Stereolithography is a manufacturing process that is used to create models to the specification of the clients. The models that are created using this technology vary in size and in technicality. The specific outcome of the Stereolithography will be a replica of the original idea. This process is often referred to as 3D printing, photo solidification, optical fabrication, solid imaging or solid free-form fabrication.
Most projects that are completed using this system will take between a few hours and longer than a day to be completely finished. The size of the model and the complexity of the design are what make the biggest difference in how long it will take to complete it. The size of the largest part that can be created with most of the SLA machines is 20″ X 20″ X 24″.
Many companies use this process to create a master pattern for use in injection moulding. Thermoforming, many metal casting processes and blow moulding are also commonly used for creating a model using Stereolithography.
The technology is relatively expensive and can be used to create a replica of any of part of your industrial innovation. The machine itself ranges in price from one hundred thousand dollars to over five hundred thousand dollars. This combined with the cost of the resin that is used in the process can lead to an investment that many would consider to be extremely expensive.
Creating Models Using Stereolithography
A vat of liquid resin is used to create the final product. A laser beam is shown into the vat of liquid so that the model can be created one level at a time. The laser forces the resin to solidify as it traces a specific pattern into the resin. After one layer becomes solid, a second layer is created. This process continues until the complete model is put into a tangible form. The layers adhere to each other so the end result is a solid part that is three-dimensional.
Support structures are used to hold the part onto the elevator platform so that gravity does not pull the material downward. The necessary supports are designed in the initial virtual design that is created in a CAD system. These supports are typically manipulated manually and they must be removed manually once the completed model is ready to be taken out.
In recent times, engineers have attempted to construct a mathematical model that will mimic the Stereolithography processes. Their algorithms will provide information up front as to whether the Stereolithography process will be effective in creating the product that the customer is looking for. As technology moves forward, this process is sure to take some remarkable advances that will lead to more cost-effective model production and more exciting uses for this technology. Stereolithography is very popular because of the high quality products that are produced using this technology.