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SLA Printing

Schematic representation of StereolithographySLA is Stereo Lithographic Apparatus, most commonly called simply Stereo Lithography.

I have investigated this process for use in jewelry making and any other high surface finish 3D printing. The hardware cost has been coming down, but the cost of materials and the finish work such as UV hardening, and support removal are still cost and labor intensive. With enough production need the cost can be reasonable, but it is a system that should be utilized to its fullest extent.

That means it needs full time operation and not occasional utilization.

The process uses a focused laser beam (a) to “paint” the structure layer by layer, on a surface (c) immersed in a polymer solution (b). The light beam partially solidifies the polymer at the focus/surface point. The build platform (e) moves the item (d) away and usually out of the liquid polymer material as layers are added.

The results are usually the ability to produce a very fine, smooth, and accurate surface finish. Post curing and extensive support removal and detailing by hand are required.

Some of the polymer material is suitable for direct used for investing and casting. Other polymer material can be used in the vulcanized or cold process rubber mold making. Then wax burn-out masters can be produced. Many options are available for producing and using the final print output.

The process although high quality is still expensive and labor intensive. There must be a real purpose and plan to make full use of the technology. If everything I made originated in a CAD drawing, The process would be more attractive for the things I create. I would love a “free ride” to play with the process but to purchase such a system, it would have to pay its own way in increased sales.

I currently don’t produce enough jewelry items for SLA to replace my CNC machining. That’s bottom line reality.


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