while since 1984 here is an extract from 'explainingthefuture.com' by Christopher
“3D printing is an additive technology in which objects are built up in a great many
very thin layers. The first commercial 3D printer was based on a technique called
stereolithography. This was invented by Charles Hull in 1984. Stereolithographic 3D
printers (known as SLAs or stereolithography apparatus) position a perforated platform
just below the surface of a vat of liquid photopolymer. A UV laser beam then traces the
first slice of an object on the surface of this liquid, causing a very thin layer of
photopolymer to harden. The perforated platform is then lowered very slightly and
another slice is traced out and hardened by the laser. Another slice is then created,
and then another, until a complete object has been printed and can be removed from
the vat of photopolymer, drained of excess liquid, and cured. Stereolithographic printers
remain one of the most accurate types of hardware for fabricating 3D output, with a
minimum build layer thickness of only 0.06mm (0.0025 of an inch).”
Since the early days it could be cost effective to use expensive #3DPrinting in the processes for making the moulds used by mass production injection moulding machines, where the unit costs are usually very small.
#3DPrinting is also used for rapid prototyping of new or redesigned components; and is common in many manufacturing and design processes to check aesthetics or suitability of fit in final assemblies, before committing to mass production.
From a different perspective any use of CNC and Robotic arm could be seen as a form of #3DPrinting; what is different about today’s hi-tech #3DPrinters is the flexibility to precision manufacture efficiently, very complex designs in many types of materials. One such printer is the EnvisionTEC 3D Printer...