How Long Does It Take to 3D Print

With 3D printing, creating different objects and items, that would usually take quite the effort to craft by hand, is easier than ever.

Although 3D printers are still relatively new, they are already available for home use, and many people use them to craft their own designs and projects. But how long does it take to 3D print something? 

We’re used to having everything almost immediately. And normal printers take seconds to print out a sheet of paper. But 3D printers are creating something in 3D, so they can take a lot longer. It of course depends on what you’re printing, the quality of the model, and the printer itself.

Smaller objects will take a few minutes to 3D print. Larger or more complicated objects, on the other hand, could take up to a few days to be fully 3D printed! 

Usually, the 3D printer will indicate how long it is going to take when you start up the project. That way you know how long to leave it be.

But as 3D printers are constantly improving, what takes hours now, could take just minutes in a few months’ time!

There are also a lot of things you can do to reduce the printing time as much as possible if you’re in a hurry. 

Let’s look at the speeds of 3D printing more in detail! 

Speed settings for a 3D printer:

3D printers all come with different possible settings, including a setting to adjust the printing speed.

It seems pretty obvious that if you set the printer speed to the maximum adjustment, the printing will go a lot faster and take a lot less time. But turns out it’s not as straightforward as that! 

In fact, the speed setting on a 3D printer doesn’t actually affect the speed of the printing that much at all. The size of the model and the quality you have set it at has a lot more of an impact and is what actually directly affects how long the printing will take. So why have a speed setting at all? 

Well, although it has very little impact on small and average-sized models, the speed setting does affect larger models. This is because the longer the printing takes, the more noticeable a slightly faster speed will be!

Nevertheless, the usual difference in speed doesn’t tend to be any higher than 20% faster, so it still doesn’t cause that much of a significant change in pace. 

The thing with a faster speed setting is that the quality of the printing won’t be as good. Essentially, you can’t rush perfection, so setting the speed at a higher setting will cause the model to suffer slightly.

And since the speed won’t affect the overall time that much anyways, we recommend you simply stick to slower speeds, to conserve as much quality as possible in the final result. 

If you are going to look into the 3D printer speed settings, you should know that they’re measured in millimeters per second.

The speed adjustments can vary from printer to printer, depending on the model and how advanced it is. But usually, there are three different main speeds: 

  • Between 40 and 50 mm/s
  • Between 80 and 100 mm/s
  • 150 mm/s and above

As we mentioned, the higher the speed, the lower the quality. So choose wisely! You can check the estimated printing time after you select each speed setting, as the 3D printer will calculate the overall printing time accordingly. 

Print size and timing:

The speed setting doesn’t have that big an effect on the overall time it takes for something to 3D print. But what does have a very significant impact, is the size of the object you’re 3D printing.

This is pretty obvious and straightforward. The bigger the model, the more time it will take to complete it. The same goes for how complicated the design is, and how much detail it features. 

But there is actually more to the size than just the volume of it. The amount of layers needed to complete a specific design is one of the main factors affecting the duration of printing.

So the more layers the object needs, the longer it will take because starting a new layer takes a little longer than expanding one. This essentially means that taller objects, with more depth, will take longer than wider objects that are flatter. (Even if they’re the same total volume and size!) 

It’s also worth noting that not all layers will take the same amount of time to create. More complicated layers that feature gaps, unique designs, and high-quality details, will take up a lot more time than the ones that are simple and monotonous. 

Types of 3D printing and how long they take: 

There are different types of 3D printing that you can use, and those differences also reflect a slight difference of time when it comes to completing a model.

So let’s look at the main two types, and how they affect the printing speed: 

FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling):

This is the main type of 3D printing and the one that is most commonly used.

It uses a temperature-controlled head that extrudes thermoplastic materials, therefore building the model layer by layer, onto the building platform. 

FDM is a lot cheaper, and if the model is simple, it is a lot faster. The final product is also completely ready and doesn’t require much post-production. However, the quality isn’t as good as with SLA. 

SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus): 

This is another type of 3D printing that can be used, although it is not as common.

It uses photochemical processes to link the materials together to create the model in question. Basically, it uses light to turn liquid resin into a solid object, following the chosen design. 

With bigger models, SLA is always a lot faster than FDM. Especially because it is able to print entire layers at a time, instead of bit by bit with a nozzle.

SLA also provides a higher-quality result than FDM, but it requires quite a lot of post-production before the object is considered fully finished. 

The speed of different 3D printers:

Not all 3D printers are created equal, and having one or another can completely affect not only the overall print result but the amount of time it takes to be complete!

It is to be expected that higher-end more advanced 3D printers will be overall better, and will usually be a lot faster than those that are more accessible in price. 

Let’s take, as an example, the two most popular types of 3D printers: the Cartesian, and the Delta. As a general rule, any Delta 3D printer will be faster than a Cartesian, as they are designed to be faster and have a higher fluidity of movement that speeds the process up. 

The difference in printing speeds between brands is usually down to the system they are using. So if speed is an important factor for you, make sure to check out the specifics when choosing which 3D printer to purchase. 

That being said, the actual difference in speed won’t be that big. While one takes 4 hours, per se, another might reduce the time to 3 and a half. 

