Re: Who coined the term "3D printing"?

From: Jim McMahon <>
Date: Wed, 15 Feb 2017 10:44:36 -0500

Hi Marshall:

It is interesting to know that the term printing is normally associated
with the process of putting material on a surface for reading. There was a
lot of activity in the 60's-80's using inkjet for printing. In the 1960's
wax was used in inkjets for military printing of documents that could be
heated to easily melt the text. It was called Project 176. A Teletype
Inktronic printer was manufactured in Skokie, Ill by AT&T, a Teletype
Division in 1966. Alphanumeric s as well as graphics could be printed. The
Inkjets were continuous jetting and over 200 of built were made at the
time. One was recently sold on Ebay to a collector. These were sent around
the world to US military sites. The printing was sometimes printed over
itself a few times and the letters stood off the page. Braille printing
(raised bumps) was experimented with by Teletype but the wax peeled off the
paper and the Braille project was dropped. This was all prior to the 1970's
and then in 1972 Steve Zoltan invented the drop-on-demand inkjet. Exxon
Office Systems began in 1978 with Steve Zoltan hired to produce a printer
with his glass jets. Wax inks were patented and improvements were made to
inkjet printers. Howtek, Inc started in 1984 by Robert Howard who wanted to
go even further. The glass jet was molded in Teflon and Thermoplastic inks
were developed. These same style inkjets and modified thermoplastic
materials are in use today in Solidscape printers. This technology was the
basis for the Helinski (worked at Howtek) patent of two material three
dimensional printing with removable support. This first support patent in
the industry, was applied for in November 1989, was licensed by other
companies for years who needed to print true 3D models . The prototype
machine, the Sculptor, designed to demonstrate this patent and the prior
art of inkjet printers can all be seen at Layer Grown Models inkjet
printer collection in New Hampshire.
It should be pointed out that any research into early 3D printing seldom
lists this Drop-On-Demand inkjet technology as being involved with 3D
models even though it is described by me as the oldest true 3D printing
technology. It is used today by many industries, mostly jewelry, where
precise models can be produced, support removed with no grinding and then
cast into metal using the investment casting process that has been around
for 100's of years. Customers of mine still say there is no better
technology available today. I still have an original, 1994 Sanders
Prototype inkjet printer installed today in USA, running and I have inkjets
still working with Teflon nozzles made in Japan in 1985-86.
I am suggesting 3D printing originated with the inkjet printing industry
and and is still the most popular to this day. This term 3D printing has
been borrowed by others because of association with printers. To say there
are concrete 3D printers is makes me cringe. I am in favor of the term
Additive Manufacturing Technology. Extrusion model forming without support
is actually 2.5D printing as some have described it. A question that comes
to me is, did true 3D printing originate with STL files, Stereo-lithography
or inkjets using wax and thermoplastic inks. In the printing industry,
raised printed characters were well known in the 1960's but it took
computers to describe the a 3D model and that was done with HPGL graphics
thanks to the video gaming industry. CADD programs finally caught on much
later. The only thing left was to be able to control deposits of material
in tiny locations for making an object. Inkjets were developed in the 50'5
and 60's, light cured films, resins and epoxies appeared and the computer
graphics industry was involved to describe shapes. Actually, the machine
control programming industry wrote programs to direct tools to perform
operations. This same machine programming language was used in Exxon Office
Systems to print characters on paper for years. Howtek used a modified
version to define character fonts for printing words. The need to make
color characters required printing CMYK inks precisely in layers or near
each other to form letters or images and this was prior art for 3D
printing. To make a green character model you needed a group of drops of
cyan and of yellow precisely on top of each other. This is 2.5D model
printing. The 3D two material patent originating form Howtek was a natural
coming from a color inkjet printing technology company but required the 3rd
component of 3D printing, support. Without support you have no true 3D
printing. Support defines 3D printing. The concept originated with color
inkjet printing in 1984 at Howtek, Inc. Supported inkjet printing did not
originate until 1989. But the term "3D Printing" appears to have come from
Terry Wohlers in 1988 even though he was describing 2.5D printing in those

On Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 5:34 PM, Marshall Burns <>

> Hi RP World,
> I used to think that the term “3D printing” originated at
> MIT for describing their process that was later commercialized by Soligen
> and Z Corp. Elly Sachs wrote a paper about the process that was published
> in June 1990 with the title, “Three-Dimensional Printing: Ceramic tooling
> and parts from a CAD model.” In my 1993 book, I applied the term only to
> that technology.
> However, I have now become aware of two earlier uses of
> the term:
> * Terry Wohlers wrote an article for the May 1988 issue of
> “Computer Graphics World” with the title, “3d printing: From CADD model to
> prototype.”
> * Norman Kinzie has told me in recent correspondence that
> he coined the term and used it in the title of a document he distributed in
> early 1988 or in 1987. My records show a document by Kinzie with the title
> “introduction to: Three-Dimensional Printing” and dated June 2, 1988.
> Unfortunately, I no longer have the paper files with that document. In any
> cases, it is dated after Wohler’s article. Kinzie tells me that he has in
> his possession an earlier version of the document, dated April 27, 1988,
> and that he believes there were versions prior to that but that he cannot
> find them at this time. Since magazines usually come out in advance of
> their cover dates, it is likely that Wohler’s article was on shelves prior
> to the earliest available date of Kinzie’s document.
> According to the above, it appears that the earliest known
> use of the term “3D printing” was by Terry Wohlers. Does anyone have any
> information to either support or refute that?
> Regards,
> Marshall
Received on Wed Feb 15 2017 - 17:45:06 EET

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