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Say you're an engineer trying to make a new design for your company. Back in 1982 you would have to use wood or hundreds of different plastic models until you found the right design. However, you would have wasted hundreds of dollars in making the designs that would probably break and have to be remolded. Just be glad that in 1983 a man named Chuck Hull invented the first 3D printer using a technique called stereolithography.
Stereolithography is a process for creating three-dimensional objects using a computer-controlled laser to build up the required structure, layer by layer, from a liquid photopolymer that solidifies.
This process can and originally has taken hours, bigger versions have taken days to finish. But due to new designs and techniques they have been able to shorten that time by hours and minutes. Recently a man named Joseph DeSimone and a group of colleagues found a way to 3D print using light/air to print out strong parts quickly.