What Is SLA 3D Printing?
I want to talk about another form of 3D printing, known as stereolithography, or SLA. This technology is often called optical fabrication, photo solidification, or solid imaging. This form of 3D printing is almost sci-fi channel unheard of if you ask me; it’s pretty serious. Let me elaborate on the process.
Like all forms of 3D printing, there has to be some design work done on the computer by an engineer or a 3D artist. This form of 3D printing isn’t different from the rest, as the machine itself has a CAM system, or computer aided manufacturing system. This means that the computer on the machine will automate the entire assembly process of parts, with an exception of pulling it out of the machine. Let’s jump into the actual process.
After the computer image has been sent to the machine, it will then begin manufacturing the product. Within all SLA machines, there is a build envelope, or “bin” of a liquid curable photopolymer resin. Just imagine a small bin inside of a large machine filled with a liquid resin. When the printer “fires up” and starts working, it will begin to shoot an ultraviolet beam towards the bin of liquid photopolymer. The curable resin is engineered so that it is very sensitive to ultraviolet beams. What does this mean? When the beam of ultraviolet light hits the liquid photopolymer, the liquid is cured into a solid piece. According to where the beam of light hits, the liquid will solidify. For each layer inside this bin of resin, the beam of light will only hit a selected amount determined by the initial computer image. This means that there will be excess liquid that will be recycled into the machine, unless the engineer who designed the product designed a block that equates to the exact dimensions of the “bin” I mentioned earlier. So the process of SLA 3D printing is essentially the layer by layer solidification of a curable liquid resin from an ultraviolet beam of light which is focused directly at concise points in the bin determined by the computer image. Just think about that… a beam of ultraviolet light is hyper focused on very specific regions of the resin to create a product with great resolution. A beam of ultraviolet light is focused well enough to create curable resin based prototypes.
I feel that this kind of thing sticks out as incredibly exceptional! SLA 3D printing is known for having inexpensive material cost. SLA 3D printing also has very quick build time when compared to other forms of 3D printing. It is selective about which section of each layer is assembled, similar to DMLS or SLS 3D printing, but at the same time SLA printing belongs in its own genre because it creates products based off of a curable resin and a beam of ultraviolet light. That is just insane in my opinion. Like I said earlier, the resolution on these parts is very good as well, which means that this ultraviolet laser is programmed incredibly well. This technology just blows me away.
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