Unleash your creativity with 3D printing!

3D Printing Spot Logo

What Is Resolution?

What Is Resolution? | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone


September 7, 2022

3D printing is a complex subject that has lots of terminologies. The word resolution is an example of this, so what does resolution mean in 3D printing?

Resolution is a significant part of 3D printing and can vary based on the printer and software. But what does it actually mean?

Resolution tells you how accurately your 3D printer can print. The resolution affects the accuracy and sizes of corners as well as how small details your printer can show. You are most impacted by resolution when printing very small items or pieces.

We'll walk you through some 3D printing basics and give more information about why resolution in 3D printing matters.

We've printed in 3D before and understand that the term can be a little confusing, as well as its impact on your finished printed product.

Table of Contents

How does resolution relate to 3d Printing?

When you hear the word resolution in electronics, you might think about the resolution, or megapixels (or even gigapixels now) or a digital camera, or a 4K or 1080P high definition TV. These refer to making many individuals, tiny dots a photo or TV is made of. The more pixels you have, the more detailed and clear a picture should be, in theory (as a photo enthusiast, we can also say that in the world of cameras, more megapixels are not always better without a good lens).

In the text of 3D printing, resolution takes on basically the same meaning. The “resolution” of your printer impacts how much fine detail your 3D printer can print.

How does resolution work?

You are likely aware that a 3D printer “prints” by moving the extruder, which is melting a plastic filament and pushing the resulting melted plastic onto the platform using a nozzle. The extruder is moving in a pre-determined pattern based on your pre-programmed plans.

Within 3D printing, “resolution” is measured by how small of movements the extruder and arm can make while depositing liquid plastic onto the platform. The movements that the extruder and arm make directly reflect the kinds of small detail the printer and the print are capable of.

3D Printing is also a little different in terms of resolution. While your TV and camera have a flat plane, 3D printing is capable of printing on two different planes: horizontal and vertical. 3D printers call this XY and Y. The resolution will affect the vertical plane, too – so if you are printing a block or anything not flat, the resolution determines exactly the height of an object in reality. For example, if you ask for something to be 10.5 millimeters tall, and your resolution isn't that good, it might end up being 10 instead.

How does resolution impact quality?

Imagine you are printing a very small gear to be used in a machine. The various surfaces on the machine need to be small and precise to work properly. Resolution is handy here because the extruder and arm can make very small movements so that plastic is spread out right, making for an effective gear. Without the right resolution, the gear might not be very efficient – or work at all, because the spacing is not quite right.

Resolution also impacts the quality of prints. 3D printer owners use their printers to make “prints.” A print made in lower resolution might not have the fine detail you want – though it might be hard to tell unless you are up close.

Apply the same logic to LEGOs; the extremely popular blocks are made with serious precision. Blocks made 40 years ago should fit with the same tightness as blocks made yesterday. They are high resolution and precision.

What kind of numbers are we talking about for resolution?

Resolution can be very, very small. The deepest resolution printers available (you probably won't have or want one in your house due to price and complexities) can print with a layer height of just .01 millimeters and make movements as small as 22 microns.

For those who don't need the absolute cutting edge numbers above, a more average printer is capable of .1mm in movement length, which is ten times less price, but still produces fine details. The normal resolution for some printers is actually .2 millimeters, which is still more than acceptable for most objects.

What difference does resolution make when printing?

Just like a regular color or black and white printer, most printers will be slower when printing out minute details. This depends on the printer itself, of course, but if you print at a lower resolution, you are asking the printer to make far fewer movements. A larger number of small movements needed in higher resolution printing will take longer.

Does high resolution take more filament?

This depends. If you are printing a lot of fine detail, then yes. If you are referring to exactly how high walls will be on a small model, then it won't take a significant amount more.

Does nozzle size matter?

Yes, you want to eject only the amount of liquid you intend to. You'll want a nozzle size that reflects the size of the small details in your project. The nozzle size should be about 25 to 75% more than the height of plastic you are trying to push out.

What are the right filaments for the job?

This depends. We would suggest looking up additional suggestions depending on what you are making, how durable you want it to be, and how much detail you really need.


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

Home /

What Is Resolution?

Similar Posts You Might Like