Stereolithography is a 3d printing method that can be used to implement your projects that involve 3D printing of objects. This is the oldest method in history of 3D printing.
Whether you are a mechanical engineer, or a creative person who wants to make a prototype of a personal project, Stereolithography can help you to turn your models into a real 3D printed object.
Charles Hull, co-founder of 3D Systems, Inc patented this method in 1986. The process of printing involves a stereolithograph apparatus (SLA) which is a 3D printing machine that converts liquid plastic into solid 3D objects.
Generally, most printing techniques require computer aid design (CAD) file to process the object. This file contains information about dimensional representation of an object. CAD file must be converted into a format that a printing machine can understand.
SLA 3D printers work with excess of liquid plastic that hardens and forms into solid object. Parts built with 3D printers type like this usually have smooth surfaces but its quality very depends on the quality of SLA machine used.
The process starts from the creation of 3D model with a CAD program, which processes the CAD model and generates STL file that contains information for each layer. The SLA machine exposes the liquid plastic and laser starts to form the layer of the item.
Once the plastic has hardened a platform of the printer drops down in the tank a fraction of a millimeter and laser forms the next layer until printing is completed. Once all layers are printed the object needs to be rinsed with a solvent and then placed in an ultraviolet oven to finish processing.
The time required to print an object depends on size of SLA 3d printers used. Small items can be printed within 6-8 hours with small printing machine, big items can be several meters in three dimensions and printing time can be up to several days long.
Stereolithography is widely used in prototyping as it doesn’t require too much time to produce an object and cost is relatively cheap comparing to other means of prototyping. Although this 3d printing method is rarely used for printing of the final product.
Although Stereolithography is considered to be the oldest 3D printing technology many companies still use it to create prototypes of their projects.