More than twenty years ago, when I was with Silicon Graphics, maker of state of the art 3D computer modeling workstations, at that time, I held my first 3D printed object. It was the Silicon Graphics logo in 3D plastic. For those who can remember that far back in Silicon Valley, the SGI logo was an image of a 3D tubular cube represented in 2D, which gave it a fascinating “double entendre” optical illusion for those looking carefully at the image. One day, an early stage startup visited us, to demonstrate their first generation 3D printer, and to explore possibilities for partnership with Silicon Graphics. The object they produced with laser technology was the SGI logo, about 3″ on a side, in white plastic and set on a mahogany base.
Today, Silicon Graphics is gone. Their brick buildings on Stierlin Road in Mountain View are now home to Google’s HQ. Silicon Graphics CEO at that time, Tom Jermolak, failed to see the writing on the wall: their proprietary MIPS RISC chip technology was doomed. SGI even had a secret program with IBM to build SGI technology onto cards driven by Intel CPU’s. The Chief Technology Officer of SGI, Forest Baskett, was approached by Intel but in the end, the decision to stick with MIPS, sealed SGI’s fate.. The founder of SGI, Stanford prof Jim Clark, with whom I had worked closely, had by then moved on to Netscape with Marc Andreesen. Most likely, the early 3D printing company is also history.