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3D printing resolution: how to check it and why it’s important

Introduction

Previously we talked about STL file resolution and how essential it is for your 3D files to be 3D printed well. In this blog post, we will focus on how essential is the 3D printing resolution and how it affects your 3D models. What exactly is 3D printing resolution, how to check it and how it will influence your project? Let’s find out!

What does 3D printing resolution mean?

What is 3D printing resolution?

3D printing resolution is very important to check before you upload your 3D model for 3D printing. When it comes to Additive Manufacturing, the resolution depends on the layer thickness. However, this is not the only factor you have to keep in mind while designing your parts. Despite that, the layer thickness of some materials can be as little as 28 µm, it doesn’t mean such a thin layer will be solid enough on its own. Therefore, it is crucial you also check minimum details and engraving restrictions. We listed all the important information for you below. What makes a 3D printer high resolution? 3D printers are obviously producing parts in 3 dimension, which means the global resolution will be impacted by the resolution of the different 3D printing axis: The minimum size of the XY plane and the Z-axis resolution (referring to the layer thickness or layer height). 
  • 3D Printing Resolution along the Manufacturing Axis (z)
The 3D printer resolution along the manufacturing axis relates to layer thickness or layer height. With the different technologies, there are many possible resolutions depending on the raw material used. For example, powder-based technologies will have limited resolution based on the raw material’s particle size, while liquid-based technologies such as SLA or DLP technologies will be much more accurate.  
  • 3D Printing Resolution in the Manufacturing Plane (XY)
In the manufacturing plane, the resolution depends on both the raw material and the technology used. For example, for laser-based technologies, the laser’s impact diameter has a direct influence on the printing resolution. For agglomeration technology (Zprinter), the printing resolution will be limited by the infiltration of the adhesive in the powder.

3D printer resolution: FDM vs SLA as an example.

SLA 3D printers are known to produce smooth and detailed 3D printed parts. This is a great advantage of resin-based technologies, they can easily create objects with a better print quality, thanks to a smaller layer thickness and an high XY resolution.  Compared to the nozzle size of FDM printers’ extruders which cannot acheive such a level of precision and quality, the important XY resolution on SLA is allowing to print small details thanks to a small layer thickness.

Layer thickness

As you know 3D printing is based on producing your model layer by layer. While desktop printers have come a long way, it is still sometimes tricky to get a very smooth surface. And so, using industrial 3D printers might be the answer. Some machines are capable of producing layers as small as 0.025 mm! To comparison, average hair is 0.18 mm thin.

Layer thickness is explained in micrometers (µm). 100 µm is equal to 0.1 mm. Within each 3D printing technology, the materials can have different layer thicknesses as they are used by different 3D printers. Under the picture of the complex structure produced with Brass, we prepared a table with layer thicknesses of all of our materials.

3d printing resolution
On the left-hand side is presented a high resolution of 60 µm and on the right-hand side, regular 100 µm of our Nylon PA12.
Technology Material Layer Thickness
SLS (plastic) Nylon PA12 100- 150 µmHigh definition 60 µm
SLS (plastic) Nylon PA11/12 100 µm
SLS (plastic) Nylon 3200 Glass-filled 100 µm
SLS (plastic) Alumide 150 µm
SLS (plastic) CarbonMide 150 µm
SLS (plastic) PEBA 100- 150 µm
MultiJet Fusion (plastic) MultiJet Fusion 80 µm
PolyJet (resin) VeroWhite 28 µm
PolyJet (resin) VeroClear 28 µm
CLIP (resin) EPU 100 µm
CLIP (resin) FPU 100 µm
CLIP (resin) RPU 100 µm
CLIP (resin) UMA 90 100 µm
ColorJet (Composite) Composite Multicolor 100 µm
SLM (Metal) Aluminium AlSiMg0,6 150 µm
DMLS (Metal) Stainless Steel 316L 40 µm
DMLS (Metal) Titanium 6Al-4V 30 µm
Binder Jetting (Metal) Steel/ Bronze 420SS/BR 100 µm
Binder Jetting (Metal) Stainless Steel 316 100 µm
Casting (Metal) Silver 25 µm
Casting (Metal) Brass 25 µm
Casting (Metal) Bronze 25 µm

