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Why Do 3D Printers Take So Long

Why Do 3D Printers Take So Long

Updated by

William Stone


November 2, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Layer height and print speed affect how long it takes to complete a 3D print.
  • The complexity of the object and the chosen material can also influence printing time.
  • Balancing print quality and speed is essential to ensure satisfying results.

Have you ever wondered why 3D printers seem to move at a snail's pace? What factors contribute to the lengthy process of 3D printing?

3D printers take time because they build objects layer by layer, with intricate details requiring precision. Factors such as the printer's speed, object complexity, and material also influence the duration. Optimize design, choose appropriate materials, and maintain the printer regularly.

In my years as a 3D printing maestro, I've seen it all – from botched blobs to stunning masterpieces. My workspace is littered with both successes and learning moments. The magic happens when you truly grasp the intricate dance of layering, speed, and materials. I've spent countless hours fine-tuning designs and calibrating machines to achieve that perfect print.

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Table of Contents

Why Do 3D Printers Take So Long

To understand why 3D printers take longer than traditional manufacturing methods, it's essential to consider factors like layer height, print speed, and the complexity of the object being printed.

Thinner layers result in higher resolution and more aesthetically pleasing prints but require more layers and longer printing times. On the other hand, printing with thicker layers is quicker but may sacrifice the final print quality.

Factors that Influence Printing Time

There are several factors that can affect the printing time of a 3D object.

Object Complexity and Size

When you create objects with a 3D printer, the complexity and size of the 3D model play a significant role in the print time. Generally speaking, larger objects with more layers will take more time to complete, while smaller objects with less intricate details can be printed in relatively less time. Specifically, the height of the object affects the printing speed more than its width, as taller objects require more layers to be printed.

Additionally, the complexity of the object's internal structure can also influence the printing process. Check out this video for a better understanding.

Printer Configuration

The configuration of your 3D printer also plays a crucial role in the printing time. The print quality settings, layer height, and print head speed all impact how much time it will take to create a finished product.

Let's take a closer look at these factors:

  • Print Quality: Higher resolution prints will, in general, take longer to complete due to the finer details and thinner layers that need to be printed.
  • Layer Height: The layer height determines how thick each individual layer is in a 3D print. Thinner layers create a smoother finish and better-quality print, but this comes at the cost of increased print time. On the other hand, increasing the layer height can speed up the printing process but may lose quality in the final print.
  • Print Head Speed: The speed at which the print head moves can also affect the print time. Printing at higher speeds will reduce the time it takes to complete a print.

Materials Used in 3D Printing

When it comes to 3D printing, the type of material used plays a significant role in the overall process, including the time it takes to print an object. I found this video that explains the materials to use.

Types of Filaments

There are a variety of materials available for use with 3D printers, each with its own properties and capabilities.

Some of the most common types of filaments include:

  • PLA: This eco-friendly, biodegradable material is made from plant-based resources, making it a popular choice for many 3D printing enthusiasts. PLA typically prints at lower temperatures, allowing for faster printing speeds compared to other filaments.
  • ABS: Known for its strength and durability, ABS is a popular choice for functional parts and prototypes. However, it requires a higher melting point and may need a heated bed to print successfully. The higher melting point can result in slower printing speeds to ensure proper layer adhesion and prevent warping.
  • PETG: This filament blends the ease of use of PLA with the strength and temperature resistance of ABS, making it a versatile choice for various applications. PETG can be printed at a range of temperatures and speeds, providing flexibility for the user to find the optimal settings for their specific project.

Here’s a table comparing the above 3D printing filaments:

Filament Type Properties Common Uses Printing Temperature Heated Bed Needed 3D Printing Speed
PLA Eco-friendly, biodegradable, made from plant-based resources General 3D printing, hobbyist projects Lower temperatures Not required Moderate
ABS Strong, durable, high-impact resistance Functional parts, prototypes Higher temperatures Required Slow
PETG Blends ease of PLA with strength and temperature resistance of ABS Various applications Moderate temperatures Not required Moderate to fast

Role of Resin in 3D Printing

Resin is used primarily in SLA (stereolithography) and DLP (digital light processing) printers, which offer higher resolution and finer details in printed objects compared to FDM (fused deposition modeling) techniques.

