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

From: Jim McMahon <>
Date: Sun, 19 Feb 2017 05:35:28 -0500


The era of the 70's and 80's was during the introduction of the personal
computer to the world. Computers were designed to manipulate data when
first invented. These were numerical calculators and had nothing to do with
3D printing. As a matter of fact printing had been around for ever before
computers were introduced but it wasn't until printing became automated,
first mechanically and then using matrix printers that printing was
associated with computers. Television were introduced in the 1920's but was
not more common until the 1940's. Displaying text on televisions (teletext)
began in the 1970's. Teletext is the display of characters and shapes on a
TV screen. But the Teletype industry had been displaying text on TV's long
before this. I would guess it was back to the 50's. My point is that text
was first printed and then displayed. Shapes were displayed next. But
printing started out with mechanical English character printing and then to
other language characters and eventually to 2D shapes which led to 3D
graphics images in 1961 at Boeing. The next local step was to print complex
shapes in 2D first and then in 3D. It is hard to imagine it took until 1988
for Terry Wholer's to be the first to say or write 3D printing.
I propose that the idea of 3D printing emerged from the printing industry
that printed characters with inks that didn't soak into the medium were
first to discuss it. In the 1950's continuous inkjet printing was
introduced. In 1958 electrostatic deflection of inkjet droplets to allow
the formation of characters was invented. Magnetic core memory was used to
store character bit data and many characters were defined for printing. The
US government had the need for printed material that could be easily
erased. Teletype printers were invented in 1908 but it wasn't until 1966
the first inkjet Teletype printer, the Inktronic was introduced. It printed
full page documents with solid wax inks (Teletype patent # 3715219) that
had to be heated to achieve inkjet viscosity. These printers printed
multiple character font text on paper and there were complaints when
Braille was printed that the characters came off the paper. Let's call them
3D braille characters because by their very nature that had to be touch
sensitive. This was in the mid 1960's. I think some research needs to done
to find documentation to support this idea that 3D printing began in the
1960's, before computers and using bit mapped data. I think I will ask Ed
Sharpe at SMECC.
He wrote this:

*Ed Sharpe Asks:* The Inktronic ..... is there a good concise history on it
out there!?!?
> it is reputed to be the predecessor to all ink stream/jet printers
> Thanks Ed Sharpe archivist for SMECC

 *Jim Haynes tell us: *Well, not really, because the principle of
operation of the Inktronic is completely different from that of all the
later ink jet printers.

It was invented by Chuck Winston, who had the idea of electrostatically
deflecting droplets of ink to draw characters on paper. The first patent
is 3,060,429 filed for in May 1958 and issued in October 1962. This
shows the principle using one nozzle writing on a moving paper tape. I
saw that demonstrated in the summer of 1958. If there had been a market
for a high speed tape printer it might have been a real winner.

By the early 1960s there was a demonstration model of a page printer
which used a magnetic core memory to store the bit patterns. The
demonstration model was housed in a big wooden cube and had the ability
to print Japanese as well as Roman. I'm not sure where this was shown,
but places like the Armed Forces Communications-Electronics Assn.
conventions are likely. This used 40 nozzles to print 80 columns on
8 1/2" wide paper.

In the same time AT&T had a contract for what was called Long Lines
Project 176. This was a communication system for a government agency
that involved 100 WPM TTY, 2400 WPM TTY and facsimile, all encrypted
and the stations installed in secret locations. The high speed ASR
set provided for transmission and reception on paper tape and printing
using Inktronic printers. Magnetic core memories were used to hold
the character patterns for the printers. The sets were extensively
RF shielded and also shielded for sound emanations. Deliveries started
perhaps in late 1966. The printers caused considerable hair-tearing -
they pretty much had to be hand-tweaked to get acceptable printing.
One problem was that droplets came out of the nozzles in different
sizes, so that the deflection sensitivity varied from one droplet to
the next. The ink had to be heated to a certain temperature to control
its viscosity.

In the same time frame Hewlett-Packard produced a strip chart recorder
using electrostatic deflection of ink; but only in one dimension. I
believe H-P used ultrasonic pulsing on the ink supply to help produce
more uniform droplet size.

The commercial Inktronic was under development as the 176 project was
winding up. This was to be limited to 1200 wpm and used a magnetic
core read-only memory to hold the character patterns. The main product
was a receive-only printer, but a very few KSR sets were produced.
These used the same keyboard as the Model 37/38, another disgrace to
have such a crummy keyboard in such an expensive machine.

These printers used 40 nozzles to print 80 columns. The same deflection
voltages were applied to all 40 positions in parallel, with a valving
electrode selecting which nozzle was to print at any time. On the whole
they worked well when first put into service and went downhill from there.
Paper dust would accumulate on the electrodes - naturally, since there
were high voltages to attract the particles. Nozzles would get clogged.
It was an exacting job to clean nozzles and deflection electrodes without
damaging them. Maybe someone who worked on these machines in Bell System
service can tell us more about the maintenance issue.

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 Sun Feb 19 2017 - 12:35:58 EET

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