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SLA & SLS 3D Printing Process: Road to the 3D Printed Vehicle

SLA & SLS 3D Printing Process: Road to the 3D Printed Vehicle


For the automotive industry, the latest advances of SLA & SLS 3d printing in additive manufacturing (AM) have opened the door to newer, more robust designs; lighter, stronger, safer products; shorter lead times; and lower costs. In the early years, the Wohlers annual report pointed out that the automotive industry accounted for 16.1% of total additive manufacturing expenditure. While automotive OEMs and suppliers mainly use AM for rapid prototyping, AM's technology trajectory provides a strong basis for future use in product innovation and direct manufacturing.

This guide will present a summary of SLA / SLS 3d printing and the process in the automotive sector. It will talk about the design requirements for components used in design recommendations for automotive programs in addition to vehicles. And a variety of popular substances acceptable for the sector will be introduced.


SLA SLS 3d printing in the automotive sector


Design in the automotive sector usually begins with a scale model that shows the form of the vehicle. These are often also used for aerodynamic testing. SLA 3D printing process and material jets are used to generate high-detail, smooth-scale models of automotive designs. Accurate models clearly communicate design intent and show the overall form of the idea.


Prototyping using SLA or SLS 3D printing is now common in the automotive sector. From full-size rear-view mirrors that print quickly at low-cost FDM to high-detail, full-color dashboards, there is always a SLA/SLS technology to meet a variety of prototype needs. Some additive manufacturing engineering materials also support full testing and verification of prototype performance.


One of AM's most devastating areas is the production of low-cost, fast molds for injection molding, thermoforming, and fixtures and fixtures. In the automotive industry, this allows for the rapid manufacture of molds at low cost and then for the production of small and medium-sized parts. This verification mitigates the risk of investing in high-cost tools during the production phase.


SLA and SLS 3D printing is primarily used as a prototype solution rather than for part manufacturing since the automotive industry typically produces very high volumes (more than 100,000 parts per year). The improvement in the size of industrial printers, the speed at which they can be printed, and the materials available means that AM is now a viable option for many mid-size production runs, especially for high-end car manufacturers that limit production to the following range.


When the cost of highly complex disposable components is justified by a significant increase in vehicle performance, AM has had a major impact on the highly competitive automotive industry. Parts could be customized to a specific vehicle (lightweight suspension arm) or driver (helmet or seat). AM also allows parts to be combined and optimized for the topology of many custom automotive parts. The case study at the end of this article further emphasizes this.


Automotive SLA SLS 3D printing requirements

Weight - final part

One of the most critical aspects associated with the automotive industry is to reduce component weight. Automotive applications use advanced engineering materials and complex geometries to reduce weight and improve performance. SLA / SLS 3D printing is able to produce parts from many common lightweight polymers and metals in the automotive industry.

Complex geometry - prototype and final part

What affects weight and aerodynamics (and thus the performance of the vehicle) is the geometry of the part. Automotive parts typically require internal passages for conformal cooling, fine meshes, thin walls, hidden features, and complex surfaces. AM allows the fabrication of highly complex structures that are still very lightweight and stable. It offers a high degree of design freedom, optimization and integration of functional features, low volume production at a reasonable unit cost, and high product customization even in mass production.

Temperature - test and final part

Many automotive applications require significant minimum thermal deformation. Several additive manufacturing processes are available to stand up temperatures above the average 105 and #8451 engine compartments. In the SLS 3D printing process, nylon and some photocurable polymers are suitable for high temperature applications.

Moisture test and final part

Most components used in automotive production must be completely protected from moisture or even moisture. One of the main benefits of additive manufacturing is that almost all printed components could be post-processed to form a barrier against water and moisture. In addition, many materials are also suitable for environments that are both wet and humid.

Part Merging - Prototype and Final Part

By redesigning a single complex part, you can reduce the number of items in the assembly. Part consolidation could be say is an important element when thinking how additive manufacturing reduces material usage, reduces weight, and reduces costs in the long run. Part merging also reduces inventory and it means that if repairs are needed, the components can be substituted with a single part.


SLA SLS 3D printing materials for automotive applications

The table below lists the various materials used in SLA and SLS 3D printing process in the automotive industry and related applications.






Example part

Under the hood



Heat-resistant functional parts

Battery cover

Interior accessories



Custom cosmetic parts

Console prototype

Air ducts



Flexible duct and bellows

Air conditioning ducting

Full scale panels

Industrial SLA


The surface finish of large parts is comparable to injection molding

Front bumper

Cast metal brackets & handles

SLA & cast


and can be sanded and painted

Alternator mounting bracket


Material jetting


Sturdy, lightweight functional metal parts

Dashboard interface




The end-use custom screen bezel

Headlight prototypes


To learn common applications and case studies where AM has successfully been implemented, read >>> SLS 3D Printing & SLA Printing Services: Successful Cases of 3D Printed Vehicle

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