Stereolithography (SL), the first 3D printing technology, has seen continued innovation in equipment, materials, and application know-how over the last 30 years and has one of the largest globally installed bases of all additive manufacturing (AM) technologies. However, SL technology, even in its current state of advanced development, has often taken a backseat to news generated by the wide array of emerging AM technologies.
Today’s stereolithography technology and equipment capability exceed many ingrained perceptions of SL as a prototyping-only solution. The accuracy, precision, smooth surface and full density of SL produced parts, consistency of properties across all axis, diversity of build sizes, and the ability to access one of the widest ranges of material properties of any AM process has, indeed, made SL the most widely used AM process for concept models, form, fit and function prototype parts.
These same characteristics have led to the expansive use of stereolithography for tooling and patterns: investment casting, RTV tooling (also known as urethane molding), thermoforming and injection molding. In fact, a substantially greater percentage of all photopolymer materials sold for SL are used for tooling and patterns than any other single application.
Over the last 17 years, Shanghai Union Technology Corp (UnionTech) has built a leading position in industrial strength (355 nm UV) SL equipment in a domestic market distinguished by intense competition from both other SL equipment manufacturers and CNC machining. Expanding internationally in 2016, UnionTech has brought “fresh dimensions” to stereolithography: open design for materials and software, outstanding resolution, accuracy, surface finish, and market-leading cost effectiveness.
Building on Fresh Dimensions in Stereolithography to Benefit Commercial 3D Printing
Assessing the international SL market in 2017, UnionTech saw a need for further differentiating product offerings beyond the traditional production customer. The PILOT commercial series, with pricing beginning under $100,000, is intended to avail the benefits of stereolithography to a broader base of users.
The PILOT series consists of two models, the PILOT 250 and PILOT 450, with build envelopes of 250 mm cubed (9.8 in cubed) and 450 mm x 450 mm x 400 mm (17.7 in. x 17.7 in. x 15.7 in.), respectively. Exceptionally smooth sidewalls are produced at layer thicknesses ranging from 50 microns to 150 microns. The PILOT series uses any commercially qualified 355 nm UV photopolymer in applications ranging from investment and urethane casting patterns, rapid tooling, metal cladding and the full range of prototyping and end use applications.
A distinguishing feature of every UnionTech SL machine is a “heart of granite” that provides exceptional stability for the vacuum re-coater system and material leveling plunger. This feature is indicative of UnionTech’s approach to robust construction that cost effectively contributes to performance. The 355nm UV laser provides sufficient power to accommodate a scanning speed of up to 12 m/s (expressed in more familiar terms for emphasi, 25mph). Similar to the RSPro production series, the PILOT series allows for 3 levels of user controlled access to machine parameters (operator, engineer and expert).
Vat changes are readily achieved with the use of an integrated vat cart.
The PILOT commercial series is intended for use in laboratory, academia, and internal/external service providers who can benefit from the diversity of available applications, accuracy, part aesthetics, and the range of material capabilities of industrial strength (322nm UV). UnionTech is targeting segments of 3D printing users that will be enabled by the cost effectiveness of the PILOT series to explore “fresh dimensions in SL”.
To learn more about the Union Tech equipment visit: https://www.uniontech3d.com/
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Jim Reitz is the General Manager of Union Tech, Inc.