More than 23 years before MakerBot Industries opened the first 3-D printing store in the U.S., Popular Science got very, very excited about stereolithography, the first 3-D printing process. “There’s an almost magical quality to stereolithography, a process that can coalesce liquid polymers into dazzlingly complex solid structures in a matter of hours,” PopSci wrote in May 1989. We predicted that, before long, 3-D printers would let surgeons fabricate models of human bones and help automakers quickly create new car-body shapes.
The invention of California engineer Charles Hull, stereolithography was then being used by Apple Computer to make models of the plastic housings for its computer equipment. Hull’s company, 3D Systems, had just released its second-generation stereolithography machine, which could make parts measuring up to 10 inches in each dimension.