You’re about to embark on a project and have one tight schedule. You may be wondering how long it would take you to 3D print your model.
The answer to this question isn’t simple. It can take you anywhere between 30 minutes and 12 hours to complete a 3D print. There are even some prints that take several days to complete. The actual length of time required for 3D printing your model will depend on various factors.
Factors that Affect How Long It Takes to 3D Print
Many people find it difficult to believe that a 3D print can take several days to print. The truth is that the length of time required to print any model will vary depending on various factors. Below, we’ve highlighted the major factors that affect the length of time it takes to 3D print.
- Size and design of the 3D model
The size and complexity of the design of the 3D model will have a big impact on the time it takes to print the model. A small and simple model such as a small sphere, will only take a few minutes to print. However, larger and more intricate designs will take longer to print.
When considering the size of the model, you also need to consider its volume. By this we mean whether the object is hollow or solid. Hollow models require less material. They can therefore be printed much faster than objects that are solid as there is less surface area to be covered during the printing.
- The layer thickness or height
Many desktop 3D printers print in layers. The quality of the 3D print is affected by the layer height. Usually using the thinner layers will provide you with a better quality and smoother finish. This is advisable especially when creating complicated designs. However, using thinner layers takes much longer. If you are limited on time, you would need to find a balance between the quality you’re going for and the thickness of the layers.
- The technology your 3D printer uses
This brings us to the type of printing that your 3D printer uses. There are different types of technologies available for 3D printing. The type of technology your printer uses will determine how fast the printer is able to complete a model. LCD 3D printers are usually faster in 3D printing compared to SLA 3D printers as well as FDM printers. This is in fact the fastest type of 3D printing technology available when printing complex parts or larger objects. SLA 3D printers are faster than FDM printers in this regard too. However, when you’re printing simple or smaller objects, FDM printers have a slight edge over other types of printers.
- The type of material you use
There are various materials available for 3D printing today. Some materials are more difficult to process than others. These materials may slow down the printing speed as compared to using those materials that are easier to process. For example, different materials require different temperatures for extrusion as well as different environmental requirements such as bed temperatures. These requirements will have an impact on the speed of printing.
- The settings you use for 3D printing
The settings you use for your 3D printer will determine how long it takes to print the model. For example, if you want high quality prints, you may set the printer to use a thinner layer height and to print more slowly. This will allow your printer to capture those fine details. It will allow you to achieve a smoother finish too. If you want to get the printing done faster, you may set higher printing speeds and greater layer thickness. This, however, will mean sacrificing accuracy for speed. You will therefore need to find a balance between the two.
- The number of parts that you need to print
3D printing of models doesn’t always involve printing the model as a single unit. You may have to print different parts of your model separately. This will have an impact on the length of time it takes to print your model. If you have to produce multiple parts, it may take longer to print your model than if you were only printing a single part. You can reduce the time required to print your model by simplifying the model and reducing the number of parts that you will have to print.
- Post processing
Many people mistakenly believe that the 3D printing process ends when the 3D printer has completed the model. However, you must also factor in the post printing processing. This processing is what gives you the complete product. It often involves removing the supports, curing and polishing the print.
Post processing can take anywhere from 0 to 24 hours. It depends on your model and the finish you are looking for. You may be able to complete the processing by simply removing the supports. However, if you’re looking to add color and other finishing details, you will need to factor in the post processing time into your 3D printing time.
Tips to Speed Up the 3D Printing Process
- Find a balance in your printer settings
Look for the perfect balance between quality and speed. You may be able to achieve great quality with higher printing speeds especially when using a metal 3D printer. This will take some trial and error.
- Print smaller
Consider scaling down your models if possible. You will require less time to print smaller models.
- Print as many parts at the same time
If your model requires you to print multiple parts, you should try and print as many parts as possible with each print cycle. This will help save a lot of printing time. If your printer bed is large enough, consider printing all parts at the same time.
Wondering how long it will take to print that 3D model? Consider the factors above and find the best balance for 3D printing your models.