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3D Printing Know-how

3D Printing Speed: How Fast Can 3D Printers Go?

Picture of Franz Grieser
by Franz Grieser
Jan 26, 2016

What’s the fastest 3D printing speed? And what impact does the 3D printer’s speed have on the duration of the print process?

Don’t miss: What Resolution Can 3D Printers Print?

3D printing at home gives us the ability to manufacture bespoke objects for very little cost. But the time it takes for a digital 3D model to be processed into a physical object is not as quick as you might think. The size and print quality of the object will have a dramatic impact on the printing speed, and can take many hours to produce a finished result. In fact, All3DP’s tests show that the printer’s speed has much less impact on the duration of the printing process than the size and the quality settings.

Desktop printers: 3D printing speed settings

Currently, there are generally three sets of printing speed that 3D printers can support. The first set is has been grouped at around 40 to 50mm/s, while the second set prints at about 80-100mm/s. Meanwhile, the fastest set prints at around 150mm/s. Some printers may even print at a speed faster than 150 mm/s.s.

Typically, faster 3D printing speed means lower quality, though. Above 150mm/s, the quality drops noticeably, and you may experience problems as the filament tends to slip at these speeds.

How to set the printing speed

3D printing speed is usually set in the slicing software that you use to prepare your 3D model for printing. In Cura, version 15.04, for example, you simply enter the printing speed in the Print speed field on the Basic tab (in former versions, you first have to switch to Advanced mode and open the Speed tab before you have access to the Print Speed setting).

3D printing speed: Cura calculates the duration of the printing process
Cura calculates the duration of the printing process based on printing speed and quality settings.

As soon as you change the Print speed (or any other print) setting, Cura recalculates the print duration and displays it (see the arrow). The duration Cura calculates is pretty much identical to the actual print duration.

And how long does 3D printing take in practice?

To find out how fast 3D printers actually print, we tested how long it takes to print two more or less complex objects on two popular desktop printers: the Ultimaker 2 and the Printrbot Plus.

These are the two models we printed:

We had them printed at two speeds: 100mm/s and 50mm/s, using identical settings. Here are the results:

3D printing speed compared
  • For smaller models, the difference between slow and fast printing speed does not make much difference: almost 2.25 hours vs. less than 2 hours. Unless you are hard-pressed for time, select the slower speed setting as you get higher quality prints.
  • For larger models, the printing speed does make a noticeable difference: 6.5 hours vs. 4.75 hours.

Hint: If you have no 3D printer of your own, get the free Cura software from the Ultimaker website. Cura has profiles for most desktop 3D printers (FDM printers), so you can check for yourself how long printing a particular 3D model will take on any printer – simply import the STL file and play with the printing settings in Cura. To select a different 3D printer use the Machine > Add new machine command.

High Speed Sintering promises the fastest 3D printing speed?

On the industrial scale, there are even more exciting developments on the horizon. The University of Sheffield has announced that they are building a 3D printer (funded to the tune of £1,000,000 pounds) that could produce plastic parts as fast as more traditional high-volume manufacturing methods like injection moulding.

The process is called high-speed sintering (HSS), and selectively fuses polymer powder layer by layer, similar to other additive manufacturing processes. But instead of using lasers, HSS will print infra-red-absorbing ink onto a powder bed. After a layer has been printed it’s exposed to infra-red light, which heats the powder covered by the ink and causes it to fuse, while the rest of the powder remains cool.

The team, led by Professor Neil Hopkinson, say the new machine will be able to make parts up to 1m3 – the size of a washing machine – which is three times more capable than existing machines. The printing speed will depend on the size of the product, but Hopkinson estimates that small components will be built at a rate of less than one second per part.

But how will this benefit you? The good news is that the technology for HSS is being licensed to industrial 3D printer manufacturers on a non-exclusive basis, with new machines being expected on the market from 2017 onwards. That means we can expect a trickle-down benefit to prosumer-grade 3D printers in the not-too-distant future.

License: The text of "3D Printing Speed: How Fast Can 3D Printers Go?" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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