History of stereolithography

Stereolithography is a 3D printing technology that is relatively old and very widespread. It is an additive manufacturing technique used to create prototypes.

Invention of stereolithography

Stereolithography was invented to allow engineers to create prototype parts quickly.

The first version of this additive manufacturing technology was introduced in the 1970s with the work of Japanese researcher Dr. Hideo Kodama. He invented a layered printing technique using ultraviolet light to cure photosensitive polymers. On July 16, 1984, three weeks before the American Chuck Hull filed his patent, the Frenchmen Alain Le Mehaute, Olivier de Witte and Jean-Claude André filed a patent for the process of stereolithography. However, that application was abandoned.

Patenting of the stereolithography process

The term “stereolithography” was developed in 1986 by Chuck Hull when he patented the process. He defined this technology as a method of creating 3D objects by successively printing thin layers cured by ultraviolet light. In the same year, Hull founded the first 3D printing company, 3D Systems Inc., to market his patent.


Chuck Hull

Operation of 3D printing by stereolithography

Hull defined stereolithography as a method of creating 3D objects by successive printing of thin layers, using a material curable under ultraviolet light. A concentrated beam of ultraviolet light is applied to the surface of the liquid photopolymer to dry and cure the prototypes.

Stereolithography uses 3D drawings and software like all other rapid prototyping technologies. However, the 3D files must define the geometry of the parts but also the different layers to be printed.

The development of stereolithography over time

Stereolithography developed rapidly in the automotive industry initially. This allowed 3D printing to achieve strong credibility in its early launch. It subsequently developed in other fields such as medicine and construction. It continues to innovate by offering new uses in many fields. However, this technology is very limited compared to traditional prototyping techniques. Indeed, many companies are reluctant to equip themselves with 3D machines. They are generally expensive and difficult to operate.

If you want comprehensive information on creating your 3D printing project, discover our skills in stereolithography SLA for the production of plastic prototypes.

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