Stereolithography 3D printing process


Stereolithography was created by Charles Hull, inventor and founder of 3D Systems. Otherwise known as SLA, Stereolithography 3D printers were typically reserved for use in industrial or business prototyping environments. They were large, expensive, and bulky units that use specialized photopolymer SLA resins as filament. In recent years, SLA designs have undergone an incredible transformation; reduced to the size of a desktop model. Several companies are now racing to “mainstream” stereolithography printers.

How Stereolithography Works

Typical FDM units that we see today extrude melted plastic layer by layer on to a build platform. In stereolithography, the process is different. SLA resin is poured into the storage reservoir within the printer. The SLA machine’s build platform is submersed in the resin bath and slowly moves upward along the Z axis. As the platform rises, UV light or laser hits the surface of the resin. Since the SLA resin is photo-sensitive, it cures when exposed to light or lasers. The SLA printer’s laser automatically repeats this process layer by layer according to the cross sectional area of the object. The process continues until a complete object is formed with stereolithography.

SLA (Stereolithography) vs. FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling)

Stereolithography and FDM are the most common methods used today. However, stereolithography 3D printers yield finer resolution and detail when compared to FDM 3D printers. SLA 3D prints are also incredibly accurate for parts that require close dimensional tolerances. Stereolithography resolution will yield at least 25 microns in resolution. While FDM has many of the same strength characteristics as SLA resins, SLA prints are not as mechanically strong and durable if one plans to use them as a functioning part. For showcasing purposes, stereolithography offers incredible fine-feature qualities. Stereolithography 3D printers are perfect for anything that does not involved extreme mechanical stresses.

Rise of the SLA Desktop 3D Printer

As stereolithography 3D printers get smaller, we’re beginning to see a number of desktop units for sale. The most well-known is the Form1 by Formlabs. This desktop SLA unit provides a user-friendly and compact design. For larger build areas, Solidator SLA 3D printer offers a huge 280 x 210 x 200 mm build area. Solidator also uses digital light processing technology. Rather than a laser curing the UV resin, a light projector hits the resin surface with photo images of the object; thereby hardening the object into a desired shape. The Pegasus SLA 3D is offered by Full Spectrum Laser, a company with long ties in laser cutting technology products. Pegasus includes an onboard computer that allows the user to slice and print files directly from the machine. In the open source realm, stereolithography 3D printers on sale from companies such as Muve3D and OpenSL v1.0 offer both assembled and DIY kits.

We are a premier dealer in Stereolithography 3D printers. Our line of SLA units are geared to both consumers and businesses alike. We also offer a complete line 3D printing resins for stereolithography. For more information on affordable SLA 3D printers, please contact us. We would be happy to consult you on selecting the best stereolithography machine for your requirements.