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Dr. Carl Deckard, alumnus of the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering and co-inventor of the revolutionary additive manufacturing process called Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), died on December 23, 2019, at the age of 58.

Deckard was born on June 20, 1961, in Houston, Texas. He showed a proclivity for invention from a very early age and later chose to major in mechanical engineering because, he reasoned, it was “the closest thing to majoring in inventing.” Deckard was accepted to The University of Texas at Austin’s mechanical engineering program for his undergraduate studies and stayed on to earn both his Master’s degree and PhD in mechanical engineering. 

By the end of his senior year in 1984, Deckard had come up with the idea of using a directed energy beam (such as a laser or electron beam) to melt particles of polymer powder together to optimize and automate the manufacturing of parts. He approached one of his professors, Dr. Joe Beaman — then a young assistant professor — who saw value in the idea. Beaman agreed to work with Deckard on the project and took him on as a Master's student later that year.

Over the course of his graduate studies and then as a post-doc with the mentorship and collaboration of Beaman, they developed one of the world’s earliest and most well-known forms of 3D printing, SLS. The University of Texas at Austin licensed their technology in 1988, and Deckard and Beaman later launched a startup called Nova Automation, which was later renamed DTM, to manufacture SLS machines.

“Carl made a profound impact in our department and in the field of additive manufacturing,” said Richard Neptune, Chair of the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering. “His legacy will live on through all those he worked with and inspired with his vision and innovations.”

“True innovation is more than an idea, it is taking the idea and making it work — and this is what changes the world,” said Beaman. “Carl started here and changed the world.”

Deckard was an enthusiastic sailor, beginning as a Sea Scout during his childhood, and later even competing in regattas. He loved music and cared deeply for animals. He is survived by his sons, Thomas and Michael, and his sister, Lucy.

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