The Art and Science of 3D Print Speed

3D printing, while being technologically forward, often circles back to one core issue: the elusive “3D print speed.” It’s easy to assume that speed in 3D printing solely represents the duration taken for a printer to complete a print. However, a deeper dive reveals it to be much more than that. Speed here is multifaceted, affected by quality, material type, printer capability, and the nature of the design being printed. It’s not just about raw pace; it’s about achieving optimal results within a reasonable timeframe.

Diving into the intricacies of 3D printing, one quickly realizes the balancing act required between speed and other variables. The allure of rapid production might seem like the ultimate goal, but it’s often at odds with other equally vital factors. Factors like the precision of details, the structural integrity of the printed object, or even the economic considerations of time versus resource consumption. 

This complexity ensures that determining the ideal 3D print speed isn’t a mere setting to be adjusted but a calculated decision based on a multitude of interplaying factors. As with many technological endeavors, it’s about finding harmony amidst a sea of competing priorities.

Understanding 3D Print Speed

At a glance, the term “3D print speed” can be somewhat deceptive. To the uninitiated, it might merely seem like it’s about concluding a print job as swiftly as possible. This perspective isn’t completely wrong, but it’s far from the entire story. In essence, the speed needs to be adjusted based on what outcome you desire. Striking the right balance is crucial: too fast might compromise on detail, while too slow could lead to inefficient use of resources.

In 3D printing, speed is intricately linked with multiple factors, each demanding careful attention. Material properties, printer precision, design complexity, and even environmental conditions play a role in determining the optimal speed. For instance, a design with intricate geometric patterns might require slower speeds to ensure precision, while a more straightforward, bulkier design can afford faster speeds.

Moreover, the choice of material, from PLA to ABS or PETG, can influence the speed at which you print. Ignoring these interdependencies and focusing solely on speed can jeopardize the end product’s integrity and appearance. Thus, a holistic understanding of the printing process is paramount to achieve the best results.

Factors Influencing 3D Printing Speed

Layer Height: Arguably one of the primary determinants of print speed is layer height. This defines the thickness of each layer the printer lays down. The nuances are such that a smaller layer height, while time-consuming, offers a more detailed and smoother result. Conversely, a larger layer height gets the job done quicker but may give a rough finish. Depending on the use-case of the printed object, one might prioritize detail over speed, or vice versa.

Wall Thickness: The walls of your print dictate its outer durability. The thicker these walls, the more time the printer takes to trace and fill them. Such considerations are critical to ensure the printed object has the necessary structural integrity. However, it’s always a balance since thicker walls mean longer print times. Depending on the application, you might decide if you want a quicker print or a sturdier object.

Infill Percentage: The infill not only defines the print’s inner structure but also its weight and strength. A higher infill translates to a denser and more robust product but significantly increases the printing time. On the flip side, a lower infill speeds up the process but might make the print less sturdy. This factor becomes especially crucial when the object’s functional utility, like load-bearing, is in question.

Material: Every 3D printing material has its own unique properties and optimal printing speeds. The choice of material doesn’t just influence the final product’s look and feel but also affects the printing process itself. For a deeper understanding, let’s explore one of the most commonly used materials in 3D printing: PLA.

PLA Print Speed – Striking the Perfect Balance

PLA stands out in the 3D printing universe, particularly for its ease of use. Given its biodegradable nature and the fact that it doesn’t need a heated bed, it’s an ideal starting point for beginners and professionals alike. It offers a balance of flexibility and rigidity, making it versatile for various applications.

Best Print Speed for PLA

The optimal speed print for PLA isn’t fixed; it varies based on several factors. A general guideline suggests speeds of around 50mm/s to 60mm/s for PLA. This ensures each layer bonds well, giving a smooth finish. For more intricate designs, a reduction in speed, perhaps to around 30mm/s, might be necessary. However, each 3D printer has its own quirks, and it’s always beneficial to conduct tests to find the sweet spot for your specific model.

Comparing Speeds: 3D Printer Print Speed Across Materials

Different materials have diverse properties, and this is clearly evident in their print speeds. While PLA might thrive at the 50-60mm/s mark, ABS, which is more heat-resistant but trickier to print with, often demands a slower speed, usually around 40mm/s. PETG, another popular choice, has a durability that allows it to be printed at speeds similar to PLA. Still, intricate designs or specific printer models might warrant speed adjustments for the best outcomes.


In the intricate dance of 3D printing, the balance between speed and quality is a perpetual tango. Rushing a print job might seem efficient, but it can lead to structural weaknesses or surface imperfections. On the other hand, excessively slow speeds for simpler models could be overkill, leading to unwarranted waits. Reflecting on the desired outcome of your 3D print will guide the speed setting. Be it a meticulously detailed model or a basic functional prototype, the speed should complement the end goal, ensuring efficiency without compromising quality.

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