VAT Polymerization in 3D Printing

VAT Polymerization in 3D Printing

VAT Polymerization in 3D printing

VAT polymerization is a type of process in 3D Printing which can be used to construct a 3D model layer by layer with the help of a liquid resin. Usually, in 3D Printing, the deposited material is made to air-dry to make it strong.

When it comes to VAT polymerization, it uses a group of 3D printing processes which involves ultraviolet light for curing the deposited material. In this article, we will discuss the working of VAT polymerization and its types.

VAT Polymerization

This method uses a light-activated resin, typically known as photopolymer resin, to harden the base material. When UV light hits the resin, it affects the molecules in the resin and makes the molecules bond together tightly.

These liquid polymers are kept in a container along with the build platform. This process is followed in most of the latest 3D printers that use the VAT polymerization technique. From the design file (CAD file), the printer fetches the information and directs the UV light to the liquid polymer resin to make a layer of the required 3D object.

The process is repeated until the final layer of the product is built. During this process, the built platform is submerged at the resin’s surface level, and re-submerges in the leftover resin accordingly whenever each layer of the 3D model is created.

Types of VAT polymerization processes

There are different VAT polymerization processes available right now; some of the most common types are listed below.

  • Stereolithography (SLA)
  • Masked Stereolithography (MSLA)
  • Direct Light Processing (DLP)
  • Continuous Direct Light Processing (CDLP)

Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography was one of the first marketed AM processes, and it was one of the high-precision 3D printers at that time. In this method, the build platform is submerged in the transparent liquid resin tank, the light source (laser) is pointed at the 3D printing region, and then the cross-sectional area of the 3D design is mapped through the bottom of the tank. Thus the built layer of the material is hardened. The build platform rises each time a layer is made, and the process repeats until the last layer of the model. The outcome of the model will be of high quality. Some of the leaders are 3D Systems, Nexa3D, Formlabs, etc.

Masked Stereolithography (MSLA)

Masked Stereolithography is an enhanced version of SLA 3D printing or LCD shadow masking. The critical difference between MSLA and SLA is the light source. In Stereolithography, a laser beam is used; in Masked Stereolithography, ample ultraviolet light is used as a light source to cure the base material. Here the light source is not directly made to hit on the resin; instead, a transparent LCD diffuser or screen masks the UV light. One of the main advantages is that it cures an entire layer at once.

Direct Light Processing (DLP)

Direct Light Processing uses a similar approach to Stereolithography to build the components. Instead of a laser beam, a digital light projector screen is used to project and display each layer simultaneously. Since it is a projector, the projected picture is of pixels, and the layer is constructed based on a rectangular brick structure known as voxels. The DLP is much faster than SLA in many instances. 3D Sytems Figure 4.

Continuous Direct Light Processing (CDLP)

Continuous Direct Light Processing uses the same DLP technique, but the built time is much quicker here due to taking advantage of the built plate in the platform. The built plate’s constant motion in the Z direction leads to continuous movement till the final part is made. It is also known as Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP), and this method is 100 times faster than the standard SLA process. Carbon holds the patent for this technology.

Final Thoughts

These types of VAT polymerization are generally used for producing high-quality 3D components or models with fine details and smooth surface finish. They are used in manufacturing units to make products quickly. If you want to use them in your works and projects, you can consider them depending on your requirements or simply contact Amuse for better insights.