printer. Then, FDM technology began its ascent to the maximum spread.

What’s next?

Metal related technologies will be the ones to give attention to. The best forecast on the 3D printing sector tell us about developments in new materials and hybrid technologies where printing and milling will be parts of the same process. Medical and Dental, where 3D printing is already changing and saving lives, will have the more interesting evolution in the next years.

The days of 3D printing being synonymous with rapid prototyping are gone: the days of Additive Manufacturing are here.


Sources: 3Dprintingindustry.com ; T.Rowe Price Inc.

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