Stereolithography Technology

Discover the Stereolithography 3D printing technology and how you can use it for your rapid prototyping process.

What is Stereolithography 3D printing technology?

Stereolithography (or SLA) is one of the oldest 3D printing techniques ever developed. This technology is used to 3D print resin, using a photochemical process.

 This SLA 3D printing process uses a vat of liquid photopolymers resin that can be cured. The build plate moves in small increments and the liquid polymer is exposed to light where the UV laser draws a cross-section layer by layer. The process repeats until a model is created. The object is 3D printed by pulling the object out of the resin (bottom-up) which creates space for the uncured resin at the bottom of the container and can then form the next layer of the object.

Why choose Stereolithography 3D printing technology?

Stereolithography offers a lot of advantages, it can help you rapidly prototype, or develop your whole final product. 

SLA parts have a really smooth surface finish, which is particularly adapted if you need a realistic prototype with high quality and detailed features, quite similar to injection molding parts. 

High level of details

SLA 3D printing offers the opportunity to get highly detailed prototypes

factory

Various applications

From automotive to consumer products, Stereolithography technology offers you a lot of possiblities for your prototypes

Design freedom

Design-driven manufacturing allows you to produce complex geometries

On-demand Stereolithography 3D Printing Service

Sculpteo provides you the best online 3D Printing Services for your resin parts. Thanks to our expertise in Stereolithography technology, you can choose between several options, instantly receive a quote, and let us handle the manufacturing in our ISO 9001 certified factory.

Start using Stereolithography today by uploading a 3D file.

A little bit of history...

Among all 3D printing technologies, Stereolithography (or SLA) might be one of the oldest techniques ever developed. Stereolithography is an additive manufacturing technique using resin. When taking a look at the history of 3D printing SLA appears to be the first concept of 3D printing ever developed. 

During the 80’s a French team of engineers Olivier de Witte, Jean-Claude André, and Alain Le Méhauté, was interested in the stereolithography technology but unfortunately, they abandoned their project due to a lack of business perspective. At the same time, Charles Hull was also interested in the technology and submitted the first patent for stereolithography (SLA) in 1986. Charles Hull then founded the 3D Systems Corporation and in 1988, the company released its first product, the SLA-1 3D printer. 

What are the characteristics of SLA technology ?

There are different ways to print SLA, as we just saw, the main difference is their orientation. It can be a bottom-up process or a top-down process, depending on the 3D printer. Indeed, desktop 3D printers are using the bottom-up technique, like Formlabs 3D printers, while the top-down ones are more industrial 3D printers. Desktop SLA printers are cheaper and easier to operate, while industrial 3D printers allow building really large-size objects but need a specialized technician to be operated. Moreover, these 3D machines are really fast.

Another thing with SLA 3D printing is that you need a support structure to print your resin part. Once again, these supports are easier to develop for desktop 3D printers as it is quite similar to Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) supports. These are needed to print correctly any overhangs and bridges. You can choose the orientation of the part, choosing which orientation actually requires less support structure. For industrial SLA machines, a support structure is still needed. All these supports have to be removed manually from the 3D printed part. 

Post-process is also part of the manufacturing process with Stereolithography. At the end of the process, the part is removed from the platform, the excess of resin also has to be removed from the part. Then, the resin part will go through a curing process, in a UV oven, which will help the final part to reach its final stability.

What are the advantages of SLA?

Stereolithography offers a lot of advantages, it can help you rapidly prototype, or develop your whole final product. 

These photopolymer parts do not have the strength of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) or FDM 3D printed parts, but can typically achieve much higher levels of detail and great complex geometries. As the photopolymer is UV sensitive, these products are susceptible to deforming and changing colors in sunlight. SLA is commonly used to generate highly detailed artwork, non-functional prototypes, and can be used to make molds in investment casting applications.

SLA parts have a really smooth surface finish, which is particularly adapted if you need a realistic prototype with high quality and detailed features, quite similar to injection molding parts. But resin parts printed with Stereolithography are not suitable for functional prototypes.

Which applications are best suited to Stereolithography 3D Printing?

SLA (Stereolithography) Prototyping resin is perfectly suited to the production of aesthetic rapid-prototypes. The finished product has a smooth, matte surface finishSLA resin allows you to achieve a finished product look for your prototype. This SLA 3D printing technology is best suited to small/medium pieces with an elevated level of details.

Stereolithography 3D Printing Materials

Here are your 3D printing materials options if you want to 3D print using Stereolithography: