Stereolithography, or SLA, is the process of converting a liquid plastic into solid 3D objects using a stereolithograph apparatus, or SLA machine. SLA was the first additive manufacturing process and was introduced over 30 years ago.
An SLA machine was the first additive machine we purchased to start our rapid prototype company with back in 1996. As one of the first SLA prototyping service bureaus in Northeast Ohio and the USA, we have supplied tens of thousands of SLA prototypes to designers, marketers, engineers and entrepreneurs over the last 20 plus years.
SLA works by building a 3D model of a component using a vat of liquid ultraviolet-curable photopolymer resin and an ultraviolet laser to form one thin layer at a time, usually between 0.002”-0.006” or 50-150 microns. The laser beam traces a cross-section of the model on the surface of the liquid resin for each layer. Exposure to the ultraviolet laser light cures and solidifies the pattern traced on the resin and joins it to the layer below. After the pattern has been traced, the SLA machine’s elevator platform is lowered by the thickness of a single layer and the process is repeated. After an SLA is printed, the excess resin is removed and the component is cured in an ultraviolet oven.
SLA Best Uses
Not sure which additive process is best for your application? At TTH, we have the processes (e.g., Carbon DLS, PolyJet, selective laser sintering (SLS), fused deposition modeling (FDM), HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)), and materials (metals, plastics/composites) to produce parts with custom finishes that are closer to production-ready.
SLA has many different material options from Formlabs, 3D Systems and DSM SOMOS. Here are the most popular materials we run. If there is another material you are interested in, please contact our sales team and they will find and bring in the right material for your needs.
SLA 3D printers range in all different types and sizes. Most common are large platforms with large build capacities of at least 20” x 20” x 11” (500mm x 500mm x 280mm) from 3D Systems. Another popular machine from 3D Systems for small, intricate parts is the Viper High-Resolution machine. It has a build platform of 10” x 10” x 11” (250mm x 250mm x 280mm) and can run in high resolution with 0.002” layers and finer laser targeting at 5” x 5” build envelope to get the finest part details and smallest features.
Each 3D printing technology is a little different, here are standard guidelines to consider when choosing SLA as your 3D printing process:
I have partnered closely with TTH for over a year, and working with them has been a wonderful experience. Their entire team is always pleasant to work with, their project managers are incredibly knowledgeable, and their attention to quality and timeliness is best in class. I simply cannot recommend them highly enough for any project big or small.
- Jordan G., Additive Manufacturing Professional
Most of my 30 year career has been spent finding vendors that meet my Cost, Service, and Quality requirements. The number of suppliers that can meet those criteria for a sustainable period of time are few. TTH is one of those companies. The management team at TTH is always willing to work with us to improve efficiency and offer solutions that exceed our expectations. If you are looking for a partner, not just a supplier, the team at TTH will not disappoint.
- Tom C., NPI Materials Leader
See how we partnered with Vitamix and Carbon to redefine what's possible. We took a legacy, six-piece, injection-molded part design and turned it into a new, one-piece, 3D-printed part.
Our integrated approach to design, prototyping, and production allows you to bring your concept to market faster and more cost-effectively than virtually anyone else.