When you’re watching an epic movie filled with sweeping cinematography, you probably want the highest on-screen resolution possible with, say, a Blu-ray disc or high-definition stream. But if your children are watching old Disney movies in the playroom while arguing with each other over Legos, a standard picture from a classic DVD will probably suffice. The point: Don’t overpay for something that isn’t really necessary.
The same thought can be applied during 3D printing when you’re prototyping with stereolithography (SL). Proto Labs uses three resolutions that range in cosmetics and functionality. Normal resolution (NR) provides the lowest cost, but lacks fine detail. With NR you get a layer thickness of 0.004 in. with a minimum feature size of 0.010 in. — but that might be all you need in early prototyping.
If your part requires an elevated level of precision, there’s high resolution (HR). Here, you get a layer thickness (0.002 in.) and minimum feature size (0.004 in.) half of NR. It costs more, but the boosting the part quality may be well worth it depending on your intended application.
You can even step up to a higher level of precision, which most manufacturers are unable to provide. Micro resolution (MR) — the Blu-ray of additive resolutions, if you will — can provide optimal part detail on the smallest of part features. With MR, you get a layer thickness of 0.001 in. and minimum feature size of 0.002 in. Yes, that is an actual life-sized ant (not an evil oversized ant) atop a microscopic chess board. You can even see the staircase inside the rook!
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.
Proto Labs has acquired a new facility to expand its 3D printing service into a larger and more efficient additive manufacturing space. The 77,000 sq. ft. facility will allow us to house all of our stereolithography (SL), selective laser sintering (SLS) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology under one roof. The new plant is scheduled to become fully operational in the first half of 2016, and will remain in the North Carolina area where Proto Labs’ current additive facilities are located.
Large format SLS machines that will eventually move to Proto Labs’ new additive manufacturing facility.
“Since the launch of 3D printing at Proto Labs, we’ve increased our material selection and improved our turnaround time to days. We have also introduced additive services in Europe,” explains Rob Connelly, Proto Labs’ VP of Additive Manufacturing. “Our state-of-the-art facility will be a critical driver in advancing 3D printing for many years to come.”
Read the full press release on our new additive manufacturing space here.
We recently published a comprehensive, 72-page “Digital Manufacturing for Dummies” book that covers the benefits of using additive manufacturing (3D printing), CNC machining and injection molding for custom prototyping and low-volume production.
Well, a few editors of industry publications have had a chance to read and review the book. Here’s what they’re saying:
We’ve watched a design move from 3D CAD model to final part. We’ve stepped inside a high-speed CNC machine. And we’ve looked at how injection molding can produce quick-turn plastic, metal and liquid silicone rubber parts. We’re closing our video series with topic of many manufacturing conversations as of late: 3D printing.
Additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) is increasingly being used to rapidly build prototypes and even functional, end-use parts. Proto Labs employs three advanced additive processes: stereolithography (SL), selective laser sintering (SLS) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). Check out our short video to see how additive manufacturing at Proto Labs can help on your next project.