AM 101: Digital Light Synthesis (DLS)

Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) is the name for Carbon's resin-based 3D printing process. How it works and how it differs from stereolithography.
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Editors Note: If you are new to Additive Manufacturing or encountering the term for the first time, read What Is Additive Manufacturing. It's a great place to get you started.


What Is DLS?

Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) is a proprietary resin-based 3D printing process developed by Carbon

How Does DLS Work?

Digital Light Synthesis is based on stereolithography. Both processes use UV light to cure resin. Unlike stereolithography, however, Carbon’s process doesn’t pause after each layer. Instead, the resin continuously flows through a “dead zone” just above the oxygen-permeable window, as shown below. UV images representing the cross-section of the part are projected onto an oxygen-permeable window to solidify the resin. Parts are built upside-down, as the build platform rises from the vat of resin.

What Materials Can Be Used?

DLS resins available from Carbon include elastomeric, flexible, rigid and medical-grade polyurethanes; silicone; cyanate ester; epoxy; urethane methacrylate; and dental materials.

What Postprocessing Is Required?

After printing, the parts are cleaned of resin and freed from the build plate. Any supports are removed. UV-curable resin parts are complete at this stage. Many materials, however, require a thermal post-cure in an oven; this can take from 4 to 13 hours to complete. The heat sets off a secondary chemical reaction that strengthens the parts. Typically no further postprocessing is required after cleaning and curing.

Why Use DLS?

The continuous nature of Carbon’s DLS 3D printing process avoids the creation of layer lines in the part, offering a surface finish comparable to injection-molded parts. According to Carbon, DLS parts are also watertight and isotropic, having the same strength in all directions. In addition to providing a means of making prototypes, DLS can be used as an alternative for making production parts that would otherwise be injection-molded.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared as AM 101: Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP). CLIP is a term previously used by Carbon​​, which has since been phased out in favor of Digital Light Synthesis (DLS).