Where Stereolithography and PolyJet Applications Overlap

We often talk about the two most common photocure processes, PolyJet and Stereolithography, in contrast to one another. However, their differences become more nuanced depending on the application. We’ve put together a list of the solutions engineers find ideal from both of these processes, along with corresponding materials, to help you choose the best 3D print process based on your need.


stereolithography

I. Prototyping


PolyJet and Stereolithography (SL) are two of the top go-to solutions for prototyping. Whether it’s a small to medium prototype housing or enclosure, medical device, fitting or valve, or other component, PolyJet and SL can manufacture prototypes in a short time frame, which makes them ideal for quick form and fit testing. Both processes print up small to medium prototypes within hours, further contributing to their desirable qualifications for quick turn prototypes. Ideal prototyping materials for PolyJet include VeroWhitePlus for general purpose needs and Rigur for the best combination of toughness and flexibility. SL prototype materials include Somos® WaterClear 10120, for clear prototypes and lenses, and Somos NeXt for improved impact and moisture resistance.

II. Models


PolyJet and Stereolithography are relied on to deliver highly accurate and beautiful prototypes in a short time frame. SL achieves a layer resolution as thin as 0.002” while PolyJet affords 0.00063” at its highest layer resolution. Layer resolution attributes to, in part, the surface smoothness of a 3D printed part. The combined speed and resolution these photocure processes are known for make them invaluable for modeling needs. PolyJet is better used for small prototype models about the size of your hand. Dental models, for instance, often utilize VeroClear, a transparent, rigid PolyJet material. SL is best known for economically printing large models used in film and medical applications, such as the Maternal Fetal Simulator model used to unveil the latest in birthing simulation from CAE. The simulator relied on SC 1000 for clear body components as well as sanded and painted SC 1000 for the skin-toned sections. The ability to seamlessly bond large units and general build platform size make SL perfect for large aesthetic models.

III. Master Patterns


Both PolyJet and Stereolithography are heavily used in the creation of master patterns for urethane casting. Choosing between these technologies is largely driven by the size of the pattern and feature detail requirements. PolyJet and SL master patterns are printed, sanded to surface specification, and used to form silicone molds. The silicone molds are then used to cast urethane materials. While the process involves very low heat, the 3D printed patterns are typically only used once or twice to maintain ideal surface features and part accuracy. However, their quick turnaround from print to finish make them ideal master patterns. The Millipore Muse Cell Analyzer used both SL and PolyJet as masters for pre-production urethane castings.

IV. Stereolithography Only: Investment Casting Patterns


Stereolithography is the clear solution for investment casting patterns. The process has been transformed and refined by Stratasys Direct Manufacturing to deliver fast, accurate patterns with excellent burnout and low ash for medium to large metal parts. Using a unique build structure and a specially formulated material, SC 1000, SL investment casting patterns answer needs for everything from sculptures to aerospace engine components. In the realm of investment casting, Stereolithography still reigns supreme. PolyJet is not an ideal choice for this application.

V. PolyJet Only: Multi-Material


While Stereolithography rules investment casting, PolyJet rules multi-material prototyping and modeling. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing’s multi-material 3D printing incorporates a range of durometers and colors within a single print, combining flexible with rigid to create the feel of rubber or silicone. Within the automotive, medical, consumer product, and artistic sectors, multi-material printing with PolyJet remains one of the most relied upon solutions for incorporating a wide range of material properties to vary translucency, rigidity, or color. This is favorable when prototyping over-molded components.

3D printing is a constantly evolving process. New materials and better machines push the envelope of what’s possible – and the only limit is our ability to think outside the box! Whether you’re just starting out, have a unique application, or championing a fleet of 3D printers, we’re here to help. We have over 200 3D printing and conventional manufacturing systems ready to supplement your in-house needs. Upload your 3D CAD model and check out our automated quoting system to get started: Get A Rapid Quote.

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Stereolithography
How it Works: Stereolithography

“In the old days, when we prototyped, it would take a machinist sometimes 6-8 weeks to make a simple pump housing. I can do that in 6-8 hours. That’s what it does.”