Stereolithography (or SLA) was developed in the 1970s and patented in the 1980s. To create 3-dimensional parts, SLA uses a laser to selectively cure liquid plastic resin layer-by-layer. The laser system traces the outline of each layer of the part to cure the material, and then the build tray is lowered to add a layer of liquid resin for the next slice. When the part is completed, the tray is raised from the resin, excess material is washed away, and the part is cured in a UV oven to achieve full strength.
At 3D Print Texas, we use a transparent material known as Accura ClearVue, which is a polycarbonate-like material that has great optical transparency. It is also resistant to moisture and humidity, which is very valuable in Houston! Parts printed in ClearVue are admired for their surface finish and the ease with which paint and clear coat may be applied.
SLA has several build modes available for different printing requirements. For general prototyping, the Ultra High Definition mode is a quick, economical option that prints each layer at 0.004". Parts requiring higher detail can be built in Xtreme High Definition mode, bringing the layer height down to 0.002". Both of these methods produce transparent parts which are commonly used as clear housings, fluid flow models, and lenses.
We are also able to print in QuickCast mode, which produces hollow parts for investment casting applications. These hollow parts save time and money when producing a mold, and the material is easy to burn out reducing imperfections in the final metal part.