How Long Does it Take to 3D Print?

Mario De Lio

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Four models being printed on an anycubic vyper 3d printer in dual color blue and red filament

If you’re anything like me, you are probably very impatient and want your printed part to print ASAP. When it comes to 3D printing, you’ll need a bit of patience.

When first getting into 3D printing, many people wonder, “how long does it take to 3D print?”

 A 3D print can take anywhere from 20 minutes to seven days, depending on the size and complexity of the model.

Let’s look at how long it takes to 3D print and how you can improve print time without sacrificing quality.

How Long Does it Take to 3D Print?

The process of 3D printing can take anywhere from 20 minutes to seven days, depending on the size and complexity of the print.

Factors that Influence Print Times

Several factors affect how long it takes to 3D print. We’ll cover some factors influencing print times and provide tips on speeding up your 3D-printed objects.

Part Size and Complexity

The main factor affecting print time is the part size and the complexity of the model. The larger the part is, the more material the printer uses and the longer it takes to print. 

Prints with intricate details and textures take longer to print. I notice this, especially when I print miniatures and cosmetic display models with high amounts of texturing. Despite keeping settings like infill density and wall thickness low, the texturing greatly increases the time to print.

Print Speed

Despite how it looks, this video of the P1P printing at top speed is not sped up.

It may seem obvious, but a faster print speed makes for shorter printing times.

Slower printing speeds provide better details and higher quality prints but take longer.

Your 3D printing hardware limits your print speed. A printer like the Ender 3 generally prints at 60-90 mm/s, while the Bambu Lab P1P prints at speeds of up to 500 mm/s.

Printing a 3D Benchy on the Ender 3 takes around 2 hours. When I printed the same model on my Bambu Lab P1P, it printed in under 20 minutes.

Print Orientation

Print orientation can also impact how long it takes to 3D print.

FDM printers build models one layer at a time. Despite creating props in three dimensions, 3D printers print faster in the X and Y direction than in the Z (height) direction. You can reduce the time it takes to 3D print by orienting your model so that it doesn’t extend much in the Z axis.

For example, I sliced a simple object with the same print settings and density. The only difference is the orientation. 

As you can see from the photos above, orienting the print so that it’s taller, it takes almost 30 minutes longer to print. But when we change the orientation, we shorten the print time by 18%.

This technique cannot be used all the time because of limitations in the model geometry; be sure to consider it because you can save some time.

Infill Density and Pattern

Gyroid infill printed in gray pla
(Source: u/edilclyde via Reddit)

Infill density and patterns play an important role in the time it takes to 3D print a model.

Infill density is the amount of plastic used inside the model. Infill density is expressed as a percentage where 0% is hollow, while 100% is a fully solid object.

When you increase the infill density, the printer lays down more material to create a denser internal structure. Higher infill densities take longer to print because more material needs to be extruded.

In addition to infill density, the infill pattern plays a role in printing times.

The infill pattern is the shape of the internal support structures.

Now, let’s see look at some common infill patterns and their affect on printing time:

  • Lines: The simplest and quickest infill pattern lines. It creates rows of parallel lines. A line infill is best for non-structural prints that only require a little strength, but print speed is essential.
  • Basic Grid: The basic grid is another simple and quick infill pattern. It creates simple straight lines back and forth. The simple pattern makes an easy and fast path for the print head to follow. It’s stronger than lines but not as strong as other patterns. I generally choose a grid infill if I print a simple cosmetic model that won’t apply much mechanical loading. 
  • Triangular Pattern: This pattern uses diagonal lines that form triangles. It offers better strength than the basic grid while still being relatively fast to print. This pattern is ideal when looking for a string print.
  • Honeycomb Pattern: The honeycomb pattern balances strength and material usage well. Printing the honeycomb infill takes a bit longer than the basic grid or triangular pattern, but it is far more durable and lightweight. Honeycomb infill is best used when you expect mechanical loading in only one direction.
  • Gyroid Pattern: This complex and intricate pattern is very strong. Printing objects with a gyroid pattern can significantly increase the printing time due to its intricate nature. But it has some of the best strength characteristics. A gyroid infill pattern is best for parts that experience high mechanical loads.

Wall Thickness

Like infill density, an increased wall thickness requires more material and takes longer to 3D print. 

I always keep my wall thickness to a minimum of 2 contours and will thicken it only if I plan to do post-processing or use the part in an application where it can expect high-impact loads or needs to be waterproof.

Layer Height

The layer height of your 3D print determines the quality or resolution of your 3D print. Thinner layers have better quality and smoother finishes but take longer to print.

Increasing the layer height significantly impacts print times but at the cost of quality.

Nozzle size

Two 3d printed objects using different nozzle sizes. The model on the left uses a 0.8mm diameter nozzle, while the nozzle on the right uses a 0.4 mm wide nozzle
The model on the left was printed with a 0.8mm nozzle, while the model on the right uses a 0.4mm nozzle. The left model has a lower resolution but printed 65% faster compared to the model on the right.

Increasing the nozzle diameter is one technique I use to help reduce the print time. Most FDM printers use a standard nozzle diameter of 0.4mm. A 0.4 mm size nozzle is an excellent compromise between a good surface finish and low print times. 

Although I find this true, when I know I will sand the finished model and don’t care about the surface finish, I will increase the nozzle diameter to 0.6mm or 0.8mm. 

Larger nozzle diameters allow the printer to increase the filament flow and shorten the print time. Check out this one model. 

To help make this point clearer, I printed the same 3D Benchy file using a 0.4mm nozzle (right) and a 0.8mm nozzle (left). I kept all print parameters the same except for the nozzle diameter and the slice height. As you can see, the 0.8mm nozzle resulted in more noticeable layer lines and increased stepping on the inclines.

The increase in nozzle diameter had a significant reduction in the print time. The 0.4mm nozzle printed in 1 hour and 36 minutes, while the 0.8mm nozzle printed the same model in only 33 minutes— a reduction of over 65%.

Because of the huge time savings, larger nozzle sizes are best for mechanical parts where the finished print quality isn’t essential.

A lower nozzle diameter is better for models requiring higher print quality or intricate details.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does 3D printing take so long?

All 3D printing technologies build parts one layer at a time. Each layer, or “slice, “of the print builds upon the last layer to form a model. These “slices” could be anywhere from 30 microns to 0.3mm thick. Since the printer has to build each cross section individually, it takes longer than other forms of manufacturing. 

Are There Times When 3D Printing Is Faster Than Traditional Manufacturing?

Yes. Because 3D printing doesn’t require a mold or specially designed equipment, it is faster to create an initial design. 3D printing has become a staple of rapid prototyping for this reason.

However, if the machinery is ready, a traditional manufacturing process like injection molding is much faster, consistent, and of higher quality than anything a 3D printer can achieve.

Some applications of 3D printing are revolutionizing industries. Take construction, for instance. You can print houses in a matter of hours or days compared to months for a bricklayer to do the same job.

Article by

Mario De Lio

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