APS Plastics & Manufacturing Blog

The History of 3D Printing

The technology of 3D printing is a rapidly expanding field, capable of amazing things. With our friends at 3D Print Western we would like to introduce you to the technology, history, various applications, and current industries using 3D printing. Here is Part One (1) of a two blog series on this topic. Keep on the lookout next week for more!

Today we will cover the overview and history of 3D printing…


At its core, 3D printing is really layer by layer, additive manufacturing.

Engineers create a 3D digital model of the object to be manufactured, and then use a printer to transform that computer-based design into a physical object by “printing” microscopically-thin layers of material. As the layers gradually stack up millimeter by millimeter, the object is slowly but surely brought to life.

Unlike traditional manufacturing techniques (machining, casting, molding, shaving, assembling, etc.) that require the subtraction of material to create a finished product, there is no waste in 3D Printing. No scrap metal to recycle. No wood shavings throw out. No plastic molds to dispose of. Nothing. The material needed is the material used.


The story of 3D printing starts in the decade of hair-metal and the Edmonton Oilers, Stanley Cup dominance—the 1980s—when a man named Chuck Hull (co-founder of 3D Systems Corporation) successfully secured the first patent for a stereolithography apparatus (SLA). Hull’s SLA patent was quickly followed by Carl Deckard’s patent for Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and Scott Crump’s patent for Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM). These three patents can really be considered the three original pillars of 3D Printing. 

history of 3d printing - pillars of 3d printing - blog image - 2.jpg

Fast-forward through the 1990s and early 2000s, and slam on the breaks in 2007 when the cost of a commercially available 3D printer finally dipped below $10,000. This was the moment the idea of available, scalable, and consumer-ready 3D printers stopped being a fantasy and started becoming a reality.  Since 2007, the 3D Printing industry has continued to evolve (and evolve significantly), but we’ll save that conversation for another day.  

Stay tuned… next week we will release Part Two (2) of this two blog series covering various applications and current industries using 3D printing. 


Are you an industrial procurement professional looking for a precision machining shop specializing in plastics? If so, APS Plastics & Manufacturing would like to meet you! Click here for a complimentary needs analysis to see how well we can work together in a customer – supplier relationship.

Request a Complimentary Needs Analysis


Topics: Insider plastic 3d printing technology