3D printing technology has revolutionised the way businesses create and develop products. Companies can now quickly produce prototypes and low-volume production parts in a fraction of the time it used to take, making product development faster and more cost-effective.
LPE (Laser Prototypes Europe) is a rapid prototyping and 3D printing business that specialises in stereolithography, selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering, digital light processing, vacuum casting, CNC machining and more for many industries. In this post we will explore these 3D Printing processes step by step so you can understand how they work.
1) Create a Design
Every method begins with the creation of a 3D design. This can be done using computer aided design (CAD) software. The 3D model is then tested using verification software before it’s ready to be 3D printed, ensuring that any flaws are corrected before starting the process.
Once the 3D design is complete and tested, it’s ready to be exported. This process involves saving the 3D model in a format that is compatible with the 3D printer. Popular formats include STL, IGES, STP, and SAT. The export process ensures that the exact shape and size of a model are maintained after exporting so that an accurate replica can be created by the 3D printer. Once exported, designers can then send their model to LPE for printing.
A full list of accepted files can be viewed on the quote page.
2) Select Your Materials
At LPE, we create parts using many different materials. The material that’s best for your part depends on its application, and the method used to create it. Materials that we for our 3D printed stereolithography service include:
- Xtreme. Ultra-touch, functional grey parts that resist breakage, and are good for simulating ABS and polypropylene. Good moisture resistance and thermal resistance over 60°C.
- Taurus. Charcoal ABS-like parts with heat tolerance up to 90°C; ideal for the most demanding functional prototyping and end-use applications.
- Si25. A white material that simulate polypropylene; flexible plastic suitable for snap-fit assemblies.
Alternatively, as part of our selective laser sintering service, we offer materials such as:
- PA2200. Durable, biocompatible white parts certified for contact with foodstuffs; strong and rigid with good chemical resistance.
- PA3200. Glass-reinforced white parts with high rigidity and good elongation at break.
- PA2210 FR. Flame-retardant white parts, particularly suitable for production of electric/electronic components, and applications in aerospace and mobility.
Materials used for 3D printing include photopolymer resin, metal, rubber, and composites. The best way to identify the ideal material for your design is to speak with the team at LPE.
3) Choose Your 3D Printing Method
The custom 3D printing process changes depending on the method used. At LPE, we utilise several different technologies, including stereolithography, selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering and digital light processing.
Two of our most popular 3D printing methods are Stereolithography (SLA) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). They each utilise different methods to create reliable, intricate 3D parts.
Stereolithography is a popular 3D printing technique that involves the conversion of 3D CAD data into physical models by curing a liquid photopolymer resin with a UV laser. This is done layer by layer, meaning that a layer is added, then cured, and then another layer added, and so on.
During setup, structural supports are created to provide stability for the printing process. Once the printing is done, the parts are washed in a solvent solution to remove any uncured resin residue. They are then placed in a UV light oven to undergo a final curing process, which ensures maximum strength and stability.
After the curing process, support structures are removed using gentle sanding and bead blasting techniques. This process ensures that the final product has a smooth surface finish that matches the original design.
Selective Laser Sintering
Selective Laser Sintering involves a different process entirely. With this 3D printing technology, powerful lasers are used to heat nylon-based powder to extreme temperatures. They then melt and fuse together, forming a solid object. The laser is computer-controlled, allowing it to create the required design with extreme precision.
Again, this process is repeated layer-by-layer until the full 3D model is formed. The excess powdered material is then removed to reveal the finished design.
No matter the 3D printing process, LPE specialists perform rigorous testing procedures on each part before delivery, ensuring high quality standards at all times.
Which method is best for your application depends on design, application, and property requirements so consult with an LPE expert today to find out what’s right for you.
4) Choose Your Finish
The final step is finishing.
LPE has a team of experienced in-house model makers and a full spray-painting booth, which enables us to offer a range of paints and finishes. Our finishing options for stereolithography, for example, include:
- Standard. The parts are sanded to remove any support structures and build lines. This is an essential step to ensure that the final product has a smooth surface finish that matches the original design. To achieve an overall smooth finish, the parts are then bead blasted.
- Polished. Parts can be polished for an exceptionally smooth finish; SLA Watershed parts can be polished as clear as possible.
- Metal plating. SLA-printed parts can be metal-coated in metals such as chrome and nickel.
- Medical-grade clean-up. SLA-printed parts can be given a medical-grade clean-up in accordance with ISO13485 specifications.
- Other paint finishes. SLA-printed parts can be finished in matt, satin, spark, or gloss paint.
Besides custom finishing, we offer a wide range of additional post-processing options such as decals, dyeing, inserts and assembly. If you have a specific request, get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.
Choose LPE for Reliable, Efficient 3D Printing
The development of prototypes is a critical component of the product design process. From consumer goods to medical devices, from fashion to aerospace, prototypes play a crucial role in the design, developing and testing of a wide range of products.
At LPE, we offer fast and accurate rapid prototyping services using an extensive range of 3D printing technologies and materials. Our services not only allow us to create reliable, functional parts, but also to fully finish them to extremely high standards.
Bring your products to market quickly and efficiently with LPE’s state-of-the-art 3D printing technology and fast lead times. Request a quote today or contact our team to find out how we can bring your ideas to life.