Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing technology was created in 1982 and would go on to become the first 3D printing process to ever be commercialized. Created by Charles Hull, co-founder of 3D Systems, SLA printing has now grown to become the most precise 3D printing technology available today. In 1987, the first 3D printing system, known as the SLA-1, was produced. To commemorate Hull’s revolutionary invention, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has honored Hull and his colleagues with its 261st Historical Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

3D Printing: The Machine that Started It All

The Historical Mechanical Engineering Landmark commemorates the 1st 3D printer ever produced.

Stereolithography (SLA) printers transform liquid raw material into solids through the use of light. Because SLA prints don’t normally need struts or supports, these printers have various advantages in terms of accuracy, efficiency and the capability to produce complex objects in a single pass.

According to Jeff Kerns of Machine Design Magazine, “SLA is a photopolymerization process in which a build tray is submerged 0.002 to 0.006 in. (0.05 to 0.15 mm) in a basin of liquid photosensitive material (see below). This depth can vary based on laser strength, material, or tolerance desired. A UV laser (not lamp) solidifies one slice of the part onto the build tray. The tray then submerges another 0.002 to 0.006 in., and the laser solidifies the next slice of the part. The thickness of the layers can affect the quality of print and tolerances. An industry average tolerance is around 3.9 × 10-3in. (0.1 mm). The laser travels the entire path of the part’s cross-section as it builds up each layer, so speed becomes an important consideration.”

The Original SLA Printer, created by Charles Hull.

Since the creation of SLA technology, the process has grown greatly to create vast capabilities. 3D printing is one of the most effective aides to the manufacturing process, and many companies across the world have begun to adopt this powerful technology. 3D Systems 3D printers remain as industry leading 3D printing products. Recently, 3D Systems released a video highlighting the future of 3D printing technology:

Want to Learn More About 3D Printers?