May 18, 2016, 2:25pm EDT Ken Elkins Senior Staff Writer Charlotte Business Journal
Rock Hill-based 3D Systems Corp. co-founder Chuck Hull is now in the history books. He has a plaque with his name on it as the inventor of 3D printing, thanks to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. This morning, the ASME named Hull’s SLA-1 3D printer a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, one of just two or three inventions or sites that get the honor each year. The ceremony was conducted in the 3D Systems headquarters before about 50 attending
Hull, 77, who is the chief technology officer at 3D Systems (NASDAQ: DDD), was honored to have his 1983 invention named an engineering landmark. “I tend to invent things,” he says, recalling his time at a California company, trying to convince the president that 3D printing will be the movement of the future. “No way,” Hull remembers the exec responding. “We don’t have the time or money for that.” Hull persevered and was able to cobble together a machine that made a green plastic cup-like object. 3D printing was born. Three years later, Hull co-founded 3D Systems. In 1987, he and others put together the SLA-1 printer, 3D Systems’ first printer sold commercially.
Bob Sims, past president of ASME, says the nomination for the group’s landmark program began two years ago. “Chuck represents the face of innovation,” he says.
Today, it’s the medical uses of his machines that bring tears to Hull’s eyes. Doctors used 3D printed figures of conjoined Egyptian twins to model how they would cut apart the youngsters in 2009. And there’s Beee, who lost his jaw and teeth to an explosion and was converted from a “curious kid to an invalid,” Hull says. Doctors used a 3D model of Beee’s face to visualize how they would convert a piece of his bone into a new jaw. A 3D printer also made drill and cutting guides to illustrate how the new jaw would be attached to his skull. Beee told Hull he remembered the result of the surgery as “when he got his smile back.”
3D Systems moved to Rock Hill in 2006 but Hull remains in his native California, where the company also keeps one of its R&D units.
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