Stereolithography Turns 30

Posted by Fred Kaplan On November - 7 - 2017Comments Off on Stereolithography Turns 30

Stereolithography—Staying relevant in the 21st Century

By Jim Reitz

Turning 30 invites a time of reflection. The landscape of additive manufacturing has changed dramatically since the 1988 commercialization of stereolithography (SL) as the first viable 3 D printing technology. In fact, the terms “3D printing” and “additive manufacturing” only entered the popular vernacular in recent years.

The scope of additive manufacturing has changed dramatically in recent years. Technologies encompassing thermoset and thermoplastic materials, as well as metal, have proliferated.  The 2017 Wohlers Report lists 96 different AM equipment suppliers across a broad range of technologies. Advances in equipment, software, and material have been substantial since the early days of SL, concurrent with increasing computer power and growth in the 3D CAD installed base. Competition within the early technology supply base has increased as patents expire and new players come to the international market. So, what’s in store for this young technological grandfather?

Stereolithography (SL) like all additive manufacturing processes provides a means to translate 3D computer models into a physical shape without machining. Material performance characteristics combine with 3 D printing methodology to shape application capabilities. Today, the inherent characteristics of 355 nm laser based SL technology characteristics leverage ever-expanding material capabilities to facilitate maturation into one of the widest used and highest utility AM processes. The term SLA, a registered trademark of 3D Systems, is often used by some to encompass a variety of 3D printing processes that fall within the ASTM grouping of AM processes as “Vat Polymerization.”

Stereolithography in this discussion will be focused on “industrial SL “, as the original technology has evolved and is differentiated from all other vat polymerization processes by:

  • Platform sizes ranging from 250 mm (9.5 in.) square to over 800 mm (31.5 in.) square.
  • Ultraviolet laser (355 nanometer wavelength) light source
  • Materials specifically formulated for 355 nm UV including clear, pigmented and composite systems
  • Imaging from above (build platform travels downward) 
    UnionTech High Resolution Part

    Metal Plated High Accuracy Sample Part Demonstrating Resolution and Precision of 355 nm Stereolithography

    The use of a laser to instantly cure a photopolymer with a UV laser with a nominal spot size less than 0.2mm provides one of the highest combinations of accuracy and resolution of any AM process, especially considering the range of part sizes the process is capable of. Today’s 355nm SL materials can produce parts that have excellent dimensional consistency and surface aesthetics ranging from transparent to a variety of colors resembling typical injection molded parts.  These materials have overcome robustness and aging issues encountered in earlier generations, allowing for parts manufacture with a broad range of mechanical properties allowing functional applications in prototyping, patterns, and beyond.

    Aerosport is successfully producing highly accurate parts that need very little finishing at the end of the process in the UnionTech™ RS Pro600, a recent entry to international markets.

    Additive Manufacturing (AM) processes utilizing thermoplastic materials are often cited for robust mechanical properties. Current generation SL materials can be selected to significantly overlap the performance range of many of the commonly used thermoplastics in other AM processes while retaining all the accuracy and aesthetic benefits of the SL process.

    Stereolithography is often typecast as a prototyping process sometimes based on an outdated understanding of material capabilities. The attributes of 355nm SL equipment in combination with the latest generation of photopolymers enables applications that extend prototyping capabilities as well end uses.  Significant opportunities in patterns for secondary forming operations ranging from large scale mass customization (dental aligners), low volume urethane part production, tooling for low volume injection molding, and metal clad composites are now being actively pursued. These applications are practical examples of how innovation can be attained via integration of SL with other conventional processes.

    Innovation via Technology Integration 

    The 3D printing process is often positioned as a disruptive technology but it is better thought of as an enabling technology.

    In the late 1990’s, the founders of Align Technology imagined a different business model for correcting the alignment of teeth with a series of retainers. Today, this application is possibly the highest volume application example of mass customization. Converting the CAD images of individual patients to patterns used to thermoform the final aligners enabled what most would call a disruptive business model.

    SL patterns for a secondary thermoforming process remains the dominant technology of this application today, based on the rapid processing times on large format machines optimized for this single application of mass customization.

