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Michael Jackson likely had no idea how the title of song of his number one album, Thriller in 1984 would encapsulate the work of one US engineer that same year who would eventually change the course of history

Likewise, Chuck Hull had no inkling that his basement-laboratory quest to solve one lingering engineering problem to find an easier way to prototype plastic parts with injection molds would eventually evolve into a game-changing technology for manufacturing, and now, day-to-day-living, around the globe.

It’s been 30 years since Hull’s “AHA” moment when he figured out that 3D printing could be possible by printing in layers, using a customized ink jet-like printer.

A lot of sweat, a few tears and many mistakes later, his revolutionary vision created the first 3D printed object, a small, plastic “communion” cup.

Two years later, in an economic downturn in the US and facing the risk of losing his job, he ventured out to create his own company, 3D Systems. Twenty-eight years later, the rest you can say, is history.

Like many other innovators before him — Tesla, Edison, Jefferson — vision plus sweat equity and a drive to create can result in some of the best innovations the world has ever known.

And while that idea has not been an overnight success story, recently the advances in this new industry are seemingly exponential.

What was not scalable nor practical in terms of cost a mere 5 years ago, today the technology has evolved to the point where Volvo-driving soccer moms can be a leading innovator, right from the comfort of their own home, bound only by their creativity and imagination.

“The whole premise of this technology has been to foster creativity, and change in product design and manufacturing, and so forth,” Hull, 74, told CNN in an interview in February. “At the individual level, I think there's a great kind of pent up need: we've got into the computer age and everything is on a screen or remote, we've kind of missed the tangible result. This is a means to convert something on the computer to reality in a straightforward way.”

A quick search on GOOGLE for 3D printing and the search engine returns more than 545 million results.

While rapid prototyping is still the main focus of this new and emerging industry, we are witnessing breakthroughs in the medical field with new bio printing — the printing of organs and tissues — as well as synthetic meats. A University of California professor has also built a mammoth 3D printer that can build a house in just 24 hours.

At this rate of technological change, who knows what will lie on the horizon tomorrow.

Even the grandfather of 3D printing says the sky’s the limit.

“There's limits to everything. So, the kind of traditional limits of 3D printing have been: material properties, speed, making millions of things,” he revealed in the same CNN interview. “But all the competitive companies are just constantly pushing those limits, so if you're projecting the future, it looks like these limits are going to be beat down over the next couple of years.”

And that will likely start with yet another idea to solve yet another problem.

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