20 Years of Apress: Experts Look Back on 20 Years of 3D Printing

Apress is officially 20 years old. To celebrate, we're featuring blog posts by authors from Apress' past and present to get their valuable insights into both how their industry has changed and what they predict for the future.

Special Guest Post by 3D Printing Authors Joan Horvath & Rich Cameron

You might have read the title of this post and thought, “But 3D printing has only been around for the last 10 years or so!” However, the technology dates back to the 1980s. Until the mid-2000s, however, it was an expensive technology, covered by key patents and available only in the form of large machines aimed at the industrial user. However, as these patents ran out, the RepRap (self-replicating rapid prototyping) Project was born.

Adrian Bowyer, a professor in England, thought: what if I use my expensive machine to create a much smaller machine that can replicate itself? He went on to design the Reprap Darwin, a 3D printer built from parts that it could print, plus a few parts that you can buy in any hardware store. He put the parts out open source so that anyone could modify them. In the early days, you found a set of parts somehow, created your machine, then created some parts so the next people could make theirs, and so on.

The early machines were named after evolutionists – Darwin, Mendel, Wallace.  Rich developed the Wallace in 2011 with an eye to reducing the part count so that it would be easier to get your first set. Two years later, he prototyped what became the Deezmaker Bukito, a successful Kickstarter project. You can see two printers designed by Rich in the photo. It’s amazing to think that only two years separate the two!

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Twenty years ago, it would have been almost impossible to imagine that there would be fierce competition in sub-$200 consumer 3D printers, and that many schools would have one. We’ve written two books of 3D printable science projects for Apress, and you can design your own plant (like the white flower in the image) or airplane wing and make it real with some plastic and a magical little machine.

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Where will the next 20 years take us? 3D printing buildings and replacement human organs both seem to be on the horizon--but the humble home printer will likely still be out there. Check it out and see what you can do!

Image credits: Joan Horvath & Rich Cameron

About the Authors

Joan Horvath and Rich Cameron have written 7 books for Apress, including Mastering 3D Printing in the Classroom, Library and Lab. You can read more about them on their website, https://www.nonscriptum.com