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The Complete Guide to 3D Printing Plastic Parts with Stereolithography

What Is Stereolithography?

Stereolithography is a vat photopolymerization (photocuring) 3D printing process. Watch our SL Technology Video to learn more about How Stereolithography Works.

Materials

3D print parts with Somos-branded shore D materials. Get a Quote, Get Design Services, or use our Material Wizard to get additional answers about making your part with SL.

Applications

The most common Stereolithography applications are Rapid Prototyping, Concept Modeling and Investment Casting Patterns.

Solutions

Our team has decades of experience with 3D printing and knows how to use SL to make your specific application. Contact an Engineer to start your project.

FAQs

Got questions about Stereolithography? We've got answers.

What Is Stereolithography?

a life-size superhero model 3d printed using the id-light stereolithography processStereolithography (SL, SLA) is the original 3D printing process still widely used today for its accuracy and speed.

Fast build and delivery reduces the design, engineering and test phases of product development and allows you to get to market faster.

Stereolithography Capabilities

Stereolithography is often used for prototypes, master patterns or large concept models, form and fit prototypes and investment casting patterns.

SL offers virtually limitless part size; we can seamlessly bond individual sections into industrial sized patterns.

ID-Light with Stereolithography

Build extremely light, large-scale parts in record time with our exclusive hollow build method, ID-Light.

Ideal for nonstructural appearance models, ID-Light builds faster, weighs less and costs less than solid SL models.

Parts built with ID-Light are lighter and have a better as-built surface than 10-20 pound foam.

Iterate Faster with Stereolithography

The design freedom and speed of Stereolithography makes design changes, iteration and validation easier than ever.

How Does Stereolithography Work?

Stereolithography builds parts with a precise UV laser to cure and solidify thin layers of a photo-reactive resin.

Post-build, SL parts require some support material removal and UV curing, as well as hand finishing or other requested post-processing.

Stereolithography Finishing Experts

Our finishing expertise takes your 3D printed prototype and transforms it into a replica of your finished product. Any surface look is achievable with our expert finishers.

Custom finishing, texture, color, artwork, EMI/RFI shielding, plating and other functional coatings can bring additional value to prototyping and models.

Stereolithography Photopolymers

Our wide range of Stereolithography photopolymers serve our customer’s requirements, from clear to strong, rigid plastics to special formulas for investment casting patterns.

Materials for 3D Printing Parts with Stereolithography

Look to SL for excellent dimensional tolerances, smooth surfaces and fine feature details. Mimic properties of ABS, polycarbonate and polypropylene in layers as low as 0.002”.

Material

Description Benefits Applications Properties

Somos® PerFORM

Latest (4th) generation composite filled material for highest rigidity and heat deflection temperature.
  • Excellent detail resolution
  • High rigidity
  • High heat tolerance
  • Tooling
  • Wind tunnel testing
  • High temperature testing
  • Automotive housings
DATASHEET

Somos® ProtoGen 18420

Highly accurate and good for most quick delivery prototyping applications
  • Great combination of accuracy and functional properties
  • Fast, easy finishing
  • Highly accurate
  • Automotive parts
  • Consumer products
  • Electrical housings
  • Tooling masters
DATASHEET

Somos® WaterClear Ultra 10122

A clear and colorless material suited for lenses and see-through covers
  • Extraordinary clarity
  • Colorless
  • Easy to finish
  • Automotive lenses
  • Bottles
  • Lenses
  • Light pipes
DATASHEET

Somos® WaterShed XC 11122

Produces highly detailed parts with great clarity and water-resistance
  • Easy to use and finish
  • Superior moisture resistance
  • Exceptional clarity
  • Consumer products
  • Fluid flow analysis
  • Lenses
DATASHEET

Somos® NeXt

Higher impact resistance than standard SL resins; Moisture resistance
  • Superior impact strength and durability
  • Exceptionally versatile
  • Thermoplastic-like performance, look and feel
  • Tough, functional end-use prototypes
  • Snap-fit designs
  • Jigs and fixtures
  • Packaging and sporting goods
DATASHEET

SC 1000P

Custom formulation ideal for low cost investment casting patterns
  • Reduced cost
  • Low residual ash
  • Excellent accuracy
  • Excellent for investment casting patterns
  • Ideal for large, lightweight models utilizing ID-LightTM
DATASHEET

Somos® Element

Antimony free formulation for investment casting patterns. Use when casting reactive metal alloys where antimony may contaminate the cast metallurgical properties.
  • Antimony free
  • Low residual ash
  • Excellent accuracy
  • Investment casting patterns for reactive metal alloys
DATASHEET

Get a Quote

Ready to make your part with SL? Upload your CAD file now to select your material and generate an instant quote.

Get a Quote

Get Design Services

Need some assistance with your 3D design? Our design services team offers a suite of solutions, including file creation and file repair.

Get Design Services

Use Material Wizard

Want to compare SL material properties? Use our material wizard to find out which materials meet your part's requirements.

Use Material Wizard

Stereolithography Applications

stereolithography rapid prototyping

Rapid Prototyping

Evaluate your design with a physical model and get to market faster with SL.

Read More

stereolithography concept models

Concept Models

Build light-weight, cosmetic versions of your product with our hollow build method.

Read More

stereolithography investment casting patterns

Investment Casting Patterns

Our proprietary photopolymer and build style produces consistent patterns with better burnout.

Read More

Stereolithography Parts from 3D Printing Pioneers

a quality control engineer inspects a part 3d printed using the stereolithography processFrom the beginning of 3D printing was Stereolithography, and long with it, our team of experts, learning what it takes for amazing parts.

Our responsive team of engineers have worked tirelessly, testing and validate Stereolithography materials and processes for nearly 30 years.

With the largest capacity of SL in North America, and engineers ready to assist with every step of your project, we’ll ensure amazing precise SL parts.

Proprietary Stereolithography Techniques

Our experience with Stereolithography has led us to develop proprietary techniques, post-processing methods, and material development for specialized applications.

Whatever your project need, from investment casting patterns to concept models, we won’t rest until your requirements are met.

Not sure where to start? Our experts are here to help.

Contact an Engineer

Stereolithography Resources

printing hearts

Printing Hearts

Doctors at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute utilize SL to recreate accurate models of their patients’ hearts before performing surgery.

Doctors at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute utilize SL to recreate accurate models of their patients’ hearts before performing surgery.

Read Case Study
3d printing and foundries

3D Printing and Foundries

More than 20 years with experience has led us to develop key solutions for our foundry customers.

More than 20 years with experience has led us to develop key solutions for our foundry customers.

Read the Article
investment casting design guidelines

Investment Casting Design Guidelines

Take advantage of the design freedom of 3D printed investment casting patterns.

Take advantage of the design freedom of 3D printed investment casting patterns.

Download the Design Guidelines

Frequently Asked Questions About Stereolithography

a production floor with a row of stereolithography industrial 3d printersWhat level of detail can be obtained with SL?

Stereolithography is available in a variety of resolutions. At its finest resolution, the layer thickness is 0.002” and the X/Y resolution is 0.004”.

Can SL-made components function as production parts?

Stereolithography is not generally considered suitable for production applications because the photo-reactive resins used in the process do not remain stable under long exposure to UV light.

However, SL is often used to make precise investment casting patterns to create end-use metal parts.

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