3D printing or additive manufacturing is the construction of a three-dimensional object from a CAD model or a digital 3D model. It can be done in a variety of processes in which material is deposited, joined or solidified under computer control, with material being added together (such as plastics, liquids or powder grains being fused), typically layer by layer.
The earliest 3D printer originated in 1981, when Dr. Hideo Kodama invented one of the first rapid prototyping machines that created parts layer by layer, using a resin that could be polymerized by UV light. In 1986, the first patent for stereolithography (SLA) was filed by Chuck Hull, who is considered “the inventor of 3D printing” for creating and commercializing both SLA and the .stl format – the most common file type used for 3D printing.
The 1990s saw a great deal of growth for the early 3D printing industry, with new companies founded and new additive manufacturing technologies being explored. It wasn’t until 2006, however, that the first SLS printer became commercially available.
Since the rise of commercial 3D printers, the landscape of the industry has changed quite drastically. Now, 3D printers – both desktop and otherwise – are used in industries and sections such as aerospace, architecture, manufacturing, automotive, healthcare, construction – and, of course, many more.
In 2018, for example, the International Space Station printed the first tool in space, using a low-gravity 3D printer. This enabled workers to access the tools they needed for maintenance far more quickly, rather than waiting for them to be delivered from Earth.
3D printing technology also enables organizations like Gerhard Schubert GmbH to transform the ways in which they operate, creating "digital warehouses" of parts and tools that can be printed on-demand by both manufacturing organizations themselves, as well as their customers.
Exactly what the future holds for 3D printing is fairly speculative, but adoption of consumer 3D printers will likely continue to accelerate. This will change the way the average person acquires goods, placing the means of manufacturing into their hands, whether they are printing prototypes, tools, or end-use parts. The materials used in 3D printing will also continue to expand and evolve. The rise of printing metal, for example, is already unlocking applications and use cases previously thought impossible to achieve in ways other than traditional manufacturing methods.
According to Wikipedia – ultimaker.com