Maximum 3D Printing Speed

With everybody 3D printing masks these days, the question of “how fast can you print” came up on the Makergear forum.

Here’s my opinion:

The fundamental limit comes from the heater’s ability to bring cold plastic up to extrusion temperature inside the 20 mm hot zone.

Using airscape’s example, the extruded thread is 0.5 mm thick × 0.8 mm wide = 0.4 mm², so laying down that thread at 50 mm/s means the extruder is heating plastic at 20 mm³/s and is “pushing it with PLA”.

In round numbers, normal printing speeds with a normal nozzle and normal plastics runs around 10 mm³/s, so a practical upper limit is probably around 15 mm³/s.

As far as thread size goes, the diameter of the flat area around the nozzle orifice sets the maximum thread width, because the nozzle must compress the thread against the previous layer. If the thread is wider than the nozzle, the gooey plastic curls up around the sides of the nozzle and doesn’t bond well. The rule of thumb is to round up the orifice diameter to the next convenient number:

  • 0.35 mm nozzle → 0.4 mm thread
  • 0.75 mm nozzle → 0.8 mm thread

The maximum thread (= layer) thickness should be about 60% of the thread width, which is why a 0.8 mm wide thread calls for a 0.5 mm layer thickness.

Assuming the extruder can heat 15 mm³/s of plastic, the maximum printing speed will be 15 mm³/s / 0.4 mm² = 37.5 mm/s: comfortably under airscape’s “pushing it” 50 mm/s.

A visualization may be helpful:

Extrusion Dimensions
Extrusion Dimensions

Aaaaand, as always, calibrate the Extrusion Multiplier for whatever conditions you’re using to ensure the slicer and the hardware agree on how much plastic is coming out of the nozzle.