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Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a process involving making solid objects in three dimensions from a digital file given. The creation of the final 3D printed object is done using additive process. In additive process, an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is formed as a whole. It's important to make the distinction between diverse types of 3d printing. There are as many as 10 types of 3d printing. These include FDM, DLP, DMLS, SLS, ALSM, Material Jetting, Binder jetting and DOD.
Popular Prototypes - SLA Prototypes
Of all the prototyping, SLA prototyping is the most popular. It's the most commonly used rapid prototyping technology. It can make highly detailed and accurate polymer parts. Introduced in 1988 by 3D Systems Inc, it is the most rapid prototyping process. It's based on French Inventor Hull.
It's a fast process and can make any type of design. Of course, it's a little expensive.
Technology: How SLA Prototypes Work
SLA prototypes are the products of process of additive manufacturing. The process works by making a UV laser onto a vat of resin of photopolymer. Taking the aid of CAD/CAM, software, the UV laser is applied to draw a preprogrammed shape or design on the surface of the vat of photopolymer.
Photopolymers can get an impression as they are sensitive to UV light. Therefore, the resin photochemically becomes solid and forms a single layer of the intended 3D object.
Now the build platform brings down one layer and blade recoats the upper most part of the tank with resin. This process is repeated for each layer of the design up to when the 3D object is built as a whole. The parts thus, completed have to be washed with a solvent to clean up the residues of resin from the surface.
It is also feasible to get printed objects in bottom up by using a transparent bottomed vat. Now you need to focus the UV laser upward going through the bottom of the vat. A machine that is inverted stars the print by bringing down build platform to touch the bottom of the resin-filled vat and then moving upward by one layer.
Now the UV laser builds the lowest layer of the intended part via the transparent vat bottom. When the vat is rocked, peeling and flexing the bottom of the vat off the photopolymer hardened. The hardened material gets separated from the vat bottom. The material remains attached to the build platform rising and the new photopolymer liquid flows in from the edges of the partly built part.
Now the UV laser writes the second layer (from bottom) and repeats the process.
The advantage of the reverse that bottom-up process is that the volume of the build can be made much larger than the vat itself. The only required thing is enough photopolymer to 0ensure the build vat bottom stays continually full of the photopolymer.
Note that the technology of making SLA prototypes mandates the use of supporting structures. The structures are attached to the platform of elevator to prevent diversion because of gravity, to resist pressure from sides because of the resin filled vat. Of course, supports are typically made automatically while making the CAD models. They can also be made manually.
In either of the situations, the support structures need to be dispensed with manually after printing is done.
Applications of SLA Prototypes
The process is used to make prototypes for products in developing computer hardware, medical models, and many other applications. The other applications include high-speed tools and jigs and fixtures, snap-fit assembly, exhibition scale models, transparent covers, optics. The application list aforesaid is not exhaustive. It’s just illustrative. Thus, there are myriad other industrial applications of SLA prototypes.
Advantages of SLA Prototypes
There are several advantages of technology. They are available in a range material selection and finishing options. The modes come with high quality and at high speed coupled with the high accuracy of the models.
SLA prototypes technology is among the fastest and most accurate methods of production to make 3D parts. Whether you’re planning and designing a custom product to be launched by your company, or it’s the case of providing customized solutions to each of your customers, this technology stands ahead of all. Despite being a little expensive, it’s likely that the cost would come down as there are multiple market players. By this, all the stake holders are going to benefit.