    Investment casting, one of the oldest known metal forming processes, has used the SL process for over twenty years. The ability to manufacture hollow smooth walled patterns for use in a foundry process that coats the pattern with ceramic, then fully burns out the pattern in preparation for molten metals to be cast in the hollow form. While molded wax patterns dominant most high-volume applications, SL eliminates tooling costs for lower volume casting but also facilitates sizes and part features not readily obtained in a molded pattern process. The latest generation of SL photopolymers for this application have excellent dimensional consistency and contain no heavy metals found commonly in 355nm photopolymers. This combination ensures accurate patterns as well as minimal ash after burnout that can cause casting defects.

    Investment Casting Pattern Manufactured With Somos® Element

    Similar hollow part methodologies used for investment casting can be applied to large parts, creating “lightweight” parts with tailored mechanical properties and reduced weight (less material cost). Materialise, a global AM software company based in Belgium, has developed multiple software options for hollowing and reinforcing lightweight structures. This development has facilitated the cost-effective manufacture point-of purchase displays, architectural model, and other art applications.

    The ability to manufacture full density highly-accurate patterns also facilitates another well- established molding process known as urethane molding, RTV or silicone molding. After careful secondary finishing, the pattern is embedded in a silicone rubber casing that becomes a 2-part mold for the casting of urethanes. Polyurethane materials can be formulated to achieve properties consistent with levels of performance from injection molded thermoplastics. The silicone tool can be used for low volume series when either multiple prototypes or low volume production is required. Many service bureaus have developed specialized methodology for supporting regular low volume part production capabilities that can both shorten supply chains as well as allow for iterative improvements as a low volume design ages.

    Creation of injection molding tooling has been an area of development interest since the earliest days of SL. The principal impediments to this potentially high-volume application for prototype and bridge parts include strength and temperature resistance of the 3D printed tool, predictability of tool life (durability), compatibility with a large range of injection molding materials including glass filled systems (abrasion resistance) . Also, high speed CNC machining of soft metal (typically aluminum) tools , a parallel technology , provides the potential of short lead times and predictable tool life. In just the last 2 years, the convergence of SL part build accuracy, material capability (heavily silica filled photopolymers and business models that combine SL tool building expertise with injection molding know-how has led to increased use of SL tooling.  Successful integrators of SL 3D printing and injection molding typically recognize that the goal is an injection molded prototype. Injection molders lacking an internal CNC machining operation can readily print mold sets for prototype production in actual end-use designated thermoplastics. This avoids the difficulties that can arrive with a pass-the –baton methodology that marked early efforts to equip service providers with injection molding tooling know-how.

    Dr. Sean Wise of RePliForm (left) and colleague Rick Dunlap are holding new electroplated stereolithography parts including a copper plated wave guide and nickel coated flexible mesh at the 2017 AMUG (Additive Manufacturing Users Group) conference in 2017.

    Like investment casting, electroplating of a substrate material to improve physical or mechanical properties is well known. Dr. Sean Wise of RePliForm, Inc has actively optimized electroplating techniques for 3D printed parts using copper and structural nickel since the year 2000. All 3D printed materials can be electroplated to improve strength, wear resistance, EMI/RFI shielding, flammability resistance, and aesthetics. Photopolymer based printers; however, offer smooth, non-porous surfaces that plate readily with basic parts preparation.  355 production SL machines and state of the art materials combine to provide the largest range of part size and substrate options. The same highly filled silica photopolymers used for injection molding tools can create extremely thin (0.010 to 0.040 in) substrates for a Nickel/copper/SL composite with mechanical properties approaching die cast nickel. This level of mechanical performance creates a significant bridge of opportunity between the gap of polymer AM and direct AM metal. Aside from mechanical properties, the design flexibility of SL combined with a copper coating can create a cost-effective wave guide or “antennae configuration.” There are other parts currently in production where the structural nickel creates a renewable wear surface.

    The stereolithography process is successfully being used to create tooling for short runs.

    Turning 30 does bring changes. 355 nm SL, inclusive of equipment, materials , and software ;has matured into one of the most widely used 3 D printing technologies not only for prototyping but for use in end-use production processes. The trajectory of current developments and utilization in a broad range of direct and  indirect manufacturing techniques, as well new prototyping capabilities bodes well for a long life.

