Stereolithography (SLA) models offer the most accurate type of fit/form prototype for the verification of any design before committing to your chosen production route. Its high accuracy and good surface finish makes it the preferred choice for designer models, engineering verification and master patterns for silicone rubber molds.
3D Systems Materials
- Rigid, PC-Like
- PP-Like (Accura 25 / VisiJet SL Flex)
- High-Temp ABS-Like
- Technician’s Choice
- High-Impact ABS-Like
- High Temp PC-Like, Rigid
- High Resolution
- ABS-like, Gray
- ABS-like, Black
- Flexible Resin Cartridge (FLGR02)
- Clear Resin Cartridge (GPCL02)
- Dental SG Resin Cartridge (DGOR01)
- Black Resin Cartridge (GPBK02)
- White Resin Cartridge (GPWH02)
- Grey Resin Cartridge (GPGR02)
- Tough Resin Cartridge (TOTL02)
- Castable Resin Cartridge (CABL02)
What is Stereolithography?
SLA® Production Printers build accurate parts directly from 3D CAD data without tooling by converting liquid materials and composites into solid cross-sections, layer by layer, using an ultraviolet laser. The bed then lowers, the part is coated with a new layer of resin, and the next layer is built on top of the others until the part is finished. When a part is complete, it is cleaned in a solvent solution to remove wet resin remaining on the part surface. Afterward, the part is put in a UV oven to complete the curing process. SLA® Production Printers offer high throughput, build size up to 1524 mm, unmatched part resolution and accuracy, and a wide range of print materials. No process addresses a wider range of applications, including the most demanding rapid manufacturing applications.
When Charles ‘Chuck’ Hull, the founder of 3D Systems, invented Stereolithography, SLA, in 1986, he launched a revolution in product development across every marketplace from transportation, recreation and healthcare to consumer goods and education. Through continued innovation we extend our technology leadership, offering customers new and improved Production Printers and Print Materials and expanding our patent portfolio.
(View the video to the left to see how SLA 3D printing works.)
SLA is all about precision and accuracy, so it is often used where form, fit and assembly are critical. The tolerances on an SLA part are typically less than .05mm, and it offers the smoothest surface finish of any additive manufacturing process. Considering the level of quality SLA can achieve, it’s particularly useful for creating highly precise casting patterns (e.g., for injection molding, casting and vacuum casting) as well as functional prototypes, presentation models, and for performing form and fit testing. SLA technology is extremely versatile and it can be used in any number of areas that require precision above all else.
Keep in mind that, unlike with SLS, SLA parts do utilize support structures, and they require a bit more post-processing. But the post-processing options are also some of SLAs greatest advantages. Models can be vapor honed, or bead or sand blasted. SLA parts can even be electroplated with metal, such as nickel. Electroplating not only makes the part significantly stronger, but it also makes the part electrically conductive and more dimensionally stable in moist environments.
In terms of benefits, SLA allows us to save time on highly precise parts, especially when you require a number of functional prototypes or a quick single casting pattern. SLA brings us painstaking accuracy without the painstaking time. Because of SLA’s speed and precision, prototypes are easy to make and faithful to the final design, which means we can identify design flaws, collisions and potential mass-manufacturing hurdles before production begins. For low- to mid-volume parts normally machined from polypropylene or ABS, SLA provides comparable characteristics and doesn’t require slow, expensive retooling for customization or in the event a tooling change is required. In addition, SLA allows for lower material costs, as the unused resin stays in the vat for future projects.
SLA materials are wide ranging in mechanical properties and offer wide application opportunities for parts requiring ABS or polypropylene-like characteristics such as snap-fit assemblies, automotive styling components and master patterns. SLA materials are available for higher-temperature applications and clear materials are available with polycarbonate-like properties. Biocompatible materials are available for a wide range of medical applications such as surgical tools, dental appliances and hearing aids. Other materials are specifically formulated for patterns, offering low ash creation and high accuracy while also being expendable.
Anatomy of the SLA Process
Stereolithography (SLA) is often considered the pioneer of the additive manufacturing processes, with the first production systems introduced in 1988 and patented by 3D systems founder Charles (Chuck) W. Hull. The SLA process utilizes a vat of liquid photopolymer resin cured by ultraviolet laser to solidify the pattern layer by layer to create or “print” a solid 3D model.
The SLA process utilizes a vat of liquid photopolymer resin cured by ultraviolet laser to solidify the pattern layer by layer to create or “print” a solid 3D model.
An Ultra Violet (UV) laser beam is directed by a computer guided mirror onto the surface of the UV photopolymer resin. The model is built one layer at a time from supplied 3D CAD data.
The laser beam traces the boundaries and fills in a two-dimensional cross section of the model, solidifying the resin wherever it touches. Each successive layer is applied by submersion of the build platform into the resin as the part gradually develops and the platform descends into the liquid resin.
Once the model is complete, the platform rises out of the vat and the excess resin is drained. The model is then removed from the platform, washed of excess resin, and then placed in a UV oven for a final curing. After curing SLA parts are then ready for post processing as required by the specific application.
- Nickel Plated
Frequently, parts produced by SLA are used as master patterns (pattern transfer process). The pattern is transferred to urethane castings using silicone rubber molds (SRM) or utilized for metal investment casting.
• Design Appearance Models
• Proof of Concept Prototypes
• Design Evaluation Models (Form & Fit)
• Engineering Proving Models (Design Verification)
• Wind-Tunnel Test Models
Tooling and Patterns:
• Investment Casting Patterns
• Jigs and Fixtures
• Smooth surface finish
• High precision
• Short lead times
• Wide variety of material and post processing options
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