Bill Masters, “I only discovered a few years ago that I actually had the first patent and I’m now trying to correct history for my grandkids and future great grandkids”
Chuck Hull is generally considered ‘the father of 3D printing’ as he patented a 3D invention in 1986. What is less well known, is that two years before, in 1984, Bill Masters filed a patent for his “Computer Automated Manufacturing Process and System”
The idea for 3D printing came to him one day while relaxing in his Kayak
“I was sleeping on the side of the the river on my kayak looking up at the stars and I realized if you could take one star and make that your seed point, you could add stars from any direction until you had the shape you wanted,”
“Similarly, if you shoot a spit ball down and it sticks, you can then shoot multiple down on top of it. They stick and stick and stick until eventually you can build something with them”
This was in the 1970s. It took him a few years to develop the idea and save enough to afford the patent. It was the first of five patents belonging to Bill Masters that laid the foundation for the 3D printing systems used today.
Unfortunately for Masters, his name didn’t become well known in the world of 3D printing like Chuck Hill’s did. Bill’s company Perception Systems received seed funding from venture capitalist and follow-on funding, but lost control of his patents. The company was renamed BPM technology and burned through millions chasing complex software to control a simple process similar to what is the standard today. BPM eventually went out of business. Meanwhile, Bill’s kayak company was booming and he has since become known as the father of modern kayaking.
Now in his 60s, Masters is still an active inventor and entrepreneur, using his experiences to fuel a passion to protect young entrepreneurs in similar situations as he found himself. He also owns over 30 patents to his name and is working on such innovations as drip-free honey pumps, gun safety technologies, car safes and medical products to name only a few. He continues to work on his 3D printing technology and is in admiration of the amount it has transformed.
“I knew in my head and heart that 3D technology could transform the way we make things when I came up with it,” Masters admits. “At that time, people in South Carolina looked at me as crazy because we had so little technology in the state. Now, South Carolina has transformed itself and crazy ideas are welcome here. I am proud to have been a part of my state’s growth. Because of my state’s visionary leaders and entrepreneurial culture, I was able to leap from growing up in poverty to success.”