We’ve learned of an unfortunate loss of one of the founding members of the 3D print universe: Carl Deckard passed away on December 23, 2019.
You may not have heard of Deckard, but he’s the person who invented the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printing process, way back in 1984. From his obituary, posted at Legacy.com:
“During a summer internship, Carl started to think about a new invention: a way to fabricate parts directly from drawings by using a laser to fuse together powder in the shape of the part and building up the piece, layer by layer. By his senior year in 1984, he decided that he wanted to work on this idea for his Master’s degree at UT.
He approached a number of professors who told him why his idea would not work, but he ultimately found Dr. Joe Beaman, a young assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering, who supported his idea and agreed to mentor him in his graduate studies. Together they developed the process that became known as Selective Laser Sintering, one of the earliest and most enduring forms of additive manufacturing (commonly called 3D printing). The result of his Master’s project was a Selective Laser Sintered plastic cube within another plastic cube. “
Deckard commercialized the concept by launching Desk Top Manufacturing (DTM) Corp three years later, in 1987. That company was acquired by 3D Systems in 2001, where they still sell large, industrial SLS equipment.
You can place Deckard among the initial three developers of the technology, along with Scott Crump, whose filament extrusion process became known as FDM and powered Stratasys, and Chuck Hull, whose laser-powered photo polymerization process became known as SLA and launched 3D Systems. All three were created in the 1980s.
Deckard is not the only notable leader in the space to be lost recently. Only a few months ago we learned of the passing of Rene Gurka, founder of BigRep.
Both of these losses are a reminder to all that this technology is not new; 1984 is now 36 years in the past, literally a generation gone by. As time continues to pass, so too will the individuals involved.
Many people practicing 3D printing today were not even alive when the technology was first invented. Whether they know it or not, their work depends on the efforts of Deckard and other all those years ago.