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Does 3D Printing Speed Affect Quality? Facts Explained

Large models may require more than a day, so you might be tempted to increase the print speed — but does 3D printing speed affect quality?

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3D printing has evolved phenomenally in recent years, but most desktop printers still take hours, even for some of the simpler designs. Large models may require more than a day, so you might be tempted to increase the print speed — but does 3D printing speed affect quality?

3D printing speed does affect quality, as everything from first-layer adhesion to accuracy depends on it. Also, 3D printing speed may cause extrusion issues and deformation, thus leading to failed prints. Besides, 3D printing speed isn’t a standard or an isolated setting.

3D printers and slicer software have default printing speeds, but you can change that whenever a design requires a slower or a faster rate. However, your custom 3D printing speed should suit the design, filament, and extruder. Otherwise, your prints may fail. Read on to know the facts. 

How 3D Printing Speed Affects Quality – The Facts Explained

3D printing speed isn’t the same for filament and resin printers. For example: 

  • 3D FDM or FFF printers using filaments have a speed along the x and y axes, which you can regulate through the slicer software or onboard firmware. 
  • 3D SLA, LCD, or DLP printers using resin have a speed along the z-axis that you cannot control directly, but you may change a few other print settings.

Since 3D printing speed is a straightforward and customizable setting for filament printers (FDM or FFF), you’re probably wondering about the effects of changing the rate on the quality of your prints. 

So, let me discuss 3D printing speeds for filaments (FDM), and then I’ll address resin printers.

3D Printing Speed Affects First Layer Adhesion

The base or first layer is the most critical structural component in 3D printing. A serious issue with the bottom can compromise your entire print. 

Problems with the upper layers may lead to inaccuracy or resolution issues affecting the quality partially. However, if the first layer doesn’t adhere or bond to the print bed perfectly, a successful print is less likely, even if everything else is fine.

3D printing speed is critical for first layer adhesion, and I’m not talking about only faster printing speeds. Slower than optimum 3D printing speeds can affect quality, too. Here’s how:

  • A slow 3D printing speed may deform the deposited filament or layer, causing inaccuracy and loss of quality. The nozzle should move on after depositing the filament at every point. A lingering hot nozzle interferes with filament curing.
  • An atypically fast 3D printing speed may not deposit enough filament at the right temperature for the thermoplastic to adhere to the build plate. That can cause first-layer adhesion issues, and the bonding problem may persist for subsequent layers.

Speed is a simple measurement, but it becomes complicated in the context of 3D printing. This speed isn’t just the distance or length your 3D printer’s extruder covers per unit of time. The main objective is to deposit the filament at a specific rate, which brings forth extrusion issues.

3D Printing Speed May Cause Extrusion Issues

Inappropriate 3D printing speeds cause the following common extrusion problems:

  • Slower 3D printing speeds may deposit more filament than necessary at a point, and you will have over-extrusion.
  • Faster 3D printing speeds may not deposit enough filament at a point, and your model will have under-extrusion.

Neither scenario is desirable because both types of extrusion issues affect the quality and may lead to failed prints.

Furthermore, wrong 3D printing speeds for a given design, filament, or extruder can lead to intermittent extrusion issues. You may witness a hotchpotch of under and over-extrusion and vice versa. Your entire print is at risk in such cases, not only the aesthetic quality or finish. 

3D printing speed for filament printers is effectively the rate of depositing the material, not just how fast or slow the hotend or nozzle moves. A setting of 60 mm/s means your 3D printer must deposit a selected filament for that length or distance per second along x, y, or both axes. 

In other words, your 3D printer’s extruder should cover 60 mm/s of distance along the horizontal axes while depositing the filament flawlessly. However, the extruder may fail to deposit the filament properly for that entire distance per second. 

You don’t just need the extruder, hotend, or nozzle to move faster or slower. You also need the filament to be deposited correctly, including but not limited to the following parameters:

  • Layer height
  • Extrusion width
  • Optimum extrusion
  • Filament condition
  • Filament temperature

3D printing speeds can affect each of these factors (more about this later in the article). Thus, you’ll open the floodgates of inaccuracies.

Incorrect 3D Printing Speeds Can Cause Inaccuracies

Wrong 3D printing speeds affect quality by increasing the risks of the following inaccuracies:

  • Layer separation
  • Missing finer details
  • Warping, deformation, etc.
  • Blistering, stringing, gaps, etc.

These inaccuracies are common 3D printing problems, and your printer’s speed may aggravate these issues. If your selected speed creates severe extrusion problems for a filament, your print may fail partially or entirely. 

Consider the following effects of 3D printing speed on accuracy:

  • An inappropriately fast or slow speed deposits less or more filament at one or many points for the base or first layer.
  • Your 3D model will likely have first-layer adhesion issues, and the height will vary due to inconsistent filament deposition.
  • Poor base adhesion compromises your 3D print’s foundation, and the varying height causes bonding issues for the subsequent layer.
  • As a result, your model may encounter layer separation, and the print may warp, blister, or deform.
  • A faster than optimum 3D printing speed may leave gaps, and finer details in a design could be missing at one or multiple points.
  • A slower than optimum 3D printing speed may cause stringing if the retraction and other settings aren’t ideal for the filament and design.

Even if you customize all the related settings for a specific 3D printing speed, you can’t change a filament’s characteristics or an extruder’s specifications. The crux of all these inaccuracies is that 3D printing speed is not an isolated setting. 

