Inevitably, with all the benefits and features that come with tool, every user is going to find himself or herself asking how long does 3D printing take. Most end up finding out this experience the hard way, usually in the middle of a major print project that has a deadline. And that of course leads to the second question of is there any way or methods to improve the printing process and speed it up. Fortunately, the answer is yes.
The short answer is, slicer adjustments are the key. How one goes about those adjustments creates big changes in the results. The trick is to go gradually, however, as any big change can result in exponential results which can be bad or not desired, destroying the project altogether and forcing a restart all over again. Unlike data output or image printing, 3D printing is, fundamentally, a sculpture, so material can’t be added after a slicer mistake. The entire run has to literally be reprinted all over again with a new block of material, as new users find out the hard way through trial and error. That adds to the time delay.
Understanding the need for gradual adjustment, different adjustments have different results. Experienced users typically find a blend of some adjustments versus others to achieve the results they are looking for. Here is the toolbox to work with:
Most folks starting off will try just running the machine faster first. It seems the most logical: if all things are correct, just slice faster. In reality, however, the advantage tends to be lackluster. While the overall production might speed up, the slicing between different phases will vary depending on the job details and script provided to the computer. The quality of the printing will also be affected as well. After all, the two work as in inverse ratio sometimes; the faster the slicer goes, the lower the quality output. At a certain point, the product becomes unacceptable even if produced faster.
Fix Your Printer’s Stability
Believe it or not, the amount of wobble a printer experiences can create resistance to its work. Wobble creates more delay in the slicer doing its job. It also affects accuracy. By clamping down on the stability of your printer unit, it can help reduce this “drag” and improve the output efficiency of the printer itself. One of the easiest ways to do this is to go through all the belts, rods and screws that make up the parts of your printer to make sure everything is tight and has no give. This will cut down on vibrations.
Jerk Setting Adjustments
The jerk setting is a terminology referring to how fast the printer head can go into motion from a dead stop. Ideally, the transition should be smooth, not sudden and dramatic. The more dramatic the movement is, the more likely it creates additional jerks or sympathetic vibrations to the rest of the assembly. This is evident as the print head has to stop and change directions, especially with back and forth motions. There is a give and take here. Too low on acceleration, and it becomes harder for the printer to apply the base material evenly. Too fast and the print head creates a lot of vibration and jerking impact.
Setting a good Jerk value takes a bit of trial and error. The sweet spot between high and low will depend on the complexity of the print production and material as well as the capability of the physical slicer to do its job. Different printers have different performance, so one generic setting doesn’t exist or work for everyone. A user should start in the middle value and then make test runs towards higher Jerk while still achieving acceptable quality (higher being faster work function). The vibration test cube job is a great way to quickly see the output of a setting and its quality level and to narrow down where too much vibration is occurring (either on the X or the Y values) (vibration test cube).
Infill Pattern Choices
For a big speed improvement, the infill pattern choice can be a big improvement, as much as a 25 percent improvement in print time efficiency in some cases. In short, the fastest pattern is a lined one, better known in technical terms as “rectilinear.” It’s an approach that cuts down on short movements and emphasizes long, straight slice runs instead for pattern building in the print object. Many choose a grid pattern that runs a line one direction, and then a perpendicular line in another. The result is a grid pattern for texture on the object surface.
Infill Density Value
In this category, less is better. The less material the printer has to deal with inside, i.e. hollow, the better it will function which increases speed. Solid objects, on the other hand, take longer. Everything in between is either somewhat faster or somewhat slower, depending on how much fill the printer has to deal with in the overall object. Keep in mind though, too little density and the object loses its strength and integrity, especially if it is to be used under some kind of pressure application or interaction with other parts. Depending on use, many people are finding a density value between 20 and 25 percent is still usable and functional in many cases.
Shells, Walls and Surface Thickness
Similar to infill, the walls or shells of an object printed will also have an impact on the printer’s speed. The infill might be at an optimum level but if the walls are too thick, it will still make the job longer than it needs to be. On the other hand, as mentioned above, some thickness is needed for practical integrity. Folks in the know and experienced tend to run a series of tests on 3D samples to find just the right ratio of infill to wall thickness for various applications. Then they just refer to their tables when going into production, applying a given spec for a known output.
If your output adjustments have been exhausted, then making more out of the same print run could speed up a production process in total. Instead of printing one object at a time, you could instead choose to run a print that makes two, three or more copies of the same object all in the same print run. The printer will treat the whole package as one job but your output could double or triple easily doing so. This approach is particularly useful with small size print objects that don’t take up more than half of the print space. The maximization approach won’t work well on small learning printers or singular job systems, but it can be a big-time saver on a larger printer with a larger workbed space to spread out on.
Choose the Timing of Your Detail
If you’re only building a prototype or one-off print job for the basis of discussion, what-if or sampling, don’t spend a lot of time making your printer slug away at output detail, especially texture. Instead, increasing your layer height by double can literally cut your print time in half. Alternatively, the opposite increases it. Less intricate detail can be produced faster, especially patterns that utilize straight lines (see our discussion above on grid patterns). This is a personal option, but it’s something a user should remember, saving the hard work for the real production that counts versus a test sample just needed for a quick discussion and concept agreement.
The above are just a handful of ideas how to rework a 3D printing approach for faster output. There are lots of suggestions and ideas available online, and part of becoming experienced with a given 3D printer model involves just getting into it and doing a lot of test runs. Utilize tracking of test results and before you know a user will have a reference table to work with that becomes very handy in production runs as reference. Many will find that a combination of adjustments ends up being the right mix for a given object output versus just one tweak to settings.
There are also a number of videos worth watching as 3D printer users are always coming up with better ways to make things work. These include:
- 3D Tweaks for Twice the Speed – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kW9SnK4LKc
- Faster 3D Prints with Cura Settings & Modifications – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1wDpz9koII
- How to Speed up 3D Printing – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9xse6wqUXA