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What Is Layer Height In 3D Printing

What Is Layer Height In 3D Printing | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone


January 13, 2023

3D printing is a complex subject with plenty of terminology to discuss. An example of this one of the core phrases in 3D printing: layer height.

Layer height is a major setting in the 3D printing world and has a big impact on project. So what is layer height in 3D printing?

Layer height refers to how much material the printer's nozzle is programmed to print out for a particular layer. The measurements are very small – down to the millimeter or micron, and are adjusted through nozzle sizes and software. The height of your layers has a big impact on detail and speed.

We'll explain the measurements for layer height, how to adjust layer height, and why layer height is important to make an accurate representation of the item you want to print.

We've done plenty of research on 3D printing and can explain the ins and outs of layer height.

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Table of Contents

What is layer height?

The layer height is the actual amount of melted plastic coming out of the 3D printer's extruder and nozzle. Since a 3D printer can print on a vertical and horizontal place, you can consider the layer height as the vertical resolution to an object. Layer height tells the printer how many individuals, small layers of plastic to melt and extrude for the purpose of building in one area of the item.

Think of layer height as deciding how big of a brush you want to use to paint. If you are trying to paint a wall with just a color or two, you can use a big layer height. The bigger layer height will result in fewer individual movements out of the printhead, and the 3D print will move along faster. The result will also be a less detailed print because the printhead is letting out larger amounts of plastic at the same time, and the movements of the printhead won't allow for much detail.

Should your plan be to make a detailed print, like a figurine or miniature of something with detail, you'll probably use a smaller layer height. The smaller layer height results in less plastic being used at a time, but many more small movements out of the printhead. This will take longer, but offer more detail in the areas you requested. Lower area heights will also make a print more smooth to the eye and the touch.

How is layer height measured?

Usually in very small measurements, down to the micron or millimeter. The actual height ability depends on your printer, but can range from 16 microns with Material Jetting settings all the way up to 400 microns with FDM – though smaller settings are usually used.

Since many people don't use a microns measurement on a regular basis, we'll give you a reference: The height of a sheet of paper is about 100 microns, so some printers can print as small as 1/10 of the height of a sheet of paper – while others, probably making larger and less detailed items, can print as deep at 4 papers.

Why some people think layer height isn't important

Some 3D printers are a bit dismissive about layer height in an object. While it is perfectly fine to measure the quality of a 3D print using different measurements, they are probably not considering the fine detail that smaller layer heights can provide. Some will just let the slicer software choose which height works best or use the default. Once you start to see the difference in layer heights, you might experiment a bit more – though you probably don't have to adjust it every time you print.

How do you make a smaller or bigger layer height?

The nozzle size plays an important role in this. You'll want a small, precise nozzle for doing smaller layer heights or a larger, less precise nozzle for doing larger layer heights. The nozzle size is often 25% to 75% larger than the desired layer height for your printing purposes.

Can I make a smaller layer height go faster?

Not really. A smaller layer height will result in plastic melting a little more slowly, and the printhead making smaller, more precise movements. While this can take twice as long as a larger layer height, the detail provided is totally worth it to 3D printers who are looking for a detailed, clean looking print that can't be achieved at a faster setting.

3D printing consistently asks you to balance quality and speed, which isn't much different from an ink printer.

Does a smaller layer height used more filament?

Not necessarily. The larger difference is time and detail. A printer can melt about the same amount of filament using more details – though it does depend on what you are printing. If your level of detail involves more gaps than you might actually use less. If you are printing smaller ridges or letters, or something like that, you may end up using a bit more.

Does layer height impact the strength of a model or print?

Not really. The strength of a model or print is more impacted by the filament used. You can use stronger filaments like polycarbonate to achieve a bendable and nearly indestructible model, or an easier to use filament like PVC for a still strong but potentially easier to use plastic.

What is standard layer height?

Most 3D printers, their slicing software, and their nozzles are set for a .2 millimeter layer height. This is good for basic printing and only really needs to be changed in the event you want more or less detail from a print.

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What Is Layer Height In 3D Printing


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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