3D Printing Speed Is Not an Isolated Setting

You’re probably familiar with the settings you must change according to your 3D printing speed, such as flow rate or extrusion multipliers. These parameters are interlinked, so your slower or faster 3D printing speed doesn’t function in isolation.

The correlation between 3D printing speed and a few other parameters isn’t solely limited to codes or slicer settings. The interdependence is also subject to the hardware specifications of your 3D printer. Thus, any change in your 3D printing speed must account for the following:

  • 3D printer extruder
  • Type of filament
  • 3D model design 

Viable 3D Printing Speeds Depend on the Extruder

The most fundamental reason for 3D printing speed’s effect on quality is extrusion. 

I’m sure you know faster speeds need a higher flow rate or multiplier and extrusion width to keep up. Likewise, you can work with a smaller nozzle diameter if your 3D printing speed is slow or optimum.

However, you cannot print fast if your extruder doesn’t support that rate. Your nozzle diameter may be too small for a selected layer height and print speed. So, you won’t get the desired layer height, and filament deposition may be inconsistent due to under-extrusion.

Similarly, if you print too slowly with a large nozzle diameter and flow rate or multiplier, you might cause over-extrusion. Apart from these settings, the extruder has limitations due to its hardware specs and condition. The hotend temperature is another fundamental aspect.    

Consider the following inevitable factors and their impacts on your 3D printing speed:

  • All 3D FDM printer extruders have a maximum volumetric speed for every popular filament, which determines how fast you can print. These maximum volumetric speeds are in an ideal setting. You have to print at a much slower pace to get accurate, precise prints.
  • The maximum volumetric speed is rarely attainable due to the current condition of the extruder and filament quality. You may not have an impeccably clean nozzle, or the hotend may have some buildup. Such issues affect extrusion and thus viable speed.
  • The other related hardware components are also important, such as the stepper motor, idler pulley, drive belt, etc. The belt’s tension affects speed. The idler pulley or stepper motor should operate flawlessly to attain high 3D printing speeds. 

Furthermore, an extruder isn’t an isolated hardware component. The extruder and your 3D printing speed correlate to the type of filament and its condition.

Filaments Have Unique Optimum 3D Printing Speeds

You know the ranges of printing temperatures for different 3D filaments or thermoplastics. These temperatures influence printing speeds because filaments don’t have the same characteristics. Some filaments require higher temperatures and are more viscous, so they don’t flow easily.

Hence, the following factors influence the optimum 3D printing speeds of various filaments:

  • Filament type
  • Filament quality
  • Filament condition
  • Printing temperature
  • Extrusion width or flow

Let me highlight a few facts about different filaments and how they influence 3D printing speeds:

  • You can print PLA faster than ABS or select a moderate speed for both filaments. The two popular materials aren’t too sensitive to speed, but you should still choose the viable rate for your 3D printer or extruder and design.
  • PETG is extremely sensitive to 3D printing speed because it has adhesion issues at faster rates and stringing problems if you print too slowly. Thus, you don’t have much room to play with the speed while working with PETG.
  • The filament’s quality and current condition determine the viable speed for a 3D model. Poor quality filaments tend to have extrusion issues. Likewise, any hygroscopic filament won’t print well at its optimum speed if the material is humid.
  • A filament’s printing temperature influences its optimum speeds, as the hotend must maintain that heat to sustain the flow rate. An overheating hotend due to slow speed might ooze filament, whereas lower temperatures cause under-extrusion. 
  • You can’t print too fast or slow if the extrusion width or flow doesn’t support the speed. A large nozzle diameter and a high flow rate or extrusion multiplier aren’t suitable for slow speeds with most filaments. The converse is true for faster 3D printing speeds.

Any Design May Need a Custom 3D Printing Speed

Many people use a medium 3D printing speed for most of their models. However, a design may need a custom rate. The selections depend on the factors I have discussed and the finer details of a particular model.

For instance, a model with some finer details may warrant a slower speed. A fast printing speed might introduce inaccuracies at curved edges or corners. Complex shapes, whether geometrical or asymmetrical, can be tricky if the printing speed is too fast.

However, a slow speed isn’t ideal, either. Oozing filament causes stringing, so you should prevent over-extrusion. Otherwise, the finer details may not be as prominent as you want them to be.

Several factors are correlated, such as a design’s layer height’s dependence on extrusion width, which is subject to the nozzle diameter. 3D printing speed affects quality unless you account for all these issues, from your extruder’s limitations to the type of filament and the specific design.

How 3D Printing Speed Affects the Quality of Resin Prints

3D resin printers don’t have an outright speed setting. You can speed up the printing process by changing one or all of the following parameters:

  • Layer thickness
  • Number of layers
  • Infill type/pattern
  • Print orientation

Increasing the layer thickness of a model will speed up a 3D resin print. However, some finer details may be a tad hard to accomplish. Likewise, less infill and angular orientations increase the 3D printing speed for resin, but these options may not be viable for all designs.

Final Thoughts

3D printing speed affects quality in expected and unpredictable ways. Hence, you should always select a pace that fits your filament’s parameters, extruder specifications, and demands of a 3D model. If you prefer fewer risks, choose an optimum 3D printing speed for each model to play safe.

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About Ben

I started 3D printing since 2013 and have learned a lot since then. Because of this I want to share my knowledge of what I have learned in the past years with the community. Currently I own 2 Bambulab X1 Carbon, Prusa SL1S and a Prusa MK3S+. Hope you learn something from my blog after my years of experience in 3D printing.