Resin printers work by curing liquid resin layer by layer, using a light source to harden the material. Here's how the use of resin can affect 3D printing time:

  • Material properties: Part of what makes resin ideal for high-resolution prints is its ability to produce smooth, detailed surfaces. However, the trade-off for these aesthetically pleasing results is often a slower printing process.
  • Layer height: With resin-based 3D printers, you can achieve thinner layers than with FDM printers, which can result in a smoother finish.

Improving Print Speed without Compromising Quality

In the world of 3D printing, finding the perfect balance between print speed and quality can be challenging. In order to maintain high-quality prints, it's essential to understand and adjust specific settings and parameters.

Understanding Infill Patterns and Density

The infill of a 3D print refers to its internal structure and plays a significant role in determining the print speed and quality. By adjusting the infill pattern and density, you can achieve a faster print while retaining the desired strength and aesthetics of the final object.

Generally speaking, complicated fill patterns offer better strength and reliable prints, but they require more time to print. Opting for simpler infill patterns and reducing the infill density will result in quicker print times while still providing sufficient support and strength for the printed object.

Importance of Nozzle Size and Layer Thickness

The nozzle size and layer thickness have a direct impact on the 3D printing process. Larger nozzles can extrude more material per pass, allowing for thicker layers, which results in faster print times. However, higher layer heights may lose some fine details in the final print.

On the other hand, using a smaller nozzle size and thinner layers will produce a smoother finish and better quality prints, but at the cost of increased print time.  I believe this video will be of help to you.

If you prioritize quality over print speed, using a smaller nozzle size is recommended, but be prepared to spend several hours or even days on more complex models.

Slicer Settings Adjustment

Slicer settings play a critical role in optimizing print speed and quality. Adjusting parameters like speed settings, wall thickness, and adaptive layers can have a significant impact on the final print.

For example, increasing the wall line count will result in thicker walls, which can reduce print time while maintaining a durable print. However, be cautious not to set wall thickness too high, as this could compromise the final quality.

Another factor to consider is using adaptive layers in your slicer settings. Adaptive layers dynamically adjust the layer height based on your model's geometry, allowing for increased print speed without sacrificing fine details.

Here’s a table showing tips for faster 3D printing:

Tip Description
Optimize Design Simplify design to reduce unnecessary complexities
Choose Appropriate Materials Some materials print faster than others
Regular Printer Maintenance Ensure the printer is in optimal condition
Adjust Printer Settings Tweak settings for faster printing speeds
Use a Larger Nozzle The larger nozzle can lay down more material faster

Limitations and Challenges of Speeding up 3D Printing

A larger build volume means more time is required to complete an object, and more material will need to be used, increasing the overall cost of the print. Flexible filaments often require slower speeds to maintain quality, thereby extending the printing time.

Technical and Physical Limitations

3D printers are complex machines that need to consider numerous factors to ensure quality and reliability. One such factor is constriction, which refers to the small opening in the nozzle where the filament is extruded.

A smaller nozzle size can deliver high resolution and fine details but at the cost of slower print speed. When the print head moves quickly, too much vibration can lead to ringing and ghosting, affecting the final appearance of the printed object.

Stepper motors, which control the movements of the printer, can also limit the printing speed. When pushed to their limits, these motors are prone to skipping steps, leading to misaligned layers and, subsequently, less reliable prints.

Balancing Quality, Speed, and Cost

In 3D printing, there's often a trade-off between print speed, quality, and cost. For example, rapid prototyping typically prioritizes speed over quality, but this can lead to an internal structure that's less sturdy and an object that's not aesthetically pleasing.

The layer height is a key factor affecting print time and quality. Thinner layers result in higher-resolution prints with a smoother finish, but they also considerably increase the time taken for the printing process. Printing with thicker layers might save time.

Infill settings play a pivotal role as well. A higher infill density leads to a stronger object, but it also adds to the print time and uses more material. On the other hand, a lower infill density reduces the advantage of having a solid object and may compromise its structural integrity.

3D printing technology, like SLA printers, can provide better print quality and speed but at higher costs. Slicer software and Bowden extruders can improve printing performance while striking a balance between these factors.

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Why Do 3D Printers Take So Long


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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