Minimum detail

The amount of minimum detail is very important to keep in mind when designing for any 3D printing technology. The minimum detail depends on the technology, as the smaller the layer thickness the more accurate will be the detail. If you don’t respect this value, your 3D model will simply break or the layers won’t be solidified properly. Below you can find a table with each of our materials and the amount of detail that can be achieved.

detailed 3d printed part
An example of a great detail achievable with Titanium
Technology Material Minimum detail
SLS (plastic) Nylon PA12 0.3 mm
SLS (plastic) Nylon PA11/12 0.3 mm
SLS (plastic) Nylon 3200 Glass-filled 1 mm
SLS (plastic) Alumide 1 mm
SLS (plastic) CarbonMide 0.3 mm
SLS (plastic) PEBA 0.3 mm
MultiJet Fusion (plastic) MultiJet Fusion 0.2 mm
PolyJet (resin) VeroWhite 0.2 mm
PolyJet (resin) VeroClear 0.2 mm
CLIP (resin) EPU 0.6 mm
CLIP (resin) FPU 0.5 mm
CLIP (resin) RPU 0.5 mm
CLIP (resin) UMA 90 0.5 mm
ColorJet (Composite) Composite Multicolor 0.4 mm
SLM (Metal) Aluminium AlSiMg0,6 1 mm
DMLS (Metal) Stainless Steel 316L 1 mm
DMLS (Metal) Titanium 6Al-4V 1 mm
Binder Jetting (Metal) Steel/ Bronze 420SS/BR 0.8 mm
Binder Jetting (Metal) Stainless Steel 316 0.8 mm
Casting (Metal) Silver 0.4 mm
Casting (Metal) Brass 0.3 mm (raw) 0.35 mm (polished)
Casting (Metal) Bronze 0.3 mm

Minimum Engraving

Engraving is another interesting possibility of 3D printed parts; however, if the minimum value should not be respected, the engraving will not be visible. We recommend making the engraving as deep as possible. There is a possibility that particularly fine engravings will not be visible as the carving can get filled with leftover powder. If the engraving is not made to respect the minimum value, the powder won’t be removable. To ensure a better powder removal (thus better detail visibility), the width of your details must be at least as big as depth.

3d printing engraving
Technology Material Minimum engraving
SLS (plastic) Nylon PA12 0.5 mm
SLS (plastic) Nylon PA11/12 0.5 mm
SLS (plastic) Nylon 3200 Glass-filled 1 mm
SLS (plastic) Alumide 1 mm
SLS (plastic) CarbonMide 0.5 mm
SLS (plastic) PEBA 0.5 mm
MultiJet Fusion (plastic) MultiJet Fusion 0.3 mm
PolyJet (resin) VeroWhite 0.5 mm
PolyJet (resin) VeroClear 0.5 mm
CLIP (resin) EPU 0.5 mm
CLIP (resin) RPU 0.5 mm
CLIP (resin) UMA 90 0.5 mm
ColorJet (Composite) Composite Multicolor 0.4 mm
SLM (Metal) Aluminium AlSiMg0,6 1 mm
DMLS (Metal) Stainless Steel 316L 1 mm
DMLS (Metal) Titanium 6Al-4V 1 mm
Binder Jetting (Metal) Steel/ Bronze 420SS/BR 0.76 mm
Binder Jetting (Metal) Stainless Steel 316 0.76 mm
Casting (Metal) Silver 0.4 mm
Casting (Metal) Brass 0.4 mm

Prepare the perfect 3D model

Make sure your 3D model is well designed for 3D printing. Let’s say you want to produce a 3D printed enclosure. Your model should be designed according to the circuit board and the ports for connecting cables. You should choose robust, but still somewhat flexible material so you can include assembly solutions in your design, which eliminates tooling and saves time. After deciding on the material, check all the essentials such as layer thickness, minimum detail, and in this case, the minimum thickness of the wall. Each of our materials has a material page with all the essential information.

Don’t worry if you don’t own a 3D printer, you can simply upload your design to our website for 3D printing! Our automated tool will also check if there are weak points of your design and allow you to choose the best orientation if it’s necessary. Don’t wait any longer and start 3D printing today!

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