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Is a Thicker Layer Height Stronger? The Definitive Answer

In 3D printing, the layer height is how thick each material layer is. Most layer heights fall between 0.1 and 0.5 mm (0.004 and 0.02 in). Still, you might wonder, if you’re trying to build the strongest prints, what layer height is best? 

A thicker layer height is not always stronger. Thicker layers have fewer extrusions and take less time, but the print isn’t as detailed. A thinner layer height tends to work better for intricate models. However, going above or below a specific size weakens the object. 

If you want the strongest layer height, you’ll want to choose the right size. There’s a lot to learn, so make sure to keep reading! I included everything below. 

What 3D Printing Layer Height Is the Strongest? 

The 3D printing layer height that is the strongest is usually between 0.1 and 0.15 mm (0.004 and 0.006 in). The more you increase the layer height, the lessens the durability since more layer adhesion and contact points between the layers make a more substantial print. 

When you want to build the most robust print possible, you want to offer the extruded layers as much adhesion as possible. While there are more layers when using thin options, they’re a lot smaller. 

Plus, the extruded material comes out at a speed that allows for better adhesion. If you want the best printing results, you should use a larger diameter nozzle with thin layers. This method increases the surface area of the layers, making them a lot stronger. 

Overall, thicker layer heights aren’t stronger than thin ones. If you go too far above 0.15 mm (0.006 in) thickness, your print starts to lose a lot of strength. It’s best to stay between 0.1 mm and 0.15 mm (0.004 and 0.006 in) whenever you can. 

Why Thin Layer Height Is Stronger

The layer height alone usually isn’t enough to impact the strength of your print. However, thinner layers have more extrusions of material. The material stays hot due to a lower distance between the nozzle and the last layer, increasing bonding. Plus, since you’re using less material per layer, it cures more evenly. 

Additionally, thin layers are a lot denser. There are smaller gaps between the printed material, making it less likely to split along those lines. Thicker layers tend to break on the seam lines because there’s not excellent adhesion in those areas. 

While thin layer height tends to be stronger, too thin can lead to many structural issues. Going under 0.1 mm (0.004 in) can cause issues in a layer that build up to significant problems when the extruder continues piling material on top of the mistake. 

If you want the most strength, it’s best to choose 0.15 mm (0.006 in). This size setting offers the best adhesion rates for most nozzle diameters. 

Why Layer Height Matters

thicker 3d printed layers

Layer height is one of several important factors when creating your prints. A thicker layer height decreases the print time because the machine doesn’t need to extrude as many layers. However, you don’t get a smooth, detailed print. 

Lower layer heights have less noticeable grooves right off the printing bed, but you have much longer printing times. Layer height can also somewhat affect the strength of the print. However, other factors, such as the infill percentage you use, impact it more. 

Overall, you’ll want to use the correct layer height in combination with other factors. For example, changing the layer height slightly on its own might not have noticeable effects. However, lowering it and using a more durable infill will drastically impact the print’s strength. So, consider the layer height and other printing settings for the best results. 

Unnecessarily Thick Layer Heights Weaken a 3D Print

As mentioned before, using a layer height outside of a specific range weakens the print’s structure. There are a few different reasons for this. 

First, using too thick layers with a large nozzle can make your print blobby. The layers also won’t have a great contact, leading to poor adhesion. If you drop your model or use it to hold weight, it could easily crack along the layer lines, even after sanding it down. 

Very Thin Layers Have a Higher Chance of Failing

Some issues come with using layers that are too thin, such as: 

  • Printing below 0.1 mm (0.004 in) can cause some quality to disappear, becoming more noticeable when you reach 0.05 mm (0.002 in) or lower. 
  • You’ll also have to wait an extremely long time for the printer to finish working. 
  • Structural issues arise when a single thin layer has a bump or layer slightly out of line. The layers won’t build up correctly, causing problems- you might not notice until it’s too late to fix. 

You’ll want to create a few test prints before making your final object. That way, you can see what works best with your infill design, material, and overall 3D object shape. 0.15mm (0.006 in) tends to work the best for most prints, but it’s always good to do a test first! 

How To Match Layer Height to Nozzle Diameter

It’s a good practice to match the layer height with your nozzle’s diameter for the best results. You want to set the layer height between 25% and 75% of the nozzle diameter. 

Since 0.4 mm (0.016 in) is the standard, you’ll want to put it between 0.1 mm and 0.3 mm (0.004 and 0.012 in). In this case, the ideal layer height would be 0.2 mm (0.008 in). 

Going slightly thinner than 0.2 mm (0.008 in) would help increase your layer adhesion, although you’d add a bit of time to the print. It’s always good to match the nozzle diameter, so you don’t pick something too thick or thin for it to handle. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, a thicker layer height isn’t always better. 

In short, you want to use a layer height between 0.1mm and 0.15mm (0.004 and 0.006 in). 0.2 mm (0.008 in) is acceptable in some cases, but going too far above or below that may weaken your print. 

Your print also loses some detail with larger layer heights, and the gaps between the layers are brittle. Thin layers have better adhesion and improved contact area, making them stronger. 

Consider your unique 3D design before printing. Each print is different and can benefit from different layer heights.