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The Genesis of Additive Manufacturing

The Genesis of Additive Manufacturing

Today, 3D printing is everywhere. In education and in business, 3D printing is fueling innovation like never before. However, when and how did the concept of 3D printing and additive manufacturing begin?

(Way) Back in Time

We must look as far back as the 1890’s in order to gain an accurate picture. In 1892, a mapmaker by the name of Joseph E. Blanther put forth a method of making topographical maps in his paper “Manufacture of Contour Relief Maps.” This method included utilizing pressure plates to press successively superimposed sections of map contours onto each other. This was the most primitive predecessor to the modern idea of Fused Filament Fabrication, an additive manufacturing technology.

Additive manufacturing reached another significant milestone in the early 1970s, when Ciraud introduced the idea of a powder deposition model. In this model, powder was laid down on a surface and then heated via laser until it melted. The particles of the material were then allowed to cool, thereby adhering to each other to form a solidified layer. Ross Householder expanded upon this idea when, in 1979, he utilized an idea similar to that of Ciraud’s. The technique Householder employed, however, was similar to selective laser sintering (SLS) as opposed to the selective laser melting (SLM) method proposed by Ciraud - the only difference being the degree to which the extruded material is heated.

Coming of Age

In the early 1980s, additive manufacturing reached an all new level with the help of computer aided design (CAD) software. With CAD, engineers and scientists were able to create virtual models of objects that could then be printed with the help of machines utilizing the mechanism of additive manufacturing. This process of using computer software to design a 3D object and then quickly manufacturing the object is known as rapid prototyping. One of the first rapidly prototyped objects was fabricated by Hideo Kodama of the Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute in 1982.

It wasn’t until 1984, that the first 3D printer was created using stereolithography, the method by which an ultraviolet laser is used to stack thin layers of polymer on top of one another, which then led to the notion of rapid prototyping. These technology advancements ushered in a new era of printers, including our own NVPro printer.

Now…and the Future

Today’s 3D printers are being utilized across numerous demographics and industries, with creations ranging from food, to prosthetic limbs to cars and homes. And we are still in the early stages!

While much has been written about the history of 3D printing, NVBOTS is proud to be able to make our own mark in history, through inspiring young innovators to take advantage of 3D printing, allowing them to ultimately create their own historic breakthroughs!