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Carl Robert Deckard, inventor of SLS, dies at 58

Carl Robert Deckard, the inventor known in the additive manufacturing for inventing and commercializing selective laser sintering technology, passed away on December 23, 2019. Along with the original SLS patent, Carl held 27 patents and was profiled by Fortune magazine as one of five modern technology pioneers, inducted into the Manufacturing Hall of Fame by Industry Week, and named a Master of Manufacturing by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Carl Deckard
In this photo from UT, from left to right: Carl Deckard, Joe Beaman, and Paul Forderhase photographed November 19, 2012. The image in the background is of selective laser sintered miniature University of Texas towers before removal from the powder bed.

A graduate of the University of Texas, Mr. Deckard majored in Mechanical Engineering and, during a summer internship, started to think about a new way to fabricate parts directly from drawings by using a laser to fuse together powder in the shape of the part and building up the piece, layer by layer. By his senior year in 1984, he decided that he wanted to work on this idea for his Master’s degree at UT. He approached a number of professors and ultimately found Dr. Joe Beaman, a young assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering, who supported his idea and agreed to mentor him in his graduate studies.

Together they developed the process that became known as selective laser sintering, or by the acronym SLS, one of the earliest and most enduring forms of additive manufacturing. The result of his Master’s project was a selectively laser sintered plastic cube within another plastic cube. With the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation, he continued working on his invention for his PhD under the direction of Dr. Beaman.

Mr. Deckard’s graduate work was so successful that UT agreed to license the technology in 1988, the first time that UT had entered into such an agreement. There followed a number of twists and turns on the path to converting his lab machine into a commercial product, an effort that involved a number of designers, engineers, and project managers. Deckard co-founded Desk Top Manufacturing (DTM) Corp. in 1987, which specialized in rapid prototyping and manufacturing systems for manufacturers and service bureaus. The company was acquired by 3D Systems in 2001 at a $45 million valuation.

As the AM industry grew, Carl worked with his collaborators, Jim Mikulak and Vikram Devarajan, to invent new polymers for use in SLS, making it possible to make better quality 3D printed parts. Their company, Structure Polymers, Inc. was recently bought by Evonik.

A celebration of his life will be held in January. In lieu of flowers, the Deckard family has asked to send donations to Austin Pets Alive at austinpetsalive.org/donate, to honor Mr. Deckard’s passion for rescuing stray cats and dogs.

Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based 3dpbm. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore, as well as 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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One Comment

  1. The news of the sudden death of Carl Robert Deckard reached us with great dismay. We deeply regret the loss of an true industry pioneer and would like to express our deep and sincere condolence.

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