Why Stereolithography is Built for Prototyping

Stereolithography (SL) is an established additive manufacturing process that can quickly and accurately create complex prototypes. Parts are built by curing paper-thin layers of liquid thermoset resin with an ultraviolet (UV) laser that draws on the surface of a resin to turn it from a liquid to solid layer. As each layer is completed, fresh, uncured resin is swept over the preceding layer and the process repeated until the part is finished.

SL offers a range of plastic-like materials to choose from with several types of polypropylene, ABS and glass-filled polycarbonate available. Normal, high and micro resolutions are achievable at Proto Labs, meaning very fine details and cosmetic surfaces are possible. As a result, minimal “stair stepping” is seen compared to printed parts such as fused deposition modeling (FDM).

SL parts can also be built to a max size of 29 in. by 25 in. by 21 in., giving it the edge over other additive processes like selective laser sintering (SLS).

Our latest design tip looks at these and other manufacturing considerations for the stereolithography process.

5 Design Considerations for Multi-Cavity Molds

Moving from a single cavity mold to one that produces two, four or eight parts at once seems like an easy way to increase production volume and reduce part costs. This can be true in many cases, but only if the right steps are taken and the requisite homework done first.

The 3D CAD model for a multi-cavity mold.

Designing a part for multi-cavity molding is not as simple as copying the CAD file for a single-cavity mold multiple times. It’s important to recognize that parts that behave perfectly in single-cavity mold might not play well with others, at least not without first making some tweaks to the part, the process or even the material.

In July’s tip, we look at important design considerations for multi-cavity molds that include gating, side-actions and pick-outs, material flow and how family molds are used differently than multi-cavity tooling.

Read the full design tip here.

Design Tip: Leveraging Low-Volume Injection Molding

Investing $50,000 or more in high-volume steel tooling is an inherent financial risk that comes with a move to large-scale production. Compounding the risk is months of idle time as you wait on your steel tool to be ready when you could be iterating part design or even producing products that generate revenue.

Why DMLS is a Reliable Additive Alternative for Complex Metal Parts

Additive manufacturing in DMLS

The rise of direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) has opened up a new world of 3D-printed metal prototypes and production parts. DMLS fuses metal powder into thousands of thin layers, making it particularly well-suited for highly complex metal parts that are unable to be machined and multi-part assemblies that can be reduced into a single piece.

The advanced additive process complements high-speed CNC machining, by producing fully dense end-use parts built in a range of metals like aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, cobalt chrome and Inconel. Our latest design tip explains the DMLS process, its benefits and provides some design advice on how to build better parts for DMLS

3D Printing or Machining for Plastic Parts?

An SL machine displays a final ABS-like part with supports.

There are many questions to consider when determining if your plastic parts should be 3D printed or machined. Can you test form, fit and function by using plastic-like materials or do you require engineering-grade thermoplastics? Do you need a broader selection of plastic materials during protoyping? Is your part geometry simple or complex? What are the cost considerations for both methods?

Our latest April Design Tip takes a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of both 3D printing and CNC machining.  It aims to help you determine which method is better for your particular application. Continue reading