You'd probably be surprised to find out that 3D printing has been around for decades. Yes, decades! Though a lot of buzz has surrounded 3D printing as of late, the first somewhat functional 3D printer prototype was built back in 1984. This year, the printer's inventor, Charles Hull, is being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
In the U.S. Patent Office's eyes, this puts Hull up there with inventors like Thomas Edison, Jobs/Woz, the Wright Brothers, Einstein, and Eli Whitney.
As Greg Kumparak of techcrunch.com reported earlier this week, Hull had a realization in 1984: if you pointed a highly focused UV light at a special, goopy material (referred to as a "
photopolymer"), the material would instantly turn solid wherever the light would touch. If you did this repeatedly, layer by layer, you could essentially "print" an object into existence. Cue the gospel choir: Hull dubbed the process "stereolithography," and 3D printing was born.
It's not surprising that 3D printing has come a long way since 1984. New techniques combined with easier-to-use software and cheaper hardware have made objects printed much stronger. And as advancements continue to happen, Hull finds himself in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Other inductees include Frances H. Arnold; Richard DiMarchi; Mildred Dresselhaus; Ashok Gadgil; Howard Aiken, Benjamin Durfee, Frank Hamilton, and Clair Lake; George Antheil and Hedy Lamarr; William Bowerman; Otis Boykin; David Crosthwait; and Willis Whitfield.
All of the inductees will be honored during a special Induction Ceremony scheduled to take place on May 21 at the U.S. Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). At that same time, The National Inventors Hall of Fame will unveil the new National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum located on the USPTO campus.