3D printing technology has been in the marketplace for decades. It is not a new technology anymore, but with its constant growth and innovation, 3D printing is still a source of amazement to everyone. This article will describe how 3D printing technology started, how far it has come, and how XO Armor has incorporated it into our processes.
Believe it or not, 3D printing dates back to the 1980s. This early technology was invented for the purpose of creating prototypes in a more cost-effective way. A few years later, inventor Charles Hull created stereolithography, the process that we are more familiar with today. Hull’s creation allowed the user to design a model digitally. Hull then expanded on his invention by creating the stereolithographic apparatus (SLA) machine which allowed for more complex parts to be printed, eventually introducing the SLA-1 as the world’s first commercial printing system.
In the 1990s, Scott and Lisa Crump patented a new method called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). FDM requires melting the filament used and depositing it layer-by-layer until the complete shape is formed. This method is still popular today and is one of the methods we use at XO Armor!
From 1999-2010, 3D printing expanded drastically in the medical field, completely changing the industry’s idea of what was possible. During this time, scientists were able to print an artificial bladder using tissue from the patient, prosthetics, and blood vessels. Scientists were even experimenting with printing using human cells.
Between 2010 and 2022, 3D printing became more affordable and widespread. Companies began experimenting with printing large objects like cars and aircraft in the early part of the decade. In 2015, companies began making printers more affordable and sold printers for less than $5,000. Today, some printers can be bought for less than $500.
There are many different materials used in 3D Printing today. One of the most common is Polylactic Acid (PLA). PLA is a strong, natural plastic made from renewable resources like corn starch and sugar cane. It is biodegradable but still maintains enough strength to protect the user from hard impacts. Another common material is Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS). ABS was one of the first plastics used in 3D Printing, and it is known for its impact resistance and strength. LEGO blocks are made from this plastic! A third commonly used material is known as PETG, a glycol modified version of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). This plastic is used to manufacture water bottles and is known for its softer surface.
We know that our material and our printers produce high-quality products, and our current clients are very satisfied with their results. We hope that soon all athletes will be able to experience the unique feel of our custom-fit guards and experience the increase in comfort and on-the-field performance that comes with them!