3D Print Speed Settings: Balancing Quality and Efficiency

Marcello De Lio

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Close up of a 3D printer using fast 3D print speed settings to create an object on a textured build plate

Your 3D print speed settings are critical to balancing quality and efficiency.

Each 3D printer is unique, and so are the materials used. You must be prepared to tweak your settings for different filament types to get the best results.

You’ll want to consider your material, printer hardware, print temperature, and model details.

3D Print Speed At A Glance

3d printer printing a small yellow model

3D print speed is one of the most critical factors as it directly influences your print quality and print time. 3D print speed refers to the rate at which a 3D printer deposits material to create a three-dimensional object. It’s the speed at which the print head moves along the x and y-axis.

Print speed is measured in millimeters per second (mm/s). The ideal speed varies depending on the printer model, filament material, print temperature, and the complexity of the printed object.

You can use a 3D print speed test to see how your printer performs at different speeds.

It’s important to remember that different materials and print temperatures change the optimal print speed. It’s a good idea to run the print test at different print temperatures to help you find the best combination.

Your printer’s hardware is the most significant factor determining your 3D printer’s speed.

Due to hardware limitations, most Cartesian printers, or bed slingers, have lower speeds of 40-60 mm/s. Cheaper components like roller v-wheels and slower stepper motors limit the printer’s maximum speed.

However, CoreXY 3D printers can print at higher speeds of up to 600 mm/s with 20,000 mm/s2.

Printer manufacturers set recommended speeds and slicer profiles for their printers. The default slicer settings require fine-tuning, but they provide an excellent starting point for you to work with.

It’s essential to balance these factors when finding an optimal print speed.

Advanced Speed Tuning

A Core XY printer printing in blue PLA filament

When you adjust your 3D printer’s speed settings, there’s more to consider than the print speed. While 3D print speed is critical, you should consider several other speed settings.

Travel Speed

Travel speed refers to the speed at which the printer head moves when not extruding filament. Your travel speed tells you printhead how fast to move over open spaces and between parts of your print.

You should set a high travel speed to reduce print time and the risk of stringing between distant points. I recommend a 150-200 mm/s travel speed for most bed slingers like the Ender 3 and 500 mm/s for CoreXY 3D printers like the Bambu Lab Carbon X1.

A high travel speed prevents the filament from oozing out of the extruder during non-printer movements. Fast speeds minimize stringing and reduce unwanted extrusion.

It’s essential not to set the travel speed too high as it can result in ringing or layer shifting.

If you’re unsure where to start, set a travel speed of 100mm/s and increase in 10mm/s increments.

Retraction Speed

Retraction speed controls how quickly the filament is pulled back during travel moves to prevent dripping. You’ll want to find a balance that minimizes stringing without causing excessive wear on the extruder.

Depending on your extruder and filament type, I recommend retraction speeds between 30-60 mm/s.

Setting the retraction speed too slow leads to zits and blobs. If you set the retraction speed too high, the gears can grind the filament, creating different print issues.

Here are our retraction speed recommendations for different filament materials:

  • PLA: 40-60 mm/s
  • PETG: 25-45 mm/s
  • ABS: 40-60 mm/s
  • TPU: 15-30 mm/s

Infill Speed

You can set a faster infill speed than your outer shell speed because it’s less visible, and minor issues won’t affect the appearance or quality of your 3D model.

Acceleration and Jerk Control

Acceleration and jerk settings significantly impact print quality and efficiency. They control the speed at which your hot end changes directions, and acceleration determines the rate at which a printer reaches its desired speed.

High acceleration reduces printing time but at the risk of introducing vibrations or artifacts. Jerk settings dictate how quickly a printer can start or stop moving. Excessively high jerk settings create flaws like ringing.

A lower acceleration and a moderate jerk setting are best for creating precise prints without negatively impacting print times.

First Layer Speed

Close up of the print head of an anycubic Kobra 2 printing the first layer of a 3D object
(Photo by Marcello/3D Print Mentor)

The first layer speed impacts adhesion and layer lines. You want to set a slower first layer speed, around 20-30 mm/s, to ensure excellent bed adhesion and a smooth foundation for subsequent layers. Your first layer speeds should be around 50% of your regular print speed.

