The first 3D printers were developed in the 1980’s. They were very large, expensive machines that were able to create a 3D prototype from a digital file. The process called Stereolithography was used to test a product before manufacturing it. Charles Hull invented this process in 1984.
Click on this link to view an infographic timeline that shows a brief history of 3-D printing.
History of 3D printing - infographic
(T. Rowe Price Connections)