SLA, 3D printers at work?

How many designers here have SLA technology or 3D printers at work? I just started looking at the feasibility of purchasing a small “rapid prototyping” machine for my company and was amazed at how much the prices have dropped in the past few years.

We used to have an SLA 250, however with the explosion of resins on the market it became more economical to sell the machine and contract the builds out to a network of vendors. This allows us to utilize a multitude of resins and finish capabilities otherwise not possible from our inhouse machine. It also allows us to select different resins for different components of the design. For instance clear lense parts, extreamly durable housing parts, and chrome/gold/ or titanium plated accent parts.

Not to mention not having the Manufacture of the machine breathing down our neck to upgrade because the machine we purchased 6 months ago is no longer supported by their techs, unless we upgrade to the newer laser and platform assemble. AS well as the added resin cost, and the overhead created by down dime on the machine.

For us it did not make sence to have in house stl capabilities, but for some shops who simply need to check for fit of internals it might.

just my 2¢ worth

I’m a senior designer at a small consultancy. We’ve had a Dimension FDM printer for about a year now and it has absolutely changed the way we work. The material (ABS) costs more than pay for themselves. It’s easy to change the cartridges, think VHS tape easy. Most projects at the cad stage get printed every night for review the next day. This can be for engineering modification review, or aesthetic/ ergonomic review. Foam models still play a big role, but nothing compares to feeling your cad, in your hand. Highly recommended.

talking to engineer at old corp gig. asked about their SLA machines and resins. ML basically said what he said. just that they were stuck with old machines that couldnt use new resins.

thanks for the feedback guys!

Btttom, can you tell me what model of machine you have? would you know what the monthly / annual costs to run are? We currently outsource all or “rapid prototyping” needs. We are starting to become quite reliant on the sla models as part of the overall design process (I am not sure if this is a good thing?). At the moment the turn around time for the sla parts is usually 3 days, this is becoming a problem.


There are a few questions that you should consider before purchasing. I know that you have probably asked yourself these, but keep them in mind.

  1. What do I use the majority of my models for?
  2. How accurate do I need the parts to be? SLA is far more accurate than FDM, and easier to finish for presentation type models. We also use the Dimention systems when it makes the most sence for the individual peices, so I have experiance with this tech as well. For nearly full functional parts FDM is great as long as their are no small features or high level of accuracy. (@.03 inches)
  3. How detromental to your specific design process is the 3 day turn around?
  4. Will the initial cost, maintainence cost, upgrade costs, and resin cartrage cost be affordable and easily amertised within the first year.

We have a shop litterally accross the street who specialize in urethane foam arhetectual models for HO and O scale trains. They have the latest technology of highly precise “micro-tooling” machines. They build foams out of our CAD as we go. Usually with a 24-36 hour turn around, gives me time to maintain an accurate data archive. Since our SLA,FDM,SLS, and RTV processes were to create the final presentation, semi/functional, and or marketing models it did not make sence to maintain our own system.

Sounds like your firm is really growing right now, you are lucky I see many small firms dieing, especially around the N. IL and Chicago areas. I have lost RP vendors who had on staff industrial designers and engineers