Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is the process of turning digital designs into three-dimensional objects. It is a convenient and affordable way to make prototypes as well as finished products, making it popular with businesses, hobbyists and inventors.
One of the technologies used by today's 3D printers is called selective laser sintering (SLS). During SLS, tiny particles of plastic, ceramic or glass are fused together by heat from a high-power laser to form a solid, three-dimensional object.
The SLS process was developed and patented in the 1980s by Carl Deckard — then an undergraduate student at the University of Texas — and his mechanical engineering professor, Joe Beaman.