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How Long Does 3D Printing Take?

There are several factors that determine the time it takes to 3D print a part. These include the size, height, complexity and the printing technology used. This can vary from as little as 30 minutes to several days. The bigger the part and the greater the complexity, the longer it takes to print. However, a simpler and smaller item can be printed much faster.

This guide will provide a greater understanding of the different factors involved in 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) and how they can impact the time for a part to be printed.

All times presented are an estimation to give an idea as to what to typically expect.

What are the Factors that Determine the Speed of 3D Printing?

Type of 3D Printer

Some 3D printing machines are faster than others. Generally speaking, the faster the printer the more expensive it is, meaning that many of the fastest machines are too costly for most consumers.

Type of Materials

Some 3D printing materials are easier to process than others. The more difficult materials tend to slow down the print speed as compared to those that are easy to process. Different materials need different extrusion and bed temperatures as well as varying times to adhere and set. These factors all have an impact on 3D printing speeds.

Size

Size is an important factor to consider when printing. The more layers required for a part, the longer it will take to print since the print head will need more passes.

In addition to the volume of the part, the footprint (X, Y axis) also play a role. Larger footprints taking longer to print due to the distance the print head needs to travel from its starting position.

Height

In addition to the size of the part, height also plays a factor. Since the printed parts are built up layer-by-layer, taller parts require more passes than shorter ones, increasing the printing time. So, for example, a part that is 4x4x4 will take less time to print than one that is 3x3x7, despite the similar volume of the parts.

Type of Printing

The exact type of 3D printing used also impacts the time taken, with some methods being slower than others. Generally-speaking, 3D printing processes can be broken down into two different types; paint brush and paint roller type printing. The paint brush method extrudes the material from a single point as it moves across the build tray. The paint roller method passes evenly back and forth across the whole build tray extruding the material from a number of points on the print head. Paint brush type printing takes longer than paint roller style printing.

Geometry / Complexity

The complexity of a part’s geometry also plays a role in how long it takes to print an object. The more complex the part’s geometry, the longer it will take to print.

For example, if a part has many complex layers the print head will need to build the boundaries for these parts before filling each of them in. The build time can also be affected by the type of 3D printing technology, as some technologies are able to deposit complex geometries at a higher speed than others.

Amount

The quantity of parts being produced also has an impact on the amount of time it takes to complete a 3D printing job. Printing many copies of an object generally reduces your print time, since you do not need to set up the 3D printer tooling and materials for each part after the first one. However, the reduction in print time is not as greatly reduced for more complex parts with short layers as the actual printing process is still fairly time-consuming.

Infill

The infill is the internal structure of the 3D part. The infill pattern will affect the print speed with more complex patterns taking longer to produce. However, the largest effect from infill on print speed is related to density, with a higher density infill increasing print time even as it improves the strength of the finished part.

Quality / Layer Height

The quality of a printed part is directly related to the layer height. Each layer is usually between 0.1-0.5mm (100 to 500 microns), with thinner layers providing a smoother finish and better quality. However, these high quality thin layers also take longer to produce.

Post-processing

The final factor that can affect printing speeds is post processing. This involves cleaning, rinsing and drying printed parts. Each technology has its own post processing requirements with times depending on the size and geometry of the 3D printed parts. Smaller parts may just take a matter of minutes to clean whereas larger, more complex ones can take several hours of post processing.

Get Further Advice On 3D Printing

Need help with determining whether 3D printing is the right process for you?

Contact our team of world-leading experts with over 20 years of experience in the additive manufacturing field.

Our technology experts help to ensure our customers apply the correct technology process depending on each individual or company requirements:

contactus@twi.co.uk

Related Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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