The Daily 3D Detail: Advances in Solar Greenhouses

Posted by Editor On November - 5 - 2017Comments Off on The Daily 3D Detail: Advances in Solar Greenhouses

While not yet in the immediate purview of 3D printing, solar technology advances are an item of immense importance to nearly all industries. This story is no exception.

Researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz have published their findings on solar greenhouses wherein plants do well in energy-producing buildings.

According to the report, “Electricity-generating solar greenhouses are outfitted with transparent roof panels embedded with magenta luminescent dye that absorbs light and transfers energy to narrow photovoltaic strips, where electricity is produced. A new study shows that this novel technology, which has the potential to take greenhouses offline, didn’t interfere with plant growth or production.”

3D Printr Magazine Now in Thai

Posted by Editor On October - 31 - 2017Comments Off on 3D Printr Magazine Now in Thai

3D Printr Magazine Now in Thai

Pictured is the 3D scan and print made for the recent Royal Cremation of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama 9).

Following last week’s announcement of our publication becoming available for Portuguese readers comes this week’s news that 3D Printr Magazine is now publishing in Thai.

The Thai language boasts 56 million speakers, with roughly 14 million more able to understand and communicate with Thai speakers through their similar languages. The most notable of these is Laotian from the neighboring country of Laos.

Ratthakorn Niramitmahapanya is our Thai editor and comes from Chang Mai University in Northern Thailand where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

“The need for 3D printing skills in Thailand is big because manufacturing is big,” said Ratthakorn, who is skilled in Solidworks and the Onshape platform for CAD modeling yet prefers Dassault Systèmes’ CATIA V5, which he considers one of the best in 3D-modeling software.

With a continuing interest in automotives, Ratthakorn, who previously worked with tire giant Michelin in the position of garniture engineer, is hoping 3D Printr Magazine will be able to reach many more gear heads like himself. His belief is that technology never stops growing, and the importance of 3D printing in the manufacturing process cannot be overestimated.

We welcome Ratthakorn’s contributions and efforts to reach out to the inventive and industrious people of Thailand.

Visit the Thai language site at

3D Printr Magazine Now in Portuguese

Posted by Editor On October - 25 - 2017Comments Off on 3D Printr Magazine Now in Portuguese

3D Printr Magazine Now in Portuguese3D Printr Magazine is pleased to announce the launch of the Portuguese Edition of our publication at

Portuguese is generally regarded as the sixth most natively spoken language in the world, the third-most spoken European language in the world in terms of native speakers, and a major language of the Southern Hemisphere. There are an estimated 260 million speakers of Portuguese.

Taila Rodrigues, managing Portuguese editor for 3D Printr Magazine grew up in a small town surrounded by rural areas in the state of Parana, in the south of Brazil. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Ourinhos Integrated Faculties (FIO) in Sao Paulo. In Paraná, she served in the Office of Social Services as director of the Municipal Department of Psycho-Social Assistance, helping people in situations of social vulnerability.

She moved to Los Angeles, California, in search of a personal development in technological skills which led her to 3D printing. While taking classes at Santa Monica College Continuing Ed, she was introduced to the capabilities of the new medium and was captivated. She enrolled in their 3D printing classes and built her first 3D printer for $200.

“A lot of companies want to know about this in Brazil and I want to make that happen,” said Rodrigues, whose belief is that technology can be accessible for people worldwide.

The Daily 3D Detail: New Algorithm Speeds Up FDM 3D Printing

Posted by Editor On October - 24 - 2017Comments Off on The Daily 3D Detail: New Algorithm Speeds Up FDM 3D Printing

University of Michigan’s Smart and Sustainable Automation Research Laboratory (S2A Lab) reports they written a new algorithm capable that can speed up an FDM 3D printer to operate up to ten times the speed.

Researchers 3D-printed a 37.23mm-wide scale-model of the U.S. Capitol Building in three hours and six minutes, achieving an acceleration rate of 10 m/s2.

An ordinary 3D printer accelerated to this point without the new algorithm would result in a failed print because of shifting layers from vibrations of the stepper motors.