Don’t rush the initial layers, as it sets the stage for the rest of your print.

Number of Slow Layers

It’s not just the first layer that requires a slower print speed. This print setting tells your printer how many slow layers to print before ramping up to the full print speed. It’s an essential setting to build the foundation for your print.

I recommend setting five to six slow layers to ensure your 3D print adheres to the build plate.

Support Structure Speed

Support structures don’t need the same attention to detail as the print itself, so setting a faster speed can save time on your printing without affecting the quality of your 3D print. I usually set the support structure speed to 50% faster than my regular print speed. So, if I’m printing at 60 mm/s, I use a support structure speed of 90 mm/s.

Relationship Between Temperature and Print Speed

A 3D printed temperature tower printed in color changing pla filament
(Source: Hiroloquy via Thingiverse)

Your 3D print speed and temperature are closely linked. At the core of their relationship is the principle that the faster you print, the more heat is required to sufficiently melt the filament to bond properly with the previous layers.

3D printing filament requires adequate time and heat to melt properly before extruding through the nozzle. Print speed influences the melt time in the hot end: faster speeds shorten the amount of time filament has to melt, while slower speeds extend it. Imbalances in the speed-temperature ratio can cause extrusion problems.

Filament becomes more fluid at higher temperatures, which is needed to ensure a fast filament flow rate at fast printing speeds. You should increase the print head temperature when increasing print speeds to ensure the nozzle deposits enough filament.

Here are three reasons to increase the print temperature at higher speeds:

  1. Heat Transfer Efficiency: The filament spends less time in the heated nozzle at faster speeds, reducing the time to reach the optimal melting point. Higher temperatures compensate for this quick passage by ensuring the filament melts quickly enough to maintain a smooth and consistent flow.
  2. Material Bonding: Proper bonding between layers is essential for the structural integrity of the print. At higher speeds, if the extruded filament is not hot enough, it won’t adhere well to the previous layer, leading to weak points and insufficient layer adhesion.
  3. Print Quality: Fast printing at low temperatures can lead to under-extrusion, where insufficient filament is deposited. This results in prints that are brittle and have a poor surface finish. Increasing the temperature ensures that the filament is fluid enough for a consistent extrusion, enhancing the print’s overall quality.

Hardware Influences on 3D Printing Speed

An Anycubic Kobra 3D printer creating a 3D printed object at a fast print speed using tri extrusion filament on a textured build plate
(Photo by Marcello/3D Print Mentor)

Your 3D printer’s hardware significantly affects the upper limits of print speed. The printer’s nozzle size, extruder type, and design directly affect how quickly you can produce prints without sacrificing quality.

Differences Between 3D Printer Types

Your printer’s architecture is the most significant factor determining your 3D printer speed.

Delta, CoreXY, and Cartesian 3D printers are three of the most common printer architectures. Each type of printer offers unique characteristics that significantly influence print speed.

Delta Printers

The build plate on a delta 3d printer printing an object in yellow pla

Delta printers are known for their distinctive triangular structure, which utilizes three arms connected to a single print head. Delta 3D printers have a stable build plate and move at incredible speeds. Printers like the FLSun S1 print at 1200 mm/s with an acceleration of 40,000mm/s².

This design allows for high-speed printing due to several factors:

  1. Lightweight Print Head: Delta printers have a stationary motor setup, unlike Cartesian printers, where the motor often moves with the print head. The print head is lightweight, allowing for faster movement and less inertia.
  2. Parallel Kinematics: Delta printers operate on parallel kinematics, where all three arms move simultaneously to position the print head. This allows for exceptionally smooth and rapid movements, especially in vertical directions, making Delta printers exceptionally fast.
  3. Efficiency in Printing Tall Objects: The design of Delta printers makes them particularly efficient at printing tall, slender objects. Their ability to quickly move up and down translates into faster print times for objects that fit within their cylindrical print volume.

However, delta printers have a few downsides.

