What Was the First 3D Printed Object Created?

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably interested in the exciting world of 3D printing. Its recent rise has lead to the printing technique being introduced into many different industries including healthcare, sport, automotives and construction. But do you know what the first ever 3D printed object created by a 3D printer was? Read on as all will be revealed!

It Was an Eye Wash Cup

Sorry to ruin the surprise so early on (we were equally as amazed that it wasn’t something more impressive!) but the first ever 3D printed object was in fact an Eye Wash Cup. In March 1983, an American named Chuck Hull invented and patented the first 3D printer and subsequently, created a 3D printed eye washing cup. The process differed a little from the more modern 3D printing methods of today, as the shape of the cup was formed using a pool of liquid photopolymer that hardened when in contact of a laser. This was achieved by using a sunken platform in the liquid which would lower itself deeper down into the liquid as layers started to form. As the layers continued to be created, this then developed the finally formed object once it was taken out of the photopolymer liquid.

3D Printed Eye Wash Cup

Interestingly, the original creation of the 3D printed Eye Wash Cup is still owned by the Hull family, with Chuck Hull’s wife, Mrs. Hull, stating that she may look to donating it to the Smithsonian in the future. The first 3D printer is still on display to this day in the Inventor’s Hall of Fame in Alexandria, Virginia alongside a 3D replica bust of its creator, Chuck Hull.

But Is There a Twist?

Here’s something you might not know – Chuck Hull may NOT actually be the first inventor of 3D printing! As shocking as the statement sounds, a look in the history books points to the discovery of RP technology (Rapid Prototyping) happening in May 1980 instead. A Japanese Lawyer by the name of Dr. Hideo Kodama, was the first person to file a patent for RP technology, a term now replaced by 3D printing. So why is he not acknowledged as 3D printing’s original creator? Well, it turns out that Kodama was unable to file the full patent requirements successfully before the deadline expired (a full year). Awkwardly, Dr. Kodama was a renowned patent lawyer, so this error was disastrous to his career soon after!

And There’s More!

After the failure of Dr. Hideo Kodama’s foray into 3D printing, the technology was picked up by a French team of engineers in the four years that followed. Despite their keen enthusiasm for both Rapid Prototyping technology and the Stereolithography printing process, they decided to abandon any further research. It’s said this was due to an unfortunate lack of interest from those in the business world. This meant that the venture wouldn’t be profitable. Shortly after this, a keen entrepreneur by the now familiar name of Chuck Hull picked up from where they had left off and the rest as they say became history!

Hideo Kodama

So next time you start a 3D print or read about a brand new discovery in the 3D printing industry, spare a thought for poor Dr. Hideo Kodama, the original inventor of the 3D printer that can’t claim his rightful title due to a silly admin error!

Sam Rose