When it comes to 3D printing resolution or layer height, you always hear or see the term microns, which definitely confused me at first. With a little research, I’ve figured out the micron measurement and how it’s used in 3D printing to describe 3D print resolution.
100 microns is equivalent to a 0.1mm layer height, which is a good resolution for 3D printing. It’s relatively on the finer side of a 3D printed object, with the normal default micron measure for Cura being 200 microns or 0.2mm. The higher the microns the worse the resolution.
Microns are a measurement that you should get comfortable with if you are in the 3D printing space. This article will give you some key details that you can use to expand your knowledge of 3D printing resolution and microns.
What Are Microns in 3D Printing?
A micron is simply a unit of measurement similar to centimeters and millimeters, so it isn’t specific to 3D printing but it is definitely widely used in the field. Microns are used to indicate the height of each layer of a 3D print by a 3D printer.
Microns are numbers to determine the resolution and quality of the object being printed.
Many people get confused while buying a 3D printer because they don’t know that a printer with fewer microns is better or a printer with a higher number of microns is actually lower resolution.
When looking directly at the numbers side of things, microns are equal to the following:
- 1,000 Microns = 1mm
- 10,000 Microns = 1cm
- 1,000,000 Microns = 1m
The video below shows just how high your 3D printing resolution can go, and it can go even further than this!
The reason you don’t hear much about microns in everyday life is because of just how small it is. It’s the equivalent of 1 millionth of a meter. So each 3D printed layer goes along the Z-axis and is described as the height of the print.
This is why people refer to resolution as layer height, which can be adjusted in your slicing software before you print a model.
Do keep this fact in mind that only microns do not ensure the print quality, there are many other factors as well that contribute to it.
The next section will get into what a good resolution or number of microns is desired for 3D prints.
What is a Good Resolution/Layer Height for 3D Printing?
100 microns is considered a good resolution and layer height since the layers are small enough to create layer lines that aren’t too visible. This results in higher quality prints and a smoother surface.
It becomes confusing for the user to determine the resolution or layer height that works well for your print. Well, the first thing you should note here is that the time taken for the print to complete is inversely proportional to the height of the layer.
In other words, generally the better your resolution and print quality, the longer its going to take to print.
Layer height is a standard to define the print resolution and its quality but thinking that layer height is the whole concept of print resolution is wrong, a good resolution is much more than that.
Printer height capability varies but usually, the object is printed anywhere from 10 microns to 300 microns and above, depending on the size of your 3D printer.
XY and Z Resolution
XY and Z dimensions together determine a good resolution. The XY is the movement of the nozzle back and forth on a single layer.
The print will be more smooth, clear, and of good quality, if the layer height for the XY dimensions is set at a medium resolution such as at 100 microns. This is the equivalent of a 0.1mm nozzle diameter.
As previously mentioned, the Z dimension relates to the value that tells the printer about the thickness of each layer of the print. The same rule applies in terms of the fewer the microns, the higher the resolution.
It is recommended by the experts to set the microns by keeping the nozzle size in your mind. If the diameter of the nozzle is about 400 microns (0.4mm) the layer height should be between 25% to 75% of the nozzle diameter.
The layer height between 0.2mm to 0.3mm is considered as best for a nozzle of 0.4mm. Printing at this layer height provides a balanced speed, resolution, and printing success.
50 Vs 100 Microns in 3D Printing: What’s the Difference?
Smoothness and Clarity
If you print one object at 50 microns and a second at 100 microns then up close, you will be able to see a clear difference in their smoothness and clarity.
The print with fewer microns (50 microns vs 100 microns) and higher resolution will have less visible lines as they are smaller.
Make sure you are doing regular maintenance and checking over your parts because 3D printing at lower microns does require a fine-tuned 3D printer.
Overhangs or stringing is one of the major problems that occur in 3D printing. The resolution and layer height does have an impact on it. Prints at 100 microns compared to 50 microns are more likely to have bridging issues.
Bad bridging in 3D prints leads to much lower quality, so try to fix your bridging issues. Lowering layer height helps out a bunch.
Time Taken to 3D Print
The difference between printing at 50 microns and 100 microns is twice as many layers need to be extruded, essentially doubling the printing time.
You have to balance the print quality and other settings with printing time, so it is down to your preference rather than following the rules.
Is 3D Printing Accurate?
3D printing is very accurate when you have a high quality, fine-tuned 3D printer. You can get very accurate 3D printed models right out of the box, but you can increase accuracy with upgrades and tuning.
A factor to take into account is shrinkage and ease of printing, because materials like ABS can shrink a decent amount. PLA and PETG don’t shrink very much, so they are great choices if trying to achieve printing accuracy.
ABS is also fairly hard to print with and requires ideal conditions. Without it, you can find your prints start curling around the corners and edges, otherwise known as warping.
PLA can warp, but it takes a lot more for it to happen such as a gust of wind hitting the print.
3D printers are more accurate in the Z-axis, or the height of a model.
This is why 3D models of a statue or bust are oriented in a way where the finer details are printed along the height region.
When we compare the resolution of the Z-axis (50 or 100 microns) to the nozzle diameter which is the X & Y axis (0.4mm or 400 microns), you see the large difference in resolution between these two directions.
To check the accuracy of a 3D printer it is recommended to create a design digitally and then get your design printed. Compare the resultant print with the design and you will get the actual figure on how accurate your 3D printer is.
The easiest way to check 3D printer accuracy is to print a cube with a defined length. For a test print, design a cube that has equal dimensions of 20mm.
Print the cube and then manually measure the dimensions of the cube. The difference between the actual length of the cube and 20mm will be the dimensional accuracy for every axis of the resultant print.
According to All3DP, after measuring your calibration cube, the measurement difference is as follows:
- Greater than +/- 0.5mm is Poor.
- Difference of +/- 0.2mm to +/- 0.5mm is Acceptable.
- Difference of +/- 0.1mm to +/- 0.2mm is Good.
- Less than +/- 0.1 is Excellent.
Do keep this fact in mind that the dimensional difference in positive values is better than the negative values.