How Long Does it Take to 3D Print an Object?

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How much time it takes to 3D print and object? (source)

The question about how much time it takes to 3D print an object remains a debatable topic even today. This is because no one gives a clear answer to this new-found riddle but today we shall help you in determining the approximate time your 3D printer can take to accomplish a given task.

Normally, it is said that 3D printing takes between 30 minutes and 7 days or even more. Why this huge difference in the time it takes to 3D print objects? Maybe, your guess is as good as anybody else’s across the board and the simplest explanation can be pointed to the size of the model to be printed and settings used.

While these are the key factors that you need to consider when undertaking a 3D printing project, you should also have other additional factors that determine the duration the whole process takes. Above all, the technology that your 3D printer uses is of great importance given that different printers come with different technologies.

To make you have a clear picture of what dictates the time taken by the printer to accomplish a 3D object, we have narrowed down our views on the factors that determine the build time for different types of 3D printers. Find out more about these factors in the following paragraphs:

Part Size

1. The Volume

There are many factors that determine the time it will take to print an object. One of those is the size. In this regard, we start by considering the volume of the object. Speaking of the volume, you need to understand that this is the indicator you will have to look out for before going on with the project.

At this point, the general rule pertaining to 3D printing comes into play. And the rule state that, the larger the parts of the object to be printed, the more time it takes to print it. This means, taller parts are likely to take more time when compared to the shorter parts despite being of the same volume.

More often than not, smaller parts, let’s say 1 cubic inch, take less time( about five minutes utmost) to 3D print in comparison to very large parts(about 100 or more cubic inches) which may take as high as 200 hours to print. Therefore, the volume of an object plays a very critical role when it comes to the time taken to 3D print an object.

2. Footprint (XY)

The footprint is a common term used to describe the area occupied by the 3D object on the build surfaces. With that information at the back of your mind, it is important that you consider this factor in determining the time it will take to finish your 3D printing project.

In other words, the larger the footprint the more time it will take to finish the 3D printing task. The footprint in this regard is determined the distance your 3D printer’s head will travel starting from the home position all the way to where each layer is completed. This factor goes hand in hand with the size of the object that is being printed.

3. Height (Z)

You cannot mention volume and footprint without including the height of the object when listing down key factors that determine the time it takes to 3D print an item. In fact, the height is considered to be the most significant dimension in approximating the time it will take your printer to finish 3D printing of an object.

For example, a part measuring 4x4x8 inches will take more time to 3D print than that part measuring 5x5x5 inches despite the fact that they are of the same volume. The differences, however, comes in as a result of the height. That is to say, the taller part will include more layers thus forcing the print head to take more time while making more passes to finish building them.

Part Geometry

The cross-sectional layers of the parts to be 3D printed play a role in determining the time it takes to print a particular object. In other words, 3D printing is quicker when the parts that are being printed have simple (part geography) cross-sectional layers. The more complex the cross-sectional layer looks, the more complex its final object will look. Also, this concept applies to the complexity of the parts geometry, which in turn determines the time taken by the print head to replicate the whole object.

Normally a part comprising of many features will appear as groups of tiny islands in the ocean while a less complex cube or sphere will give an impression of one large island. This should tell you that your 3D printer’s print head will take a while drawing boundaries for each island before filling it using the printing materials. In a real sense, more islands translate to more time and vice versa. But you should be fully aware that the degree with which the part geometry affects the 3D printing build time depends solely on the available 3D printing technology in use.

Used 3D Printing Technology

At this moment, you need to be fully aware of the existing 3D printing technologies on the market today. Each technology comes with its own unique way of creating parts on an object using their own unique 3D printing processes.

To begin with, the free deposition modeling (FDM) melts plastic-like hot-glue gun, polyjet and stereolithography use ultraviolet(UV) light to facilitate solidification of the liquid photopolymers and Selective Laser Sintering(SLS) uses lasers to make different types of 3D prints.

But the time taken to 3D print one part of the entire object depends mainly on the configuration of your 3D printer. These configurations are divided into two major categories which are the paint roller and paint brush.

1. Paint Roller

Unlike paint brush technology, paint roller technology works more or less the same as a paint roller. Here, the print head evenly moves back and forth on the entire build tray with the printing materials are being extruded from different points located on the print head as opposed to a single pinpoint. Good examples of 3D printers that use paint brush technology include Multijet, Polyjet and Colorjet printers.

2. Paint Brush

This is a 3D printing technology where layers are built in the same way as someone would paint them on the canvas using a brush. In this technology, the paint is responsible for extruding materials from just a single point while moving from one section of the build tray to the other, drawing out “islands” in every layer. The technology includes selective sintering, FDM and stereolithography.

When compared to the Paint brush printers, you will be surprised to learn that paint roller printers are a little bit faster and more detailed. From these technologies, it is evident that their time to 3D print an object will differ greatly.

Layer Height

Don’t confuse the height of the layer and the height of the whole part of the printed object. The height of the layer is also considered to be a determining factor in relation to the time it will take to 3D print an object. Take a practical example of the FDM 3D printers. These machines are capable of printing parts that have layer heights starting from 0.005 inches, 0.007 inches, 0.010 inches or 0.013 inches. By using different layer heights when printing, you can easily prioritize speed and details depending on the requirements of the parts.

To make it simpler for you, shorter layers mean smaller features, smoother surface finishes, and higher details. In addition, short layers indicate that there might be more layers hence a longer period of building parts. For instance, FDM parts that have 0.005 inches are likely to take more time to 3D print than those with 0.013inches layers.

Quantity

Quantity means the number of objects to be 3D printed. Obviously, the higher the number, the more time it will take to finish the task. But you can reduce the per-part time during the time when you are printing many copies. Despite all that, you will require more time to 3D print more than one item.

Post Processing

Post processing activities come immediately after the actual 3D printing process. The process may include the support removal process, all the way to ultimately cleaning, rinsing and drying 3D printed parts.

However, every technology has its own method of post processing. On top of that, the average time may vary depending on a number of factors like the geometry and size of the parts. For a smaller part, the time taken to do post processing may take about 20 minutes while the larger part may last several hours. Most importantly, you must take great care not to break or cause damages on the parts of the printed object because they can come out fragile depending on the materials used and their designs.

Final Thought

By now you can easily give the right answer to the question, “how long will it take to 3D print an object” without contradicting yourself. As usual, the time taken is determined by a number of factors that range from the size to geometry all the way to 3D printing technology used among factors. Therefore, the most appropriate answer to the question is that it can take you between 2 to 7 days to 3D print an item based on the factors that determine the printing speed.

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