Inventor Story: Chuck Hull & 3D Printing


The father of 3D printing could not have known that his invention would grant future generations access to unlimited opportunities. Chuck Hull, like many inventors, developed a creation that innovators would continue to improve upon and use as inspiration to solve emerging problems.

Over 30 years ago, the production of plastic prototypes was arduous and time-consuming, which could slow the development of product designs by up to two months. Hull began observing his employer’s process of applying plastic veneers on furniture with UV light. Identifying his own frustrations with prototyping, he used his knowledge of current technologies to develop a solution.

Hull theorized that it would be possible to layer plastic and manipulate its form using light in order to create three-dimensional objects. After a year of experimentation, he invented the method of stereolithography, or the process of tracing and reproducing layers of an object using photopolymer, which hardens under light.

Hull went on to patent his method and found his company 3D Systems, which continues to offer commercial 3D printing products to manufacturers like General Motors. Three decades later, subsequent innovators have developed Hull’s technology further to increase efficiency and diversify materials and outcomes.

Hull’s story is a familiar one—the common man identifies a kink in a process and uses foundational knowledge and a lot of creativity to develop groundbreaking technology as a solution. Then, he releases it to the world of emerging thinkers who shape and refine it to suit a rapidly changing world.

Pay attention, dream a lot, and get to work. Today’s idea is tomorrow’s global impact.