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3D Printing Stereolithography (SLA)

Aug 06, 2020

         FDM (Fused Deposition) technology uses the thermoplastic ABS as a substrate to print items. ABS plastic filaments are melted and deposited to a specific location through a heated nozzle. Therefore, the surface accuracy of the molded object is limited by the size of the plastic filament. In layman's terms, the thicker the plastic wire, the worse the surface accuracy, and the thinner the plastic wire, the higher the surface accuracy.

    Now we introduce another plastic 3D printing technology-Stereolithography (abbreviated SLA) technology. This technology uses liquid photosensitive resin as the substrate, and the liquid resin will solidify under the irradiation of a specific light source. The precision of the articles printed by this technology is the highest among all current 3D printing technologies.

   3D Systems founder Chuck Hall proposed the SLA technology in 1984, which was the first commercialized 3D printing technology in the world, and Chuck Hall is also known as the "father of 3D printing technology." In 2014, ChuckHall was selected for the 2014 American Inventors Hall of Fame with this technology.

   SLA is divided into two types. The first type uses a laser as a light source to scan the section of the sliced layer to solidify it (before 3D printing the article, the article model is sliced, and then printed layer by layer). The second type uses DLP (Digitallight Processing) projector as the light source. The DLP projector can project the image of the entire slice layer onto the surface of the liquid resin to cure it at one time. It is conceivable that 3D printing with a projector will be much faster than scanning with a laser head.

  The precision of professional SLA 3D printers on the market can reach about 25 microns.

  There are SLA 3D printers with prices ranging from $3000 to $300,000+. As a representative of consumer-oriented SLA printers-Form1 from Formlabs, with its excellent appearance and high accuracy (300 microns in X and Y directions, 25 microns in Z), it has been loved by consumers once it was launched. This 3D printer The price is $3000.

EnvisionTec's ULTRA machine is an industrial-grade printer. The printer can sell for tens of thousands of US dollars (~$70,000), with an accuracy of 100 microns, and a large printing platform (X direction: about 270mm, Y direction about 170mm) , You can hit multiple small parts at the same time. The printing speed is also relatively fast.

   Stratasys recently launched the world’s first light-curing 3D printer that can print on a variety of materials (from soft to hard resins, in fact, based on a mixture of two or more resins with different strengths) and multiple colors. Of course, this kind of printer is not cheap to have this ability. It is understood that the price of the 3D printer can range from $200,000 to $300,000, which is scary enough. However, it is very attractive to be able to print bright objects.

  Finally, I have to mention the products of 3D Systems, the originator of 3D printing technology. The company also produces consumer-oriented and industrial-grade 3D printers. The cheapest consumer-grade printer costs around $5,000, and the most expensive industrial-grade printer costs ~$300,000, which looks like the following.