Delta 3D printers have decreased accuracy on prints with larger horizontal areas. Because of the vertical arms, these printers are very tall but only have half the print size as the total printer height. Delta printers also have smaller build volumes than other printer architectures.

CoreXY Printers

Bambu Lab P1P Core XY 3D printer on a wooden table with a plant in the background 4 3

CoreXY printers offer a unique combination of speed, precision, and compact design. These printers are becoming increasingly popular as they offer fast print speeds and excellent print quality, even at larger build volumes.

The CoreXY architecture is characterized by:

  1. Belt-Driven System: CoreXY printers utilize a complex system of belts that control the movement of the print head along the X and Y axes. This design allows for rapid movements with minimal vibrations, as the motors are stationary, reducing the moving mass.
  2. High Speed with Precision: The CoreXY configuration can print at high speeds without sacrificing precision. The belt system enables quick and smooth acceleration and deceleration, which is critical for maintaining print quality at high speeds.
  3. Stable Print Bed: The print bed only moves along the Z axis. CoreXY printers can achieve high quality at fast speeds because the object remains stable at fast print speeds.

CoreXY printers are well-suited for detailed prints where speed and precision are essential. However, the complexity of their belt system can make maintenance and setup more challenging than with simpler designs.

Cartesian Printers

Front view of the anycubic kobra 2 3d printer with a spool of purple tricolor filament

Cartesian printers are the most common and widely used type of 3D printer. Cartesian printers are characterized by their use of three separate motors to move the print head along the X, Y, and Z axes independently.

This design offers several advantages:

  1. Simplicity and Reliability: The straightforward design of Cartesian printers makes them easy to use, maintain, and troubleshoot, which is ideal for beginners and professionals alike.
  2. Versatility: Cartesian printers can handle various materials and print types, making them highly versatile. They can also be modified and upgraded easily, allowing users to improve print speed and quality.
  3. Balanced Speed and Quality: While generally not as fast as Delta or CoreXY printers, Cartesian printers can still achieve high print speeds, especially in models where the print bed moves only on the Z-axis. However, the speed is often balanced with the need to ensure print quality, as the moving mass is greater than in Delta or CoreXY systems.
  4. Affordability: Cartesian printers are the most affordable of the three printer architectures. However, they also have the worst print quality and slowest printing speeds.

The primary limitation of Cartesian printers regarding speed is the inertia from the moving print head and print bed. The movement leads to slower print speeds and potential quality issues at high speeds.

The vibration from moving all three axes leads to ghosting and ringing at high speeds.

But, the biggest drawback is the print bed’s movement along the y-axis, making it challenging to achieve high-quality prints at fast speeds. The issue with the print moving bed is especially noticeable with larger prints as the stepper motor struggles to move the weight of material on the bed.

Filament Material

Three spools of PLA filament on the build platform of a 3D printer

Each filament type offers unique properties and different print speed requirements. You get the best print quality when you fine-tune your print speed to your print material.

  • PLA is the most popular filament choice for hobbyists. PLA filament is easy to use and produces excellent print quality with little effort. You can print PLA at various speeds, but I recommend a 40-60 mm/s speed for the best quality. PLA has a low melting point, allowing for the fastest printing speeds among filament types. Slow the print speed to 30-40 mm/s for intricate details to improve accuracy and finish.
  • ABS is known for its strength, durability, and heat resistance. It’s a popular choice for functional parts but notoriously difficult to print. ABS filament tends to warp and shrink. It also emits unpleasant and harmful odors while printing. I recommend a moderate print speed of 40-50 mm/s for ABS to ensure strong layer bonding and minimize warping. Using a printing enclosure when working with ABS is best to reduce warping in your prints.
  • PETG is a hybrid that combines the ease of printing PLA with ABS’s strength and temperature resistance. PETG filament is less prone to warping than ABS, but it’s much easier to print. I recommend slightly slower print speeds of 25-45 mm/s, which is ideal because it allows the filament to bond properly, reduces stringing, and improves layer adhesion.
  • TPU is a flexible material perfect for creating parts that need to bend or stretch. The flexibility of TPU filament makes printing challenging, particularly with Bowden extruders. TPU requires a slow print speed of 15-30 mm/s to prevent the filament from buckling inside the extruder. Direct-drive setups can handle slightly higher speeds of 20-35mm/s.