Molong Duan and Deokkyun Yoon, researchers of the Michigan study, under the direction of Professor Chinedum Okwudire, said, “The motion of the printer’s build platform is along the x -axis, while its print head moves along the y – and z- axes.

“All three axes of the printer are controlled by stepper motors, but the focus of this study is on controlling its x – and y- axis motions which generate significant vibration, due to the printer’s flexible structure, as its print head and build platform move.”

In an industry raft with acronyms, there’s one more to add to the list: LPFBS (limited-preview filtered B-spline). This is the method devised by Duan, Yoon, and Okwudire addressed by the algorithm. By using an online feedback loop, a realtime check system is conducted that constantly rights the printer head for an accurate position.

The value of the algorithm could be considerable for 3D printing, as it can be easily implemented in spooler software, applicable to all levels of desktop 3D printers, and much less costly than sensors and hardware options.

The report was published in the scientific journal Mechatronics and available at For more on the story, visit

The Daily 3D Detail: Early-Bird Registration Now Open for Pacific Design and Manufacturing Expo

Posted by Editor On October - 19 - 2017Comments Off on The Daily 3D Detail: Early-Bird Registration Now Open for Pacific Design and Manufacturing Expo

Early-Bird Registration Now Open for Pacific Design and Manufacturing Expo

The Pacific Design and Manufacturing Expo is the largest of its kind in the western U.S. Teamed along with the Medical Design and Manufacturing West Show at the Anaheim Convention Center on Feb. 6-8, the show promises to be a worthwhile investment of time for people of interest in nearly every manufacturing sector.

Companies from all over will be on hand with impressive displays and trade booths offering the latest in robotics and automation, CNC tools, scanners, new materials, and, of course, 3D printing.

Registration is now open for the show and the expo is free for early registration. Plan your calendar dates now to be in Anaheim on February 6-8 and be prepared to be marveled by new innovations and fantastic networking opportunities with peers in a variety of trades.

Sign-up is at

The Daily 3D Detail: New DLP Method Promises Speedy Results

Posted by Editor On October - 19 - 2017Comments Off on The Daily 3D Detail: New DLP Method Promises Speedy Results

Sprybuild, a company in Ukraine, has offered the world a new look at photopolymer printing. The technology maybe the fastest means of digital light processing discovered yet. Called Continuous Production with Wavefront Converting (CPWC) this new method allows for printing speeds of 10 mm per minute in the z-axis. The development may have an impact in bioprinting, if not directly, than at least indirectly on the quick iteration of optical fibers and stents.

To find out more on this DLP discovery and the method by which CPWC is able to achieve such rapid print times, please see Rawal Ahmed’s story at

The Daily 3D Detail: Indian Company Divide By Zero Awarded

Posted by Editor On October - 17 - 2017Comments Off on The Daily 3D Detail: Indian Company Divide By Zero Awarded

Indian market leaders Divide By Zero win at the 3D Printing World Awards

Video interview with Neeti Sansare, co-founder of Divide by Zero Technologies & Snigdha Agarwal, rising fashion designer and stylist discussing India’s first 3D-printed dress design created by Divide By Zero Technologies

Divide By Zero, a Navi Mumbai-based 3D printer manufacturing company founded by Swapnil Sansare and Neeti Sansare, are showing the world how India does 3D printing. Divide By Zero has been actively supplying both global and local enterprises with a whole range of industrial grade 3D printers. Apart from this, the Indian 3D printing experts are also the pioneers of the patented Advanced Fusion Plastic Modeling (AFPM™) technology which delivers Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) grade output strength at prices lower than FDM 3D printing. The AFPM technology is already incorporated the Aion 500 & Aion 500 MK2 3D printers manufactured by the company.

In the spirit of the Make in India initiative, Divide By Zero is the first Indian 3D printer manufacturing company to export machines across the Indian borders to countries such as Malaysia, Sweden, and Dubai. Divide By Zero has collaborated with multiple big names in the field of automotive research and development, such as Tata-Ficosa, SMR–Motherson, Mahle-Behr, Magneti Marelli, Advik Hi-tech, Prettl Automotive among many others. Apart from providing 3D printing technology, Divide By Zero goes one step further and also provides training options to the buyers as well as strong post-purchase support.

