Chuck Hull

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This article is about the inventor of stereolithography. For the military award winner, see Charles Hull.
Chuck Hull
Born (1939-05-12) May 12, 1939 (age 75)
Nationality USA
Fields Stereolithography
Known for Invention of 3D Printing

Chuck Hull (Charles W. Hull; born May 12, 1939) is the co-founder, executive vice president and chief technology officer of 3D Systems.[1][2] He is the inventor of the solid imaging process known as stereolithography (3D Printing), the first commercial rapid prototyping technology, and the STL file format. He is named on more than 60 U.S. patents as well as other patents around the world in the fields of ion optics and rapid prototyping. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.[3]

Early life[edit]

Chuck Hull was born on May 12, 1939 in Clifton, Colorado, the son of Lester and Esther Hull. His early life was spent in Clifton and Gateway, Colorado. He graduated from Central High School in Grand Junction, Colorado. Chuck received a BS in engineering physics from the University of Colorado in 1961.[4]

Beginnings of stereolithography[edit]

Hull first came up with the idea in 1983 when he was using UV light to harden tabletop coatings.[5] Hull coined the term “stereolithography” in his U.S. Patent 4,575,330,[6] entitled “Apparatus for Production of Three-Dimensional Objects by Stereolithography” issued on March 11, 1986.[7] He defined stereolithography as a method and apparatus for making solid objects by successively “printing” thin layers of the ultraviolet curable material one on top of the other. In Hull’s patent, a concentrated beam of ultraviolet light is focused onto the surface of a vat filled with liquid photopolymer. The light beam, moving under computer control, draws each layer of the object onto the surface of the liquid. Wherever the beam strikes the surface, the photopolymer polymerizes/crosslinks and changes to a solid. An advanced CAD/CAM/CAE software mathematically slices the computer model of the object into a large number of thin layers. The process then builds the object layer by layer starting with the bottom layer, on an elevator that is lowered slightly after solidification of each layer. [8]

Commercial rapid prototyping[edit]

In 1986, commercial rapid prototyping was started by Hull when he founded 3D Systems in Valencia, California.[9] Hull realized that his concept was not limited to liquids and therefore gave it the generic name “stereolithography” (3D printing),[10] and filed broad patent claims covering any “material capable of solidification” or “material capable of altering its physical state.”

Hull built up a patent portfolio covering many fundamental aspects of today’s additive manufacturing technologies such as data preparation via triangulated models (STL file format) and slicing, and exposure strategies such as alternating hatch directions. [11]

The salary for his role as 3D Systems CTO was $307,500 in 2011.[12]



  1. ^ "Forbes Profile". Forbes. 
  2. ^ Businessweek Executive Profile
  3. ^ "Charles Hull: Stereolithography (3D Printing)". Inductees. National Inventors Hall of Fame. Retrieved 4 March 2014. 
  4. ^ 3DSYSTEMS. "Charles W. Hull Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer". Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Ponsford, Matthew (14 February 2014). "The night I invented 3D printing'\". Cable News Network. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ U.S. Patent 4,575,330 (“Apparatus for Production of Three-Dimensional Objects by Stereolithography”)
  8. ^ Stereolithography
  9. ^ pg 4-1997 NSF JTEC/WTEC Panel Report-RPA
  10. ^ History of 3D
  11. ^ Microsoft Word – LANE-2004-EOS-DMLS.doc
  12. ^ "Charles W. Hull Profile". (Forbes). Retrieved 28 October 2011. 
  13. ^ Invention: 3D printing (stereolithography)

External links[edit]