Machine SLA-5000
Manufacturer 3D Systems
Material Liquid Photopolymer
Mechanism 216 mW Solid State Laser
Build Volume 20" x 20" x 23"
Applications Produces highly accurate parts for a wide range of applications.

SLA 5000

Stereolithography is a manufacturing process that uses a UV laser to create successive cross-sections of a three-dimensional object within a vat of liquid photopolymer. The cross-sections build layers typically of 0.005 inches or 0.006 inches. A platform is placed at the top of the vat filled with the polymer (an epoxy resin). Before the build begins, the platform is moved to a point just below the surface of the resin. As the solid state UV laser traces the layer in the polymer, the resin begins to cure; solidifying the part to be manufactured.

Before the part begins to build, supports are built between the platform and the part, to ensure easier removal of the part. After the supports are created, the process to build the part begins. Once the cross-section has been traced with the laser, a Zephyr blade moves across the platform, leveling the uncured polymer. After a layer has been completed, the platform drops down again and the same procedure takes place. The object is manufactured layer by layer, curing the part on each level. When the build is complete, the platform raises above the vat, draining the excess resin away from the part.

The platform is then removed and the part is further processed. The fresh part is bathed in a TPM solution to remove the excess resin. Now that the part has been sufficiently washed with the TPM solution, it is then sprayed thoroughly with alcohol and the supports removed. The part can then be sanded to remove the support structures at the base of the part. Then the part is sanded to a fine finish on all sides. The part is then placed in a UV oven to finish curing the polymer, this enables the part to be handled directly by human skin (it removes the stickiness or tackiness on the outer edges of the part).

When the curing process has finished, the part can be furthered polished and processed, if so desired. The part is usually shipped directly to the company whose design the part was manufactured from, or taken one step further: molding and/or casting. The parts that are built using the stereolithography machine are durable, but fragile. These parts must be handled with extreme care. The dimensions of these parts are very accurate, only varying at times by 0.002 to 0.005 inches. The SLA machine is also highly accurate with building parts containing complex geometries and intricate details.