Adjusting the quality to speed up the printing:

The higher quality the model you’re 3D printing is, the longer it will take to print, which makes a lot of sense.

Usually, the quality is majorly determined by how high each layer is. Basically, the thinner the layer is, the smoother and higher-quality the final result will be. But it also takes a lot more time to print.

You can adjust the height of each layer in the 3D printer settings, which will affect the quality outcome. But as it also directly affects the speed of the printing, this is also the easiest way to speed up the printing process in a significant way. It just means you’re also compromising quality. 

Another way to speed up the process, by tweaking the quality, is to honeycomb a model rather than printing it as a solid object. This means that it will have some empty spaces within, instead of being solid the whole way through.

The object won’t be as strong. But it will be a lot faster to print, and you’ll also be saving on material costs at the same time. 

Speed depending on the nozzle size:

3D printers will usually use a nozzle to print the model. This nozzle can be switched to a different noddle if you want, and those that are experienced in 3D printing will often have a collection of differently sized nozzles depending on the project at hand. 

The bigger the nozzle is, the more it can cover in a single pass, and the faster it will print the model. However, smaller nozzles are usually required for finer details or complicated designs.

If you want to determine the speed at which a nozzle will work, you need to take into account both the diameter and the height of the nozzle. 

This is how those two factors will affect the 3D printing speed: 

The diameter of the nozzle:

The wider a nozzle is, the more area it can cover, and the faster it will be able to 3D print.

While a smaller nozzle is better for detail and complicated designs, it will take a lot longer. 

Height of the nozzle: 

The further away from the printing bed the nozzle is, the longer it will take to 3D print.

Meanwhile, a longer nozzle that is closer to the printing bed will work a lot faster, as there is less distance for the material to travel when deposited. 

How long does it take to print 3D objects?

Now that we’ve gone through some of the main factors that can alter the speed of 3D printing, we can look into how long it takes to 3D print some of the most common objects and items.

Of course, the time can vary from 3D printer to printer, and according to all the factors mentioned thus far. But we’ll look at it in terms of the average time, with standard 3D printer settings. 

How long does it take to 3D print a helmet? 

For a high-quality 3D printed helmet, of average size and complexity, it would take between 10 and 50 hours, give or take. 

To make it actually look its best, it would then also take quite some time in post-processing, to finish it up and get rid of the layer lines. 

How long does it take to 3D print a mask?

Masks are relatively easy to 3D print unless they specifically have a highly complicated design with various different layers.

A low-poly mask can usually be 3D printed within an hour, which is quite fast. 

How long does it take to 3D print a miniature? 

As miniatures are all very small in size, it seems logical to assume that they will all be really fast to 3D print.

But truth is, miniatures can have a wide range of time differences, depending on the complexity of the design, and the number of layers that are needed. 

Some miniatures focus on having a great deal of detail, and this can take up a lot of time for the 3D printer. 

On average, a miniature will take between 30 minutes and 10 hours to be complete. 

How long does it take to 3D print a prosthetic? 

Prosthetics are one of the most useful applications of the 3D printer, and it can make them a lot cheaper to create, and a lot more accessible to those who need them, which is great.

Of course, prosthetics need to be as high-quality as possible, and they can have quite a lot of detail, so it’s to be expected that they’ll take a little longer to 3D print. 

If we take an average hand prosthetic model, it will take between 10 and 25 hours to fully 3D print, depending on the different variations. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to 3D print a phone case? 

A phone case is not only small in size, but it is also a very simple and straightforward design, that is very easy to 3D print.

An average phone case should be 3D printed in as little time as 20 minutes. 

How long does it take to print a 3D house? 

3D printing a house is indeed possible, but it takes a rather big 3D printer and quite a large amount of material. A simple 3D house can be printed as fast as within 24 hours.

However, a more complex build with native materials will require a lot more processing and will take many days to fully finish the model. So on average, we would say that it takes around 10 days for the complete 3D print. 

Why does 3D printing take so long?

3D printing is a lot more complex than it seems. It is constructing a model by building it up, layer by layer, and that takes its time.

Unfortunately, 3D printers aren’t advanced enough to simply pop out a fully built object, so you have to wait a certain time, which varies depending on the size and the quality of the model you’re 3D printing. 

Is it expensive to 3D print? 

The expense of 3D printing varies according to the model, and to the material that you’re using. But let’s look at the average. 

Standard FDM filaments have an estimated cost of $25 per kilogram. 

Standard SLA resin has an estimated cost of between $50 and $60 per kilogram. 

The bigger the model is, the more expensive it will be to 3D print, because the more material you will need to use. 

In Conclusion: 

The time it takes to 3D print an object completely depends on a few main factors: the size of the object, the quality it is being 3D printed at, and the settings of the 3D printer that determine the overall speed of printing. 

The bigger a model is, the longer it will take to 3D print, and the same goes for the level of quality. If you want to speed up the process, you will likely have to compromise on the smoothness of the details, as the printer will not be able to deliver as well if it’s being set to go at faster speeds. 

Other factors also come into play, such as the size of the nozzle on the 3D printer (the bigger it is, the more it will be able to print at a time, and the faster the process), and the system of the 3D printer itself, which is how it will have been designed. 

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