People usually want things quick, myself included. When it comes to 3D printing, many people wonder just how long it takes from start of printing to the end so I did some research to find out what affects printing speed.
So how long will it take you to make a 3D print? A miniature object at a low-quality setting and low infill can be printed in less than 10 minutes, while a larger, complex, high-quality object with high infill can take hours to several days. Your 3D printer software will tell you exactly how long prints will take.
Examples of estimated times for 3D printed objects:
- 2×4 Lego: 4 minutes
- Cell Phone Case: 20 minutes
- Baseball (with infill 15%): 2 hours
- Small toys: 1-5 hours depending on complexity
The Strati, a car which heavily implements 3D printing first took 140 hours to print, but after refining the manufacturing techniques they brought it down to 45 hours less than 3 months later. Even more refining after this, and they got the printing time to under 24 hours, an 83% reduction in duration which is insanely impressive!
This just goes to show how design and techniques can really cut down how long your 3D prints take. I’ve researched some of the many factors which will affect how long your prints will take.
I wrote an article about 8 Ways You Can Speed Up Your 3D Printer Without Losing Quality which you should check out.
Speed Settings of Your 3D Printer
From the onset, it may seem like the speed setting of the printer, if ramped up to the top will give you the quickest prints you could ask for. It makes sense but there’s a little more to it than meets the eye.
From what I’ve read around, it seems as though the speed setting of the printer doesn’t have near the impact on duration as the size and quality settings of your print. With a smaller printed object the speed setting will have little impact, but with bigger objects there is a real difference in the duration of a print of roughly 20%.
I’d say, if you are really in a rush to print an object by all means pick that faster setting, but in all other cases I recommend using that slower setting for better quality.
Now your printer speeds can actually be changed through your 3D printer settings. These are measured in millimeters per second and are usually anywhere between 40mm per second to 150mm per second depending on what model you have.
You can learn about speed limitations by checking out What Limits 3D Printing Speed.
These speed settings are generally grouped into three different speeds:
- First speed grouping: 40-50mm/s
- Second speed grouping 80-100mm/s
- Third speed grouping and the fastest being 150mm/s and above.
The important thing to note here is, when you start going above the 150mm/s mark you will start to see a rapid decline in the quality of your prints as well as other negative factors that come into play.
Your filament material can start to slip at high speeds, resulting in no filament being extruded through the nozzle and bringing your print to a halt, which you of course want to avoid.
These speed settings are set in your slicing software which is the main preparation process for 3D printing. It is as simple as entering the print speed in the designated box.
Once you’ve entered your speed, the software will calculate your print duration down to the second so there’s little confusion about how long a specific model will take to print.
It will take some trials and testing to know what kind of speeds will work well with your 3D printer, as well as what works well with specific materials and designs.
You’re going to want to check the specifications of your 3D printer to determine what kind of speeds you can set without sacrificing print quality.
How Does Print Size Affect Timing?
One of the main factors will be size of course. Not much to explain here, the bigger you want to print an object the longer it’s going to take! It seems as though taller objects usually demand more time than flatter objects, even at the same volume because there are more layers for your extruder to create.
You can easily figure out how much your print timing is affected by reading How to Estimate 3D Printing Times in STL Files.
Now it isn’t just the size that comes into play when talking about the volume of an object. Specific layers can become complex if there are gaps or cross-sectional layers that need to be created.
This factor can have a massive impact on how long your print will take.
Types of 3D Printing & Speed
The main type of printing is FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) which uses a temperature-controlled head to extrude thermoplastic materials layer by layer onto a build platform.
Another type of printing is SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus) and uses photochemical processes to link materials together or in other words, uses a light to solidify a liquid resin.
I wrote a post about How Exactly 3D Printing Works which can help you understand these details a little better.
Typically, SLA prints faster than FDM but requires more post-production work for cleaning the final print off. In some cases, FDM prints can be faster and is definitely cheaper but it does usually give a less quality print than SLA.
SLA prints whole layers at a time rather than with a nozzle like most examples of 3D printing people have seen. So, the speed of SLA prints mainly depends on the height of the desired print.
Types of 3D Printers & Speed
3D printers have various systems to navigate the print head while printing and these also have an effect on printer speed.
It is said that out of the two most popular types, Cartesian and Delta, Delta is faster due to the fluidity of movement and is specifically designed to print faster.
A Cartesian printer uses the X, Y & Z axis to plot points for the extruder to know where to go. A Delta printer uses a similar surface but uses a different system to maneuver the extruder.
The difference in timing between these two printers can take a 4-hour print (on a Cartesian printer) to a 3½ hour print (on a Delta printer) which differs by about 15%.
The caveat here is that Cartesian printers are known to give better prints due to their precision and detail.
Layer Height – Quality Print Settings
The quality of a print is determined by the height of each layer, which is usually between 100 and 500 microns (0.1mm to 0.5mm). This is usually adjusted in your software settings known as your slicer.
