So who invented 3D printing anyway?

THAT is an excellent question. Multiple people invented 3D printing technology around the same time. Some articles on the internet state that Chuck Hull was the inventor of 3D printing. I did some research on the patents in this area and here are my findings.

Indeed the first commercial machine was offered by 3D Systems – company founded by Chuck Hull – in 1986. Based on internet research he seems to have invented the machine in 1984 but waited to file a patent for stereolithography (SLA) until 1989.

Carl Deckard filed for a patent on Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) in 1986. The same year Chuck Hull commercialized SLA technology.

But Ross Housholder already filed a patent in 1979 for “A molding process for forming a three-dimensional article in layers”. The patent was never commercialized, but it was referenced in the patent of SLA by Chuck Hull.

So to me Ross Housholder is the inventor of 3D printing.

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  • Eric Haines

    Wyn Kelly Swainson is the person that I’d give the nod. He was granted British patent 1 240 043 in 1971 for a stereolithography type of process. It’s discussed on page 90 of “The Inventions of Daedalus”, by David E. H. Jones. I’ll send you a PDF scan.

    • Robert Schouwenburg

      Thanks for sharing Eric. I enjoyed reading that. It is pretty amazing he patented that in 1971. I may have to rewrite this post now. :)

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