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.

Proto Labs Expands Its Additive Manufacturing Footprint

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.

The Reviews Are In!

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:

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An Inside Look at Advanced 3D Printing

We’ve watched a design move from 3D CAD model to final part. We’ve stepped inside 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.

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