The thinner the layer, the better quality and smoother the print produced, but it will of course take more time.
This setting here really does make a massive difference in how long a print will take. If you printed something at 50 microns (0.05mm), along with a small nozzle, something that could be printed in one hour could take a day to print.
Rather than printing an object which is solid, you can ‘honeycomb’ it simply meaning having empty spaces in between the object as opposed to a solid cube like a Rubik’s cube.
This will definitely speed up 3D prints and save extra filament material.
How Do Infill Settings Affect Speed?
Prints can be sped up by changing infill settings, which fills your 3D prints with plastic. Printing a vase type object with zero infill will drastically reduce how long a print will take.
Higher infill densities, such as a solid sphere or cube will take a lot more time.
If you’re interested in infill patterns check out my post about What Infill Pattern is the Strongest.
It’s interesting to know that since SLA prints are done in layers, it will print high density objects a lot faster than FDM printing. SLA print speed depends more on the height of the object than anything.
It is important to realize that 3D prints aren’t as easy as File > Print > Confirm, but takes a lot more setting up and consideration and you’ll get faster the more experience you have.
So, depending on how you set up your 3D prints, whether you download other people’s designs or design something yourself, this could very much take up a lot of time.
Nozzle Size & Speed
If you want to improve your printing times, it makes sense to have a bigger nozzle which can cover a larger area in less time.
The nozzle diameter and height does have a big impact on how long your 3D prints will take so it can be worth upgrading your current nozzle to a larger one.
If you’re looking to expand your nozzle arsenal, I recommend going for the Eaone 24 Piece Extruder Nozzle Set With Nozzle Cleaning Kits.
It’s a high quality, all-in-one solution that has your standard M6 brass nozzles and it’s review rating is very high on Amazon.
The nozzle diameter and height also come into play when determining your print speed. If you have a small nozzle diameter and the height is far away from the print bed, it will drastically increase how long your 3D prints take.
You have a few nozzle types so check out my post comparing Brass Vs Stainless Steel Vs Hardened Steel Nozzles, and feel free to check out When & How Often Should You Change Nozzles?
There are so many factors that come into play with 3D printing, as they are very complex systems but these seem to be the main ones that have a big impact on printing speeds.
How Long Does it Take to 3D Print Objects?
How Long Does it Take to 3D Print a Miniature?
To 3D print a miniature, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes up to 10+ hours depending on your layer height, the complexity of the model and other slicer settings that you implement.
Your nozzle diameter and layer height is going to have the most significance in how long it takes to 3D print a miniature.
The miniature below of an Elf Ranger at 28mm scale takes 50 minutes to print, taking just 4g of filament to produce.
Smaller prints can be 3D printed fairly quick, especially if the height is small, because 3D printers move quickest in the X and Y axis.
How Long Does it Take to 3D Print a Prosthetic?
Gyrobot created this amazing Flexy Hand 2 which you can find on Thingiverse. The video below shows a nice visual illustration on what it looks like, and how many parts it takes on the print bed.
The printing times and settings are as follows:
- Main Hand (wide with thumb): 6 hours, 31 minutes / 20% infill / touching baseplate; PLA
- Hinges: 2 hours, 18 minutes / 10% infill / no supports / 30 speed / 230 extruder / 70 bed; TPU (multiply to get more to choose from for good fits).
- Finger Set: 5 hours, 16 minutes / 20% infill / touching baseplate / raft; PLA
In total, it takes 14 hours and 5 minutes to 3D print a prosthetic hand. This can vary depending on your settings such as layer height, infill, printing speed, and so on. Layer height has the biggest impact, but larger layer heights result in lower quality.
Here is a nice demo run-through of how it works.
How Long Does it Take to 3D Print a Mask?
This COVID-19 Mask V2 by lafactoria3d on Thingiverse takes around 2-3 hours to 3D print and doesn’t require supports either. With the quick settings I implemented, I could get it down to 3 hours and 20 minutes, but you can tune it even more.
Some low-poly masks can be 3D printed in as long as 30-45 minutes.
How Long Does it Take to 3D Print a Helmet?
This full-scale StormTrooper helmet took Geoffro W. around 30 hours to 3D print. It also takes plenty of post-processing to get rid of the layer lines and really make it look great.
So for a high quality helmet, you can look toward it taking 10-50 hours depending on the number of pieces, complexity and size.
How long does it take to 3D print a house? Some companies such as Icon are able to 3D print a house in less than 24 hours depending on size. A whole villa was printed in 45 days by a Chinese company called Winsun.
How small of an object can a 3D printer print? Your average FDM 3D printer can print an object at 1mm dimensions due to nozzle lengths, but the Guinness world record has printed objects at almost microscopic dimensions (0.08mm x 0.1mm x 0.02mm).