For its commitment towards the automotive sector, Divide By Zero was awarded the prestigious 3D Printing World Award 2017 for being the 3D Printer Manufacturer of the year 2017, thereby recognising their excellence and contribution in the Automobile and Engineering and Tool Design. The award commended the AION 500 industrial-grade 3D printer’s forte in increasing assembly line efficiency and overall cost reduction in automotive engineering.

The award is presented by Trinity Media & Marketing Solutions, the company behind 3D Printing World Expo, 3D Printing World Think Board, 3D Printing World TV, 3D Printing World News Express, 3D Printing World Awards and 3D Printing World School.

Apart from the 3D Printing World Award 2017, earlier this year Divide By Zero’s AION 500 MK2 was awarded the prestigious I Mark award in the ‘Industrial Equipment Category’ at India Design Mark 2017—an award instituted by the India Design Council in cooperation with the Japan Institute of Design Promotion.

As India’s leading industrial-grade 3D printing manufacturers, Divide By Zero regularly shares useful 3D printing and additive manufacturing tips, tutorials, and other interesting editorial. To visit Divide By Zero’s website and access free whitepapers, go to

The Daily 3D Detail: Early Bird Registration for Inside 3D Printing Ends This Week

Posted by Editor On October - 16 - 2017Comments Off on The Daily 3D Detail: Early Bird Registration for Inside 3D Printing Ends This Week

Early Bird Registration for Inside 3D Printing Ends This Week

Sign up today for this must-see SoCal event

The deadline to save with early bird prices to Inside 3D Printing San Diego, Dec. 4-5 is this Friday, Oct. 20 Registrants can save up to $400 on on-site prices of the show’s seminars and attendee events. Registration to visit the expo show itself is free, but must be done in advance.

The 2016 Inside 3D Printing Show was a stellar event, and a must for 3D printrs in the greater Southern California area. Companies ranging in notoriety in every vertical will be there to provide new developments to consumers and retailers alike and NASA will be on deck with a rocket nozzle demonstration.

Seminar topics include the “The Future of 3D Printing” keynote address featuring Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates; “Agility in Motion: Advantaged 3D Printing Innovation;” “A Road Map to 1 Million Unique Bio-Mechanically Enhanced Products;” “Getting Started with 3D Printing in Orthopaedic Surgery;” “Build with Life—Living Structures from 3D Bioprinters” and many more.

Sign up today at

Cubibot Meets Kickstarter Launch Goal in First Minute

Posted by Editor On September - 30 - 2017Comments Off on Cubibot Meets Kickstarter Launch Goal in First Minute

Cubibot Meets Kickstarter Launch Goal in First Minute

Cubibot, the San Diego-based 3D printer company, achieved unprecedented results in their Kickstarter campaign on Sept. 26 by acquiring their project goal of $50,000 within the first minute of the launch.

By the end of the same day, the company raised $230,000 in total. As of three days into the campaign, Cubibot has raised $360,000 with the help of more than 1,000 backers.

Cubibot began as the father-son design team of Sina and Aria Noorazar. The 3D printer is remarkably compact and stylishly fashioned with a 5x5x5-inch build envelope, self-leveling heated bed, self-contained filtration system, WIFI-enabled operating system on a cloud-based slicing program. Moreover the product results are impressive. The prints have a tight and smooth, consistent finish thanks to the resolution performance of the Cubibot. Much attention has been paid over the last three years to every detail of the 3D printer prior to this launch and it shows in the prints and the quiet reliability of the 3D printers.

Thanks to the popularity of the Noorazars at industry trade shows, Cubibot has built an eager audience anticipating this launch.

Aria Noorazar, CTO and co-founder of Cubibot, commented on the success of their launch, “It was really something! We had a podcaster for the opening of the launch and we achieved our goal in less than one minute.

“Because so many people were disappointed to find they missed the super-early-bird price, as well as the early-bird price as well, we are extending the early-bird price for the time being.

“In addition, we’re making a double pledge offer available, where a backer can get two of the Cubibot printers for the super-early-bird combined price of $399.”

To join the growing list of backers and make a pledge toward Cubibot, visit their website at and their Kickstarter page here.