Chuck Hull – creator of 3D printing technology, awarded by Joe Biden with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Last week, on October 24, 2023, US President Joe Biden led a ceremony honoring selected pioneers in science and technology. The ceremony was devoted to the awarding of the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Among the awarded scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs was Charles “Chuck” Hull – the creator of stereolithography (SLA) – the first additive technology in the world, as well as the founder of 3D Systems – the first company producing additive machines, which we all know today as 3D printers.

The United States awards the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation as two of the highest honors given to individuals for their outstanding contributions to science and technology. This year’s ceremony honored a diverse group of inventors and innovators for their groundbreaking achievements.

Hull received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for two reasons – in addition to inventing and patenting the incremental method itself, his solution created a completely new industry. Hull, who is commonly called the “father of 3D printing”, has allowed for significant improvements in production processes as well as democratized design and production, enabling companies large and small to enter a level of production of objects and parts that was previously impossible due to the high costs of entering a given field. sector. Hull also played a key role in developing and introducing the .STL file format, which is still one of the industry standards.

During the ceremony, the White House praised Hull for supporting innovation and improving manufacturing, highlighting his key role in shaping the country’s economic and technological landscape. Hull’s contributions have been instrumental in placing the United States at the forefront of the global 3D printing arena, making the U.S. one of the global leaders in this market. His induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2016 placed him alongside other leading inventors and innovators such as Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs.

Although Hull is widely considered the creator of additive technology, which he patented in 1984, it is worth mentioning that he was not the first person in the world to work on this solution. Conceptual work on additive manufacturing dates back to the 1970s, and one of them even received a patent…

In 1971, the Frenchman Pierre A. L. Ciraud described a method of producing products with any geometry by adding material in the form of powder, using an energy source for this purpose. It was published on July 5, 1973 and laid the foundations for the technology known today as SLS (selective laser sintering). Six years later, on December 3, 1979, American Ross F. Housholder submitted a patent application for three methods of layer-forming products by bonding them with various types of materials. The methods were called “molding process” and used sand to build three-dimensional models. The patent was published in January 1981, but was never commercialized or even brought to the testing phase due to lack of financial resources.

In the early 1980s, the Japanese Hideo Kodama developed a method very similar to stereolithography, but he was unable to patent it because in Japan the condition for obtaining a patent was the creation of a functional demonstrator. Nevertheless, Kodama’s work was so advanced that in 1988, DuPont, one of 3D Systems’ main rivals on the emerging 3D printing scene, had Hull’s stereolithography patent rejected, accusing him of plagiarism. Ultimately, Hull won the case in court and retained his status as inventor.


Paweł Ślusarczyk
CEO of 3D Printing Center. Has over 15 years' experience in buisiness, gained in IT, advertising and polygraphy. Part of 3D printing industry since 2013.

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