Your resource for 3D printing speed, build time and post-processing speeds
3D printing speed is king! Whoever can offer quality 3D prints with the fastest build time and shortest post-processing times wins.
When 3D printing was initially introduced to the public it was marketed as a machine that can make items appear out of thin air, and while there is a kernel of truth to this idea the general public had extremely high expectations. When it was explained that the desktop print process (not including post processing) could take 12 hours or more many people lost interest. And this is why the question “how long does it take to print” has become a focal point in the industry..
It can be difficult to provide a direct answer to this question because there are so many factors that play into how long it takes to 3D Print an object, so we decided to break the the big question into 7 smaller but equally important questions.
- What are the desktop vs. commercial 3D printing times?
- Do printing times differ based on materials?
- Print times including post production processing?
- Does pricing have an affect print times?
- What are the print time averages based on the printing technology?
- When will 3D printing become faster?
- What companies and technologies should we keep in mind when looking for faster print times?
What are the “desktop vs. commercial 3D printing” times?
We recently published an article regarding the differences between 3D printing for both desktop and commercial printing, and you can read that article here. We know that it’s hard to it’s hard to compare, specifically, the speed of a desktop 3D printer with the speed of a commercial 3D printer because inherently they are created for very different purposes. An average desktop FDM printer can print anywhere from 0.3-1.7 in/hr on the standard setting, whereas the average SLS commercial printer on a standard setting can print 1.9-2.7 in/hr. Once again we’d like to reiterate that these are averages of the standard settings. 3D printing speeds are improving daily!
At first glance we see that the averages for CLIP technology, SLS technology and FDM technology are listed in ranges rather than one specific constant rate of print, and this is because printing the same object, in the same material, on the same printer can still result in a speed difference. How do the materials affect the build time? Does the build volume of the machine play into the speed? Are post-production processes factored into these stats?
Does 3D printing speed differ based on material?
This is another difficult question to answer because closely tied to the materials is the printing technology. It’s hard to compare FDM technology with SLS technology even though both technologies can produce plastic objects. As we saw above, an average desktop FDM printer can print anywhere from 0.3-1.7 in/hr on the standard setting, whereas the average SLS commercial printer on a standard setting can print 1.9-2.7 in/hr.
Full color printers utilize sandstone and they have a build rate ranging from 0.79-1.3 in/hr. SLA printers print in resin and have a build rate ranging from 0.3 – 0.7 in/hr. Commercial wax printers can print on average 0.3 – 0.5 in/hr.
The term build time refers to the amount of time it takes for the 3D printer to build the object, it does not take into account any post production processing such as removing supports or applying finishing techniques. So that leads us to our next question.
What are the average 3D Printing post-processing techniques and times?
For FDM printing the most common post-production process is removing supports. This is a time intensive process which depends on the complexity of the object printed. The more complex, the more time it takes to remove all of the supports. There are techniques that reduce the time such as using a 3D Printer with a dual extruder so that the supports can be printed in a water soluble filament. After the print is finished a simple soak in water will dissolve the supports. Soaking traditional filament in an acetone bath will create a smooth and glossy finish as well.
SLS technology requires the removal of excess powder first by hand, then pressurized air, and finally by a tumbler. Additional post production techniques include hand painting or dying the object. Because there is no need for supports in the SLS process the post-production process is drastically decreased for complex geometric prints. To learn more about complex geometries with regard to 3D Printing check out this free eBook which details the topic.
SLA technology requires supports to be removed as well, however much care should be taken with resin material because it is fragile and brittle. Once supports are removed generally the print is finished due to the high detail of the material and technology.
Full Color Sandstone post processing requires powder removal with pressurized hair and finally a bath in a sealant or epoxy.
The time taken with each of these processes depends completely on the proficiency of the operator, and many of the soaking processes depend on the complexity / size of the prints. Therefore it’s extremely difficult if not impossible to provide an average post-process time frame for these techniques.
Does the price of the 3D printer or material effect the print time?
Indirectly the price of your printer, print technology, and material all effect the amount of time it takes to print. Take a look at Sculpteo’s Guide to Professional 3D Printers, this article is recommended because you can see that there’s a direct connection between pricing and build times. The higher the price generally the better the resolution and build time.
However there are innovations taking place in the industry, an example is the aforementioned company Carbon 3D who created a completely new and patented technology, chances are the pricing will reflect the innovation.
What are the 3D print time averages based on the printing technology?
Professional 3D Printing technology:
- Full color printers utilize sandstone and they have a build rate ranging from 0.79-1.3 in/hr
- SLS commercial printer on a standard setting can print 1.9-2.7 in/hr
- Commercial wax printers can print on average 0.3 – 0.5 in/hr
Desktop 3D printing technology:
- FDM printer can print anywhere from 0.3-1.7 in/hr on the standard setting
- SLA printers print in resin and have a build rate ranging from 0.3 – 0.7 in/hr
When will 3D printing become faster?
3D printer manufacturing companies have been turning their attention to speed ever since the release of the first desktop 3D printer’s, and the technology will continue to focus on improving the software and hardware to enable reduced printing time. The simple answer to this question is that printing technology today provides the fastest result than ever before and next year there will be faster printers on the market than there are today. Time will tell if there will ever be a plateau in the race for “Fastest 3D printer”.
What companies and technologies should we keep in mind when looking for faster print times?
I would urge you to read the Guide to Professional 3D Printers, it provides a breakdown of print times, and technologies. Another great resource is the article Should You Buy a 3D Printer or Use a 3D Printing Service, it answers many of the common 3D printing questions. I invite you also to browse Sculpteo’s 3D Printing Glossary, with other interesting highligts on 3D printing speed.