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Is Print Resolution the Same as Layer Height?

There seems to be a growing drive towards better resolution within the technological space. High-res images, objects, and models are preferable since they preserve the most detail, but understanding how to up the resolution on a 3D print can be pretty confusing. In 3D printing, print resolution is often used interchangeably with layer height, but are they the same? 

Print resolution is the same as layer height for the most part. Print resolution features three main dimensions, X, Y, and Z, which inform print quality in terms of accuracy and smoothness. Layer height is the same as the Z-dimension resolution, affecting the print’s definition. 

This article will discuss layer height and print resolution in detail, focusing on the definition and their usage in 3D printing. Additionally, read on to discover why layer height is commonly considered the same as print resolution. 

Definitions of Print Resolution and Layer Height

Although you can use the print resolution and layer height to learn more about the print quality of an object, they each have specific applications. 

In 3D printing, print resolution is the smallest detail that a 3D printer can make within a single layer. In contrast, layer height refers to the thickness of each layer of deposited material which typically ranges from 0.05mm to 0.5mm (0.002 to 0.02 in). 

Based on these definitions, print resolution and layer height sound like two different aspects of the 3D printing process. However, further review of the relevant literature suggests that these two concepts are more similar than their definitions suggest. 

So, let’s explore these definitions deeper to uncover these points of convergence. 

What Is Print Resolution in 3D Printing?

Print resolution is one of the critical aspects used to evaluate the quality of a 3D model, primarily due to its impact on the overall precision and appearance of the printed project.

3D print resolution is the smallest detail that a 3D printer can produce accurately. Accordingly, it indicates the level of accuracy with which a 3D printer can print. 

3D print resolution is described in three dimensions, X, Y, and Z, as summarized below: 

  • X and Y dimensions relate to the slightest movement a 3D printer can make within a singular layer. Accordingly, printers with smaller X and Y dimensions will produce greater-detailed prints. 
  • The Z dimension relates to a single layer’s degree of thickness. In this regard, the lower this figure is, the higher the print resolution. 

Because of these three dimensions, you can measure print resolution in a couple of ways. 

The most common ways to measure the resolution of a 3D printed object are: 

  • X-Y-Dimension: The x-y dimension of print resolution is measured and defined in terms of micrometers or dots per inch. According to CMAC, this is essentially a measure of layer thickness. 
  • Z-dimension: The z-dimension is, in essence, the layer height. You measure it in terms of millimeters or micrometers. Think of it as the degree of thickness of each layer printed by your 3D printer. This measurement is similar to the layer height. 

What Is Layer Height?

Like print resolution and layer thickness, you can use layer height to assess the quality of a given 3D print project.

Layer height is the thickness of each layer that your 3D printer deposits on your print bed. Depending on the machine in use, you measure layer height in micrometers or millimeters. Layer height typically ranges from 0.05mm to 0.5mm (0.002 to 0.02 in). 

Based on this definition, the layer height and the z-dimension of resolution are the same. 

Why Is Print Resolution Considered Same as Layer Height? 

Although the print resolution and layer height are different, they tend to be used interchangeably, especially in relevant 3D printing literature. However, why is this the case? 

Pint resolution is considered the same as layer height since most 3D printers determine the print resolution based on layer height. In this case, the smaller the layer height, the higher the resolution. 

So, when a 3D printer uses smaller layer heights, the resolution will be high, and vice versa. 

Because the Z-dimension of print resolution relates to the thickness of each layer, then the layer height is a dimension of print resolution. 

Accordingly, you can use the layer height to gauge the level of print resolution because it is a measure of the Z-dimension. Therefore, technically, layer height and print resolution describe the same thing. 

So, you can use layer height to gauge print resolution, which is perhaps why many people use these two similar terms interchangeably. 

However, should Z-axis layer height be used in place of resolution when it does not directly provide details on the X and Y dimensions? 

Based on scientific research, looking at the layer height is the best way to measure print resolution in 3D printing jobs. That’s because each layer provides an object with more or less definition or detail, and the more short layers you have, the smoother each angle will be. 

The height of the layer in microns is taken as the resolution of the given project, indicating that layer height and print resolution are essentially the same.

Because 3D printing involves the gradual addition of material, each additional layer’s thickness will determine the print’s resolution. In this sense, you will get smoother surfaces with lower layer heights and vice versa. 

Final Thoughts

If you know the definitions of print resolution and layer height, it’s understandable to think these measurements are different. However, print resolution and layer height are similar and provide vital information about the resolution of a 3D print. 

In closing, the resolution of a 3D print has three dimensions, measured either in microns or millimeters. You can determine the thickness and slightest movements that a 3D printer can make from these dimensions. Thus, layer height and resolution are the same.