It’s hard to believe, but 3D printing has been around for almost 40 years. From Hideo Kodama’s vision for a rapid-prototyping system to the invention of the Darwin 3D printer, this video highlights the major milestones in the 3D-printing timeline that have brought the technology to where it is today.

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[Video Transcript]

What’s almost 40 years old but looks brand new?

Believe it or not, it’s 3D printing.

It all began in 1981 with a man named Hideo Kodama. 

Kodama’s vision for a functional rapid-prototyping system kick-started a revolution. 

It paved the way for a solid, printed model that could be built in layers and Charles Hull’s invention of stereolithography, which let designers create 3D models using digital data.

The secret? An acrylic-based material known as photopolymer that turned to plastic under a laser beam and allowed inventors to prototype their designs without the costs. 

In 1992, Hull debuted his stereolithographic apparatus. 

While it was still only achievable on an industrial scale, its potential was undeniable. 

In 1999, the first 3D-printed organ was implanted in humans. 

And incredible medical advancements followed. 

In 2005, the RepRap Project launched a 3D printer known as Darwin, which could build itself and print its own parts.

Suddenly, people everywhere had the power to create anything. 

And mass customization flourished. 

Startups began to thrive.

Objet built a machine that could print in multiple materials at once. 

Today, 3D printers are cheaper than ever, and their accuracy has improved. 

The ability to 3D print nearly anything is becoming a reality.

It begs the question: What will the future bring? 

2017 brought the first 3D-printed ship propeller.  

Objects can be created the width of human hair.

And NASA’s zero-gravity 3D printer creates everything from food to rocket parts.

So only time will tell.

But one thing’s for certain: 3D printing is just getting started.

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