Stereolithography and Rapid Prototyping

3D model _023D Model

First patented in 1983 by inventor Chuck Hull, stereolithography (SLA) is a three-dimensional printing technology that is used in producing models, prototypes and production parts.  This technology has a variety of applications, including manufacturing, medicine, casting and architectural modeling.  What differentiates stereolithography from other three-dimensionally printed media is the speed and level of detail offered.  Starting with a CAD design, a model is built layer by layer in liquid resin that hardens when contacted by laser beam.  This allows a designer to create a perfectly three-dimensional scale model without compromise or constraints encountered with milling machines or powder-based castings.



With technology like stereolithography, a designer may utilize rapid prototyping to further enhance or expedite the design process.  An idea rendered in CAD may be quickly transferred into a scale model with reliable accuracy.  This affords designers more time to resolve any spatial or architectonic problems.  A terrain may be modeled in perfect detail, as seen in this scale model of downtown Chicago constructed with stereolithographic machines.

Chicago ModelChicago Model _02

However, stereolithography is prohibitively expensive to use.  Landscape architecture schools encourage familiarity with SLA technology and applications, but in the field it may not always be practical.  With the $100,000 cost of an entry-level stereolithography machine, many firms still cannot see the full benefits of this technology.  However, stereolithographic technology is quickly becoming more affordable, and small office-sized printers are now available.


Chicago Architecture Foundation

GSD 3d Modeling

3D Systems





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  1. […] article via Lab Visual Logic based on Chuck Hull’s invention of stereolithography  – the earliest 3D printing process back in the early […]

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