Stereolithography (SLA) uses a UV laser to photo-cure large vats of epoxy based resin in the shape and form of an electronic 3D file. As the stereolithography (SLA) laser moves along the vat three dimensional parts are built layer by layer on a tray that sits just below the top of the resin line. The additive layer characteristic of stereolithography (SLA) allows the technology to build complex parts and geometries that may not be obtained, or cost effective, through other avenues such as machining. Once the parts have been completely built in the stereolithography (SLA) machine, they are removed from the tray and placed in a post curing chamber for final photo-curing.
After the stereolithography (SLA) parts have been completely cured there are a variety of finishes that can be done to them depending on desired application or use. Generally, stereolithography (SLA) parts are thought to have better accuracy and surface finish than other popular rapid prototyping processes. Since stereolithography (SLA) parts can be sanded, primed, painted, or plated a higher level of smoothness and appearance can be achieved than what comes directly out of the machine. After 20 years of stereolithography (SLA) being on the market there is a wide range of materials with varying mechanical properties that allow stereolithography (SLA) parts to further try to mimic mainstream engineering grade thermoplastics. The overwhelming advantage stereolithography (SLA) has is the ability to create high quality, fine detailed parts with wonderful aesthetic qualities in a short turnaround time.