Stereolithography Explained

A close-up of a resin 3d printing made using stereolithography 3D printing technique. Find out more about the world's first 3D printing technology stereolitography

Stereolithography Explained

Also known as resin 3D printing, stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing technology was the first viable form of 3D printing.  Still widely used today, SLA printing is particularly well suited for rapid prototyping when high resolution, tight tolerances and smooth surfaces are required. Finished SLA parts can also be painted and coated.

How Stereolithography Works

Like all 3D printing, the SLA printing process is a form of additive manufacturing, which helps explain how it works. Also like all 3D printing technologies, SLA 3D printers use 3D models, created with CAD software or 3D scans, and exported to a file readable by the SLA resin 3D printer.

  1. First Layer of Liquid Polymer – The first step in the resin printer process is the spreading of the first layer of print material, which is a liquid polymer, or liquid resin, in an even, micro-thin layer across the printer’s build platform.
  2. UV Curing – The resin is UV sensitive. After it is spread across the build platform, the resin is exposed to a computer-controlled UV laser, which outlines the shape of the part being built. The laser converts the liquid resin into a solid. Any resin not struck by the laser remains liquid.
  3. Subsequent Layers – The two-step process of adding a layer of resin and curing it with the UV laser is repeated. For each new layer, the build platform is lowered before the new layer of resin is applied. The whole printing process is finished when every layer of the part is completed.
  4. Post Processing – Once the part is printed, it is lifted out of the resin tank for post-processing. Remaining liquid resin can be drained away and reused for another print project. The printed part can then be finished manually, which includes removing any support structure, and polishing surfaces and/or painting the part as required.

Proto3000’s Stereolithography SLA 3D Printing Services make SLA available on-demand for product designers and developers looking for highly detailed prototypes and finished parts of exceptional resolution and accuracy. 

To learn more about 3D printers for product design, check out our post “The Best 3D Printer for Product Development and Designers”.


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