Additive manufacturing or 3D printing continues to influence the future of manufacturing as it opens more prototyping and low-volume end-use possibilities. Today, you can access many 3D printing technologies, with SLA and SLS among the widely used ones. Both are known to provide high-quality precision prototypes and parts, but some projects may require an SLS prototype over another made through SLA. Knowing the differences between these two methods can help you make an informed choice for your project.
Defining SLS and SLA
SLS stands for selective laser sintering, and it uses a precision laser to fuse powder nylon materials one layer at a time, building strong and accurate plastic parts. Reputable manufacturers use PA 12 or glass-filled PA 12 and control tolerances to 1mm.
On the other hand, SLA means stereolithography. It relies on a precise laser, like in SLS, but this time, it cures liquid resin inside a build chamber instead of fusing the material. However, it also builds accurate parts layer by layer. Manufacturers control tolerances to 0.4mm to ensure a good surface finish and accuracy to CAD and offer a wide range of resins.
When to use SLS prototyping?
An SLS prototype is durable and can withstand high stress, making it ideal for building functional models or robust sample components. SLS 3D printing can realize complex geometries, and the process is quick and flexible, making it cost-effective for low-volume production. It is a good option for projects where function and strength are critical characteristics.
Should you use SLA prototyping?
Choose SLA 3D printing if you require an aesthetic model. It is an accurate and inexpensive process that can add value to pre-production assembly prototypes and bespoke production parts, like hearing aids. It produces a good surface finish that makes it suitable for creating aesthetic prototypes you intend to show during trade shows, concept presentations, sales pitches, or market testing.
If you are unsure whether to use an SLA or SLS prototype, find a prototyping specialist offering these 3D printing technologies. They can review your project and give suggestions and design tips to help you pick the best additive manufacturing method with confidence.