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How Big can a 3D Printer Print?

How Big can a 3D Printer Print? | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone

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November 1, 2021

We're all aware of what a 3D printer can do by now – print 3D models (it's in the name, after all). But how big can a 3D printer print?

Large format FDM printers can print up to 60 cm tall parts. Larger stereolithography (SLA) printers can print even a larger build volume of 30 x 33.5 x 20 cm. In contrast, industrial SLS printers can have a 30 x 16.5 x 16.5 cm build volume.

Of course, many factors go into choosing a 3D printer, and you need to know exactly what objects you will be printing most and their sizes in order to make a decision when choosing a 3D printer. You also need to be aware of your reason for buying a printer – are you 3D printing as a hobby, or are you running a business?

We have worked with a few large-capacity 3D printers and have found some key points that you should be aware of when it comes to finding out how big a 3D printer can print.

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Factors That Influence 3D Printing Sizes

One of the fastest-growing segments of the 3D printing market is large-format 3D printers. While some may believe big format 3D printers are out of reach – prices used to start about $100,000 only a few years ago – the fact is that today's large-format 3D printing alternatives are considerably more affordable.

Today, three alternative 3D printing technologies are available in a benchtop configuration, with prices ranging from $5,000 to just shy of $20,000. Given the high cost of outsourcing big components and prototypes, purchasing a large 3D printer can yield a positive return on investment in as little as a few months.

First of all, when it comes to what size your 3D printer can print, don't always believe what the manufacturer has to say. The size of the build area is one of the most important considerations when purchasing a 3D printer. While printer prices fluctuate for a variety of reasons, one constant is that the greater the build area, the more expensive the printer. When a manufacturer provides a maximum print area (also called a build area), it refers to the largest item that the printer can theoretically produce.

However, it should be noted that a non-equidistant 3D shape is not a cube but rather a convex polyhedron or a cuboid that's been bound by six quadrilateral faces. Also, don't be fooled by what may look like an available build area with the actual build area in a 3D printer.

Large Format 3D Printers

Print volumes in modern large 3D printers can exceed the 15-20 cm (5.9-7.9 in) cube size prevalent in desktop 3D printers. But these large sizes are mostly reserved for industrial 3D printers.

Most big 3D printers currently have a sweet spot of roughly 30 cm (11.8 in) in one dimension and around 15-30 cm (5.9-11.8 in) in the other two. Benchtop big format 3D printing may be used to manufacture full-scale prototypes, models, and production components for a range of industries, including consumer goods, healthcare, manufacturing, and more. There are 3D printers on the market that can print components that are 50-100 cm (19.5-39 in) in length; however, this frequently limits your options to industrial 3D printers.

3D Printer Build Size

To get a better idea of what you're getting into, here is a quick breakdown of the typical size limitations of common 3D printers:

  • Binder Jetting - up to 1800 x 1000 x 700 mm
  • DMLS/SLM - up to 500 x 280 x 360 mm
  • FDM - up to 900 x 600 x 900 mm
  • Material Jetting - up to 1000 x 800 x 500 mm
  • SLA/DLP - up to 1500 x 750 x 500 mm
  • SLS - up to 750 x 550 x 550 mm

Other Factors to Consider

Architects and game designers frequently create objects in 3D models with limitless thickness (hair, capes, sails, etc.). Thin features cannot be 3D printed unless they are larger than the technology's minimum workable feature size. Also, every 3D model for 3D printing should be totally manifold (watertight). This means, each edge should be linked to precisely two polygons, and there should be no holes in the model.

This is mainly because the software that creates the instructions for the 3D printer slicer may misread models that are not manifold. Inconsistent layers, holes, and other problems may result from a non-manifold 3D model, rendering the item unprintable. It should also be noted that non-manifold concerns are frequently undetectable during the modeling phase. The most straightforward technique to determine whether a model is printable is to utilize analyzer software to identify model elements that can create problems during 3D printing.

Setting CAD File Unit of Measure

As you will be turning a digital model (the CAD file) into a physical object, it is crucial to control the size of what you're printing. In short, you must know the precise size and dimensions of your model, whether you use the metric system or not. When you open your CAD program to create a new file or scene, you are typically asked what unit of measure you wish to use for this modeling project.

It should also be noted that when you create a 3D model in centimeters in CAD software, the object's unit of measure will be modified when you upload it and pick millimeters. A 10x10x10cm cube, for example, will become a 10x10x10mm cube. As a result, it's critical to select the same unit on our platform as you did in your CAD software.

Also, do not want to reduce the scale of your model a lot since the finest elements may not be able to be 3D printed. On the flip side, keep in mind that your product must fit into the machine's tray, so don't make it too big. In most recent slicers, if the item size exceeds the machine's capacity, a notification will appear.

Part Splitting

Even though the entire portion might fit into a single construction, splitting it can be the best option if you're looking to produce a high-quality output. 3D printing numerous components also offers new possibilities, such as mixing stiff and flexible 3D printed parts to emulate overmolding or making multi-material assemblies.

The strength of the bonded joints, which is based on the components' final use case, should be your key consideration when choosing a bonding method.

The two ways multiple 3D printed parts can be bonded is with chemical fastening, which uses a bonding agent to bond scale models and parts. This method is only useful for bonding those parts that are not required for high-impact tasks. Another method is by adding screw threads or pockets to functional engineering pieces that need a strong mechanical connection or for those parts that may need to be detached from time to time.

Manufacturing huge prototypes and components has become considerably faster and much more inexpensive thanks to the current generation of large-format 3D printers, allowing practically anyone to adopt 3D printing to boost production. However, you still need to choose the right 3D printer for the job and determine the dimensions of each print.

About THE AUTHOR

William Stone

William Stone

William has spent 20 plus years in the custom manufacturing industry as a COO, CEO and Owner of various custom product businesses. His experience has exposed him to all types of manufacturing from die cast, die struck, injection molding, CNC machining, laser etching, engraving and of course 3D printing.

Learn more about William Stone

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How Big can a 3D Printer Print?

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