Why Is 3D Printing So Slow? Is it really necessary?

3D printing has improved tremendously over the years and though it has improved in speed as well over that time, the long print times have still only been cut down marginally. 

3D printing is slow because the 3D printer creates the part one layer at a time similar to stacking a layer of bricks to build a house. The slow speed of the 3D printer is necessary to achieve a high level of resolution and accuracy.

Below are some of the main reasons that 3D printing is so slow. Many of the main bottlenecks of 3D printing are very necessary and are also largely unavoidable. 

3D Printing Layer By Layer. 

On average a 3D printer creates layers that are .2mm tall meaning to create a part that is one inch tall (25.4mm) you would need 127 layers to reach that height. 

It takes about one minute to print a single one inch by one inch layer so to print a solid one inch by one inch block it would take roughly 2.5 hours.

Here is a timelapse video that shows how long it takes to 3D print something.

Baby Groot – 3D Printing Time Lapse

You can save a lot of time by decreasing the infill of the part. If you don’t need the strength of a 100% infill part you can reduce it to 25% and it will take the time from 2.5 hours down to 1 hour. 

Some 3D printed parts will not require any infill at all and can be printed successfully simply by increasing the wall thickness.

How Does Filament Affect 3D Printing Speed?

3D printer filament is one of the main reasons that FDM 3D printing is so slow. The hot end of a 3D printer can only pass so much material through it at a time and increasing the nozzle diameter has a drastic effect on quality. 

Another seemingly obvious thing to do is increase the hot end temperature so that the material melts faster and then is able to print more quickly, but for most materials if you heat them beyond the recommended temperature it will damage the material and lead to a rough surface finish. 

As the printer creates layers the material needs time to cool between each layer. For most prints the amount of time that it takes to create the layer is plenty of time for the layer to cool before moving on.

How Does 3D Printer Speed Affect Accuracy?

In order to achieve higher accuracy while 3D printing the printer must run slow enough to perform accurate maneuvers while also extruding material in the right locations. 

The main thing that hurts accuracy is your layer height. The taller that you create your layers the more ridges you will have on the outer profile of the printed part. A standard layer height is .2 mm but you can print as tall as .6mm with a larger nozzle. 

These tall layers will create a ribbed effect on the outside of the part and will not be smooth, but there will be less layers therefore it will take less time. To achieve higher accuracy on your print it is recommended to drop down to a .12mm layer height and sacrifice the time to gain the quality in your print.

Can You Increase 3D Printer Speed To Print Faster?

It is possible to increase the speed of a 3D printer’s servo motors but it comes at a cost to accuracy. Running a 3D printer at too high of speeds will dramatically decrease the accuracy and quality of a 3D print. 

Another factor that comes into play when increasing the servo motor speeds is vibration. As you speed up the 3D printer it will begin to jerk around tight corners which can cause the belts that drive the X and Y axis to skip.

If the print shifts or the belts running the axis’ skip it will cause the machine to lose location and will start to cause layer shifting.

Is SLA 3D Printing Faster Than FDM 3D Printing?

SLA 3D printing is not faster than FDM 3D printing. It typically takes more time to cure one layer in an SLA printer than it takes for an FDM printer to create one layer. SLA 3D printing also requires more post processing time than FDM 3D printing.

What you give up in speed you gain back in accuracy. An SLA printer can create layers as thin as .05mm which creates a highly accurate and precise print.

Is 3D Printing Faster Than CNC Machining?

On average 3D printing is not faster than CNC machining to complete most simple tasks. 3D printing is faster for highly complex shapes and can save a lot of time in manufacturing with its ability to run with little to no supervision.

For certain complex parts CNC machining is not even a viable option therefore 3D printing is much faster. Anything with a tight inside angle is difficult for CNC machines to manufacture but 3D printers are able to make these complex shapes with ease.

Speeding Up Your 3D Print.

There are ways to speed up your 3D print that don’t have to sacrifice accuracy and performance. Check out this article on How To Speed Up Your 3D Printer.

Will 3D Printing Get Any Faster?

As 3D printing technology improves the time that it takes to 3D print parts will also improve. Currently 3D printing is a slow and meticulous process that creates a part by laying material on the build plate layer by layer.


There are many things that affect the speed of a 3D printer and the only real way to increase your 3D printer’s speed significantly is through trial and error. Over time with your 3D printer you will find ways to increase speed and you will be able to increase your speed and quality simultaneously. 

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