Table of Contents
- What is SLA technology?
- What is SLS technology?
- Differences between SLA and SLS technologies
- Final Thoughts
3d printing technology is transforming several industries with its robust and performance-driven applications to speed up manufacturing. From automotive to consumer products, aerospace to architecture — this future-driven technology helps companies innovate better.
When it comes to popular 3d printing technologies, there are two most popular and widely-used methods — SLA and SLS.
Manufacturers that plan to include 3d printing in their core process get confused between SLA or SLS. To clear the air of confusion, we have researched everything you need to know about both methods.
What is SLA technology?
Stereolithography or SLA printing is the oldest 3d printing technology invented in the 80s. The working of this process is simple and based on laser beam printing. SLA printers use an intense laser beam to cure liquid resin to make it solid layer by layer, and this process is known as photopolymerization.
In this process, the laser renders a 2D area of the object over a thin liquid resin layer. After this, the machine prints a new layer on top of the previous layer and creates the next design section. SLA 3d printer repeats this step until the complete object is ready. Once the thing is prepared, it is dipped in liquid resin to clean it and remove support structures.
This 3d printer can move in two ways — the first is using mirrors, and the second is using a gantry to move the laser over the design. It can print objects with superior accuracy and with more precise details. SLA technology is ideal for printing patterns, functional parts, or creating molds.
What is SLS technology?
SLS or Selective Laser Sintering is a widely-employed 3d printing method that industrial manufacturing companies use to print complex geometries. This method, like SLA, also uses a laser that melts, sinters, or fuses the powder particles to form an object.
SLS printers start the process with a thin powder layer kept on the top of the building surface. An intense laser beam draws a 2D area of the object and starts sintering the particles together. Once the first layer is complete, the machine applies another layer of powder over the previous one. This process continues until the final object is made. Once the printing process is finished, the last step is to take out the printed component that’s got buried under the material powder.
It’s an ideal 3d printing process for complex industrial applications as it can work with many materials. Along with plastic, this process can print with ceramics and metals as well. In addition to this, the materials around the object act as a support structure which means you can print highly complex geometries easily.
The image is used for illustration purposes. Zeal 3D Printing is not the owner or creator of the image. (Image Source: eMotion Tech on Unsplash)
Significant differences between SLA and SLS technologies
When it comes to SLA vs SLS, we can compare both technologies on multiple parameters like object size, materials, and cost.
Here comes the primary difference — SLA can print objects using polymers and resins. On the other hand, SLS technology is more robust as it can also print with metals, ceramics along with polymers. So, for high-end applications, SLS is ideal compared to SLA.
Another significant difference among them is the form of materials that engineers use in both printing technologies. SLA uses a liquid resin that is messy to handle and toxic. As a result, SLA post-processing takes more time compared to SLS. On the other hand, SLS uses powders that are easy to manage.
SLA 3d printers are smaller in size, so they are ideal as a desktop machine to print small size objects. Contrary, SLS printers are large and can print large objects with a shorter turnaround time. In addition, SLS can handle big and complex models, which is not possible for SLA.
SLA 3d printers are more affordable compared to SLS professional printers, which are used for industrial purposes. For example, you can get a standard SLA printer for a couple of hundred dollars, but the price can go up to 5X of the SLA printer for SLS printers.
Both SLA and SLS printing methods are highly productive technologies and fit for their applications. For example, if you are into printing smaller objects and using polymers, then SLA is an ideal pick. On the other hand, if you need a more powerful printer that can handle multiple materials and print larger objects, SLS is the best 3d printing technology.