I have realized that there is a lot of misinformation and confusion
about the origins of 3d printing using photocurable resins. I have
prepared the following to generate some debate and perhaps dispell some
of the myths surrounding this technology.
The Father of an Industry
When I first began working on 3D printing utilizing photo-curable
resins, I felt very smug and proud that I was the first person in the
world to think of and invent such a machine. The initial demonstration
of my proof of concept model was to a small group including a high
ranking engineer with Rockwell who was very instrumental in the design
and building of the B-2 bomber. His first comment, upon demonstration of
my machine, was that a small company in California has already developed
and commercialized such a device. He subsequently sent literature on the
west coast machine. At that point I realized that I was definitely not
the first person in the world to think of this idea, and, more than
likely, there were several others who had worked on this idea as well.
I decided not to invest additional funds in the development of the
machine until I could establish a sound patent position. During the
literature research phase, my staff and I soon discovered what I had
suspected—that others had worked on this idea long before the founder of
the California company had left DuPont to begin his quest of this idea.
Among the early developers of 3D printing with photo-curable resins was
Otto John Muntz. His concept, referred to as "photo-glyph recording" was
first introduced into the public domain upon the expiration of his U.S.
patent 2,775,758 in 1973. In 1981, a Japanese researcher by the name of
Hideo Kodama, published an article concerning his research on the
concept of 3D printing entitled Automatic method for fabricating a
three-dimensional plastic model with photo-hardening polymer (1981
American Institute of Physics) in which he discussed fabricating solid
models by stacking cross-sectional layers of photo-hardening polymer. In
1982, Allen Herbert, of 3M company, published an article, Solid Object
Generation (Journal of Applied Photographic Engineering, Vol. 8, No. 4,
Aug. 1982), in which he discussed using a laser beam to selectively
solidify a photo-polymer to sketch and stack cross-sectional layers to
create a three-dimensional object.
During our research, we collected over 5000 pages of documents
pertaining to this 3D printing process. By that time, we had accumulated
enough research and established a sound patent position that we were
able to begin developing and commercializing my version of the 3D
printer using photo-curable resins, the AAROFLEX Solid Imager™.
When we began commercialization of the Solid Imager, we had every
document known to us in the world on the subject except for one patent
document by Frenchmen E. Luzy and C. Dupuis. The French patent 461,600,
established in 1912, discussed the concept of using light to create
objects. Recently, a source of this information was provided, and we
were able, to the best of our knowledge, complete our research on all
available patents and articles on the subject.
I was certain that Muntz could be considered the father of this
technology, however, with the newly available information on turn of the
century research, it may well be that the Frenchmen, Luzy and Dupuis,
are the fathers of this technology. Of course, I would much prefer to
believe in the old-fashioned American ingenuity as the creator of this
concept. However, I do not believe, after my extensive research, that
the west coast gentleman could be considered the father of this 3D
printing technology. He is simply, as am I, the founder of an enterprise
utilizing this technology.
This reminds me of the German physicist, Wilhelm Roentgen who discovered
X-rays in 1895. Although Professor Roentgen discovered X-rays, it was
the Siemens Company that first commercialized this technology. The
question remains: Was Professor Roentgen the father of the technology or
was it Siemens?
Albert C. Young, Jr., P.E.
8550 Lee Highway, Suite 525, Fairfax, VA 22031
703.573.0690 fax 703.849.1206
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