Stereolithography

Stereolithography (SLA) is a 3D printing technology that uses a UV laser to cure and solidify layers of liquid photopolymer resin, building precise and highly detailed parts layer by layer. Known for its exceptional accuracy, SLA can achieve fine details and smooth surface finishes, making it ideal for intricate designs and tight tolerances.  SLA is widely used for creating functional prototypes, master patterns, and visually appealing presentation models.

Why use Stereolithography?

Using Stereolithography (SLA), we can build accurate parts with an excellent surface finish using a liquid epoxy resin. High quality parts can be sanded smooth and painted, making this technology suitable for mock-ups and prototypes.

SLA offers a highly detailed solution for engineers seeking to transform their design ideas into reality with exceptional accuracy and reliability.

Benefits of SLA

Benefits

Best suited for

Materials for SLA

Using stereolithography (SLA), we build accurate parts with a good surface finish using a liquid epoxy resin. Parts can be sanded smooth and painted, making this technology suitable for mock-ups and prototypes.

With the right material, SLA can also be used to create jigs and tools to aid manufacturing.

High Precision and Detail

Versatile Material Options

Ideal for Prototyping and Master Patterns

Applications

Applications in high-performance industries:

Motorsport

Marine Racing

Advantages

Engineering advantages:

Functional Prototyping

Engineers use SLA to create functional prototypes of complex parts such as intake manifolds, brackets, and housings. These prototypes can be tested for form, fit, and function, allowing for rapid iteration and optimization.

Custom Fixtures and Tooling

Custom jigs, fixtures, and tooling components are produced using SLA to ensure precision and efficiency in the manufacturing and assembly processes. The ability to quickly produce these tools aids in reducing downtime and improving overall workflow.

The Stereolithography build process

The SLA process uses a vat of UV-curable liquid resin which is cured by a laser to build parts one thin layer at a time. The laser ‘draws’ a single layer cross-section of the part on the top surface of the liquid resin, curing and solidifying it whilst joining it to the layer below.

Once a layer has been drawn and cured, the SLA machine’s platform is lowered by an amount equal to the depth of one layer. This then allows the re-coater blade to sweep across the vat, spreading another layer of fresh resin, ready for the laser to draw on. In this way a whole three-dimensional part is built up. Once completed, the build is drained, washed in a chemical bath to remove the excess resin, and then finished to the customer’s specifications.

The SLA process overview

Preparation

A 3D CAD model is created and converted into an STL file format suitable for 3D printing.

The model is sliced into thin layers using specialized software, generating the toolpath for the printer.

Material Loading

A liquid photopolymer resin is loaded into the printer’s build tank. The resin is sensitive to UV light, which solidifies it upon exposure.

Printing

The build platform is submerged into the resin tank, just below the surface of the liquid.

A UV laser traces the first layer of the model on the surface of the resin, curing and solidifying the material wherever it strikes. After the first layer is cured, the build platform lowers by one layer thickness, and a recoater blade spreads a new layer of resin over the previous one.

The UV laser continues to trace and cure each subsequent layer, fusing it to the layer below, gradually building the part from the bottom up.

This process is repeated layer by layer until the entire model is formed.

Post-processing

Once the build is complete, the part is removed from the build platform and excess resin is drained away.

The part typically undergoes a post-curing process under UV light or in a curing oven to ensure it reaches its maximum strength and durability.

The printed part may require additional post-processing steps such as washing in a solvent bath to remove any uncured resin, sanding, or other finishing processes to achieve the desired surface quality and functionality.

CASE STUDIES

Technology-specific case studies

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