Each filament type presents its own set of challenges and considerations regarding print speed settings. Remember, these speed recommendations are starting points, and optimal settings can vary based on your specific printer, the complexity of the print, and environmental factors. Experimentation and adjustment are key to finding the perfect balance for your projects.

Impact of Nozzle Size and Material

Top down view of five brass fdm nozzles of different diameters

The printer’s nozzle size affects how fast you can 3D print. Larger nozzle diameters of 0.6mm and 0.8mm deposit material faster than the standard 0.4mm nozzle.

Because larger nozzle diameters deposit more material, you can print faster without the risk of under-extrusion. The larger nozzle holds more molten filament, allowing for higher flow rates and fewer gaps in your prints.

Your nozzle’s material also affects how fast the material can extrude. 3D printing nozzles made from brass have higher thermal conductivity than hardened steel. Filament melts faster in a brass nozzle, allowing for higher print speeds than in a hardened steel nozzle.

But you shouldn’t choose a brass nozzle because you can print faster.

Brass is softer than hardened steel, making it significantly less durable than steel. Brass nozzles must be changed more often, especially if you print abrasive materials like wood-filled PLA.

Extruder Types and Their Speeds

The type of extruder your 3D printer employs also affects print speed.

Direct-drive extruders are mounted directly on the print head, providing precise filament control. They provide higher print quality and less stringing but at the cost of print speeds.

Due to their all-in-one configuration, direct drive extruders are heavier than Bowden feed extruders. The increased print head weight requires more energy to move at higher speeds. You’ll want to print at slightly slower print speeds than with a Bowden-fed 3D printer.

In contrast, Bowden extruders can print faster due to reduced head weight. However, Bowden extruders have less filament control, requiring more fine-tuning to eliminate stringing.

Solving Common Speed-Related Print Issues

You can run into issues when you set your print speed too fast or too slow.

When printing too slowly, you risk defects from the filament remaining heated in the nozzle for too long. Slow print speeds can clog your nozzle and degrade the filament during printing.

Setting your 3D print speed too high can create print issues like ghosting, stringing, and under-extrusion. If you’re printing at a high speed, you can usually fix the print defects by lowering your 3D printing speed.

Ringing and Ghosting

3D print ghosting on a black pla architectural model
(Source: Teaching Tech via Reddit)

Ringing and ghosting are artifacts that appear as echoes or ripples around sharp corners of your print. They often occur because of vibrations from high print speeds or instability in your printer or table.

To reduce these issues:

  • Decrease Print Speed: Decrease 3D print speed in 10 mm/s increments.
  • Reduce Jerk and Acceleration: High jerk and acceleration settings create vibrations that show in your print. Reduce jerk and acceleration to decrease vibrations and have smoother transitions.
  • Belt Tension: Check that your printer’s belts are sufficiently tight. Loose belts can create ghosting as they slip and become misaligned. Correctly tensioned belts are crucial for precise movements and reducing inaccuracies in the print.
  • Stabilize the Printer Frame: A solid frame and stable base significantly lower vibrations, contributing to cleaner prints.

Under-Extrusion

Gaps in a 3D printed helmet caused by 3D PRINTER UNDER-EXTRUSION

Setting the 3D printer speed too high can cause issues with under-extrusion as your printer struggles to deposit enough filament. Extreme print speeds don’t allow enough time for the filament to melt and deposit correctly. The result is thin layers, weak walls, and gaps in the print.

Decreasing print speed gives your print head enough time to deposit material. You can also experiment with increasing the nozzle temperature. Hotter temperatures make the filament more liquid, allowing it to flow faster.

Stringing

A 3D Benchy printed in black PETG filament with stringing
(Source: Cirrofoen via Reddit)

Stringing occurs when material leaks out and thin strings form between the print spaces. You can reduce stringing in your prints by increasing travel and retraction speeds.

If adjusting the speed settings doesn’t fix your 3D print stringing issues, you can reduce the print temperature or increase the retraction distance.

Article by

Marcello De Lio

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