Every year it takes place one of the most important events regarding innovation and technology: the European Inventor Award (also known as the Oscar of Technology), which brings together some of the world’s brightest innovators along with their inventions.

This year is the ninth ceremony, and it will take place next 17 of June in Berlin. Considering the upcoming date, we have decided to present for our “Patents world” section a video developed by the EPO about one of the great finalists: Charles W. Hull, from USA, the father of 3D printing and creator of the company 3D Systems, Inc.

Charles W. Hull is one of the finalists under the “Non-European countries” category. The other categories of the European Inventor Award 2014 are:

  • Industry
  • Small and Medium-sized enterprises
  • Research
  • Lifetime achievement

Hull is indeed one of the main people who have made a lasting impact on the entire humanity: he basically invented 3D printing, the additive-manufacturing technology (also called “stereolithography”, method for small printing runs and prototypes) which made reality the possibility of a rapid prototyping and opened up new applications in several industries.
In the 1980s Charles Hull developed the first method that would go on to revolutionize the industry as we know it today; he set out to improve the tedious process of creating small plastic parts for prototyping involved in testing new product designs. Only one year after he developed the first model of his 3D printer.

How does the 3D printing invention works?

3D Systems’ software “slices” a three-dimensional blueprint model into thousands of digital cross-sections. Each slice corresponds to a layer of the model that will be fabricated and can be as thin as 0.05 mm in the highest-resolution versions. One layer at a time, thousands of individual layers is added, resulting in a 3 dimensional object, whose advantage can be founded in the perfect resolution and wonderful details.
3D printing technique can make almost anything, and the printers designed by Hull’s company have various industrial and commercial use: from medical technology, automotive safety, architecture, and many more.

Hull’s company was founded in 1986 and is nowadays the market leader in 3D printing technology in the US, employing more than 1000 people and posting sales of about $350 million in 2012.

Charles Hull is a tireless inventor, and he holds more than 16 patents in the US and 20 in Europe, reinforcing the very importance of Industrial Property rights for inventors and researchers as a tool necessary to protect their rights and to beneficiate their technology.
We will closely monitor the evolution of the 3D printing development and arrival in the most various fields (such as food or building construction), and we will also follow the outcome of the European Inventor Award 2014.

If you are curious, you can find the patent documents:  “Apparatus for production of three-dimensional objects by stereolithography“.

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