When was additive manufacturing invented in the 1980s? There were different sets of lines to discuss: from rapid prototyping and when others started to test using different materials. Many experiments were made, allowing a diverse range of 3D printing processes to be created. However, nobody in all those groups knew where all of this would transform over the future.

Creating this additive manufacturing innovation process allowed the evolution of the entire manufacturing world.

It all started with an idea

It is said that the first mention of such a process was made by Raymond F. Jones in his story, “Tools of the Trade.” A science fiction writer referred to the technology as a “molecular spray” in his story.

It was published in the November 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. 

Some ideas help the imagination for a story to develop, and others use it to create a breakthrough in technology, such as the case of Johannes F Gottwald, who in 1971, patented the Liquid Metal Recorder, better known as inkjet technology.

Later in 1974, David Edward Hugh Jones laid out the concept idea of 3D printing. 

The journey of additive manufacturing starts to unfold


In 1981, Dr. Hideo Kodama made a patent application for a rapid prototyping device. He is known as the first person to apply for a patent in which a laser beam resin curing system was described. His journey was cut short due to issues with funding, unable to complete the process before the one-year deadline.

Jean-Claude André, Olivier de Witte, and Alain le Méhauté were a group that put together their knowledge and merged it into a rapid prototyping device, trying to solve the issue of fabricating complex parts. In 1984 they had tried to patent their knowledge but had to abandon it due to a lack of funding.

Setting the additive manufacturing process for commercialization

The first commercially available rapid prototyping system was available in 1987, called SLA-1, and produced by 3Dsystems. But it was until 1988 that the first machine was sold due to repeated testing to guarantee precision. 

This was thanks to Charles W. Hull was given full support by the tabletop and furniture manufacturer he had been working with since 1984. Provided the base for funding and had his own lab for testing. Thanks to it, he was able to patent and start his own company in Valencia, California. Thus, 3D Systems was founded, and it is still one of the most important additive manufacturing companies.

Coming into SLS and FDM

While the SLA-1 was introduced, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) was patented by Carl Deckard. Thus, starting a new way of using additive manufacturing technology. Thanks to the support of Dr. Joe Beaman, a professor at UT-Austin, all the community around it backed the idea from the beginning, allowing it to flourish successfully.

FDM is the simplest and most common process nowadays, and it all started in the garage of Scott Crump. Scott wanted to create a toy for his son and ended up with the idea for the Fused Deposition Modeling. Thanks to his wife, they patented the technology in 1989 and founded Stratasys.

Going into the future

When additive manufacturing was invented is a long story to show due to the many layers it exists in additive manufacturing, from the type of materials to different machines, or if it was just the idea of it. However, the imagination and persistence of many who had financial support led to a revolution in the manufacturing industry.

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