There Appears to Be No Limits to Stereolithography

Quote of the Day

When doing a job -- any job -- one must feel that he owns it, and act as though he will remain in that job forever. He must look after his work just as conscientiously, as thought it were his own business and his own money. If he feels he is only a temporary custodian, or that the job is just a stepping stone to a higher position, his actions will not take into account the long-term interests of the organization. his lack of commitment to the present job will be perceived by those who work him, and thy, likewise, will tend not to care. Too many spend their entire working lives looking for the next job. When one feels he owns his present job and acts that way, he need have no concern about his next job.

— Hyman Rickover

I have been using stereolithographic assembly (SLA) since the early 1990s. In the early days, the prototypes we generated were a bit crude but still useful. For example, in one time-critical situation, we needed a tail cone for an underwater vehicle ASAP and we generated a plastic prototype that we used to make a mold for the final aluminum version. It took a couple of days and we had an aluminum tail cone that worked great.

About 7 years ago, I bought an SLA machine for my team here and we use it all the time for making prototypes.  This morning I saw this blog on how a person in Minnesota (not far from me) used a homemade concrete SLA machine to pour a castle (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Concrete SLA of a Castle.

Figure 1: Concrete SLA of a Castle.

It is amazing how this technology is spreading from its initial use in making small plastic prototypes. For example, one of my student interns is now a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering at Rice University and is work on printing living cells for making replacement parts for people. I have also been reading how SLA is being used to make food. NASA is even talking about sending an SLA machine up when they send astronauts to Mars. They will use the machine to make spare parts.

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