First Commercial 3D Printer Named an ASME Landmark

June 3, 2016

ASME Immediate Past President J. Robert Sims (left) presents the ASME landmark plaque to Charles Hull of 3D Systems during the SLA-1 3D Printer landmark designation ceremony in Rock Hill, S.C. (Photo courtesy of 3D Systems)

The SLA-1 3D Printer, the first commercial rapid prototyping system, was recently designated as an ASME Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark. The stereolithographic apparatus (SLA), which was introduced by 3D Systems Inc. in 1987, was recognized for its historical significance during a ceremony held May 18 at 3D Systems’ headquarters in Rock Hill, S.C.

Fifty-five people, including 3D Systems staff and members of the ASME Piedmont-Carolina Section, attended the landmark dedication ceremony, which recognized both the SLA for its transformational impact on engineering manufacturing, and its creator, Charles Hull of 3D Systems, for his contributions to the 3D printing field. Also representing ASME at the event were ASME Immediate Past President J. Robert Sims, who presented the landmark plaque to Hull, and Terry Reynolds, member of the ASME History and Heritage Committee. Vyomesh “VJ” Joshi, the new CEO of 3D Systems, also spoke during the ceremony.

ASME Immediate Past President J. Robert Sims addresses the audience at the landmark designation ceremony. (Photo by Wil Haywood, ASME Public Information)

Hull, the co-founder of 3D Systems Inc., is the acknowledged inventor of the solid imaging process known as stereolithography, the first commercial 3D printing technology. With the founding of 3D Systems in 1986, he launched the 3D printing industry and continues to lead it today as 3D Systems’ chief technology officer.

Invented by Hull in 1983 as a rapid prototyping system that would photopolymer resins layer-by-layer using UV lasers, the SLA was developed as a means to shorten the manual prototyping and design verification processes in use at that time. By building parts one layer at a time, 3D printing has since become an increasingly popular way to produce complex geometries with improvements to functional efficiency and reduced material costs.

J. Robert Sims (second from right), ASME immediate past president, and Charles Hull with the SLA-1 3D Printer. (Photo courtesy of 3D Systems)

“It’s a great honor for 3D Systems, and for me personally, to receive recognition by ASME for our original technology,” Hull said. “Although I expected 3D printing to be embraced by manufacturers, I never could have anticipated how widespread 3D printing is today, or the types of things that people are doing with it. For the past 30 years, we have had the distinct pleasure of watching our innovation spur more innovation, and we are excited to continue to shape the future.”

For more information on the ASME Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmarks Program, and to see the complete list of ASME landmarks, visit