A Guide to DLS 3D Printing Technology – How It Works, Materials, and Advantages

Digital light synthesis, or DLS 3D printing is one of the many emerging methods of additive manufacturing. A uniquely advanced VAT polymerisation process, DLS produces full-density plastic parts and prototypes with fine detail and excellent surface finishes. DLS 3D printing services are also relatively quick, accurate, and highly repeatable, making the process ideal for manufacturing low-volume production-ready parts as well as for rapid prototyping projects.

At Elite Mold & Engineering, we employ DLS 3D printing technology to offer our customers quick turnaround and ease of modification during the product design and development phases. Plus, for projects that will later transition to injection molding, we’ve found DLS to be the perfect bridge between prototyping and production. Below, we discuss the DLS process more in depth, including the basics of how it works and the advantages compared to other additive manufacturing methods.

How Digital Light Synthesis Works

Digital light synthesis utilizes a process known as photopolymerization to create precision 3D-printed objects according to the custom specifications contained within your part files. The key components of the DLS process include a vat of liquid resin (the material that makes up the parts) and a digital light projector (the machine that “prints” the material).

The Basic Steps to DLS 3D Printing:

  • Resin Bath – A liquid resin, generally an advanced photosensitive polymer, is contained in a vat or reservoir. This is why the DLS process is known as a “vat polymerization” method (see below for a more detailed explanation).
  • Layer Formation – The 3D model is digitally sliced into layers, and each layer is carefully projected onto the liquid resin using a digital light projector.
  • Curing – The projected light triggers a chemical reaction within the resin. This reaction causes it to solidify and form the desired layer of the part.
  • Continuous Processing – Unlike traditional layer-by-layer approaches, DLS allows for continuous, high-speed printing, often reducing the required print time. Specifically, DLS 3D printing is a unique continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) method.

What Is Vat Polymerization?

Vat polymerization is a category of additive manufacturing technologies which selectively solidify liquid resin (typically contained in a vat) layer by layer to create 3D-printed products. The machine uses a UV source to cure or harden the resin layers precisely where required, opposed to material jetting methods which deposit the material itself in order to build the product. In addition to DLS, other vat polymerization methods include digital light processing (DLP) and stereolithography (SLA).

Advantages of DLS 3D Printing Services:

  • Full-Density Parts with Good Surface Finishes – DLS 3D printing services are capable of producing prototypes as well as end products with full material density and premium surface finishes.
  • Production-Ready Quality – DLS 3D printing is capable of manufacturing production-ready parts to cover low-volume requirements – ideal for on-demand manufacturing requirements and just-in-time (JIT) delivery.
  • Quick Turnaround for Rapid Prototyping – We manufacture your custom parts immediately after receiving and reviewing your product files. Your parts will be printed to your exact specifications and delivered in rapid order, minimizing your lead times along with all logistical complications.

Material Versatility Compatible with Many Diverse Product Applications

Compatible with many different elastomers and numerous engineering-grade rigid plastics, digital light synthesis offers greater versatility in design for your products. Compared to many other 3D printing methods, DLS lets us choose a more optimized material for each custom application – optimized for product performance and quality, as well as for cost and sustainability.

EPU 46

A premium energy-return elastomer manufactured from 40% bio-based materials.

EPX 150

An engineering grade plastic, EPX 150 provides outstanding chemical resistance in combination with creep resistance, with a heat deflection temperature of 155°C.

UMA 90 (Urethane Methacrylate)

A rigid single-part resin similar to conventional SLA resins.

FPU 50 (Flexible Polyurethane)

A rigid two-part resin with high impact strength and resistance to repetitive stresses.

RPU 70 (Rigid Polyurethane)

A rigid two-part resin with outstanding strength and stiffness, outperforming similar plastics such as ABS.

RPU 130 (Rigid Polyurethane)

A two-part resin that provides outstanding durability and high heat resistance.

EPU 41 (Elastomeric Polyurethane)

A production-grade elastomer with exceptional energy return, high resilience and low temperature retention of elastomeric properties.

EPU 40 (Elastomeric Polyurethane)

A high-performance elastomer that offers energy absorption, high elasticity, and outstanding tear resistance.

LOCTITE® IND147™ Resin

A premium one-part resin that provides high stiffness and high thermal resistance.

LOCTITE® IND405™ Clear Resin

A one-part clear resin that produces tough prototypes with a frosted clear aesthetic.

EPX 86 FR

A high-strength resin that is flame-retardant while offering exceptional toughness and long-term stability.

EPX 82 (Epoxy)

An epoxy resin that offers great durability, stiffness, and temperature resistance, ideal for a range of automotive and consumer applications.

3D Printing Services and Injection Molding for the Great Lakes Region and Beyond

Elite Mold & Engineering is an experienced American contract manufacturer offering state-of-the-art additive manufacturing services via carbon DLS 3D printing technology.

Since 1982, we’ve built a reputation on unparalleled quality, consistency, and customer service in the realm of plastic injection molding. Our company is an ISO 9001:2015 and ITAR registered manufacturer.

Published: January 9, 2024
EPX 150 sample parts

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