Additive manufacturing has come a long way, but despite newer technologies, stereolithography (SLA) remains widely preferred for its versatility. SLA is among the earliest 3D printing methods, and it builds a part one layer at a time using a photocurable resin with a high-powered UV laser to cure the material. An SLA prototype is accurate to CAD and comes out with a good surface finish, but it requires support structures, which are taken off post-process.
But is SLA prototyping for you? Knowing the process, advantages, and applications can help you make an informed choice. Let’s explore those factors.
The stereolithography printing process
SLA is an industrial 3D printing technology for building cosmetic prototypes and concept models. Its building process makes it capable of crafting intricately shaped and complex parts quickly while ensuring accuracy to your design.
Success in making an SLA prototype depends on the capabilities and design guidelines of the manufacturer. Be sure to partner with the right service provider that can guide you and provide design advice to improve part manufacturability, reduce overall production time, and improve the aesthetics of your product. SLA prototypes can be built from different thermoplastics, such as ABS and PC, as well as transparent materials.
SLA prototypes are accurate to CAD and can be finished in different ways, depending on your requirements. They can be produced at relatively high speeds.
Stereolithography is practical for bespoke production parts and low-volume end-use components. The good surface finish and versatility for crafting aesthetic models make it ideal for concept presentations and trade shows where you need to introduce and promote a scale or exhibition product. An SLA prototype is also suitable for communication, marketing, and sales models.
The products produced via SLA have a smooth surface finish. They can be aesthetic models or pre-production assembly prototypes, making them ideal for proof of concept, engineering verifications, and designer models or snap-fit assemblies. SLA prototypes may also be used in a wind tunnel or automotive testing.