In this quick guide, let’s talk about 3D printer micron resolution. Most 3D printers today have 200 microns, and as the number gets smaller the more details the printers can perform.
Let’s check it out
What Is A Micron
1 micron = 0.0000001 meter.
In 3D printing, the unit micron represents the layer height. People call it print resolution or Z height.
10 micron = 0.01 mm
50 micron = 0.05 mm
100 micron = 0.1 mm
200 micron = 0.2 mm
The lower the micron, the higher the print resolution (In theory)
Fact: A piece of human hair is between 20 – 200 microns in diameter and the longest human chromosome is 20 microns long.
What Resolution Can The Latest 3D Printers Print?
The current 3D printer resolution depends on how smooth the extruder movement is. Current 3D printers on the market offer:
- 10 microns
- 20 microns
- 50 microns
- 100 microns
- 200 microns
Micron spec is not the only important factor, and it also involves:
Vertical resolution refers to the minimal thickness layer (Z resolution) a printer can produce in one pass. The smallest layer thickness means a smoother surface.
Horizontal resolution refers to the 2D layer X and Y-axis resolution for a 3D print. The lower the value means higher details.
However, different materials, different designs yield different results. In some cases, higher layer height prints give better results than low micron prints.
Part Resolution Design Guide
The 3D model will always look perfect on the computer than after it’s printed.
The wall thickness is the distance between one surface of the model to the opposite sheer surface. For ABS material, a 1.2mm minimum wall thickness is recommended.
Many prints are done layer by layer via the FDM method (Fused Deposition Modeling). The printing orientation will affect the surface quality and part strength.
A horizontally printed model will show “staircase effect” like a topographic map. For printing vertically, the surface quality is much better. So the user must consider the orientation of the print accordingly.
Typical consumer FDM printers have a layer thickness of 0.2 or 0.3mm.
SLA printers can produce layers as thin as 0.025 mm.
Any machined parts including a 3D printer part will have weak points depending on their size. The print orientation has a direct impact on the part integrity.
These weak points can cause the thin portion of the material to break off. Designers much take this into account and avoid part features that will end up being made this way.
SLA printers are more accurate than FDM, and PolyJet offers some of the best printing precision.
The smaller the nozzle the more precise the details. A standard nozzle is typically around 0.4mm, and smaller ones are around 0.1 or 0.2 mm for small and accurate parts
Fine-tune the extruder steps on your 3D printer to ensure the right amount of filament gets extruded.
To put numbers into perspective, 1″ = 25400 microns, so a difference of a few microns doesn’t make much of an impact.
For an FDM printer, the finer you get with it, the less accurate it will be, and there is only so much plastic extrusion with a diameter of anywhere from 0.005″ – 0.020″ that is expanding and shrinking to fit into tight spaces. The trick is to set the smallest feature to be at least 2X the layer height so the printer can do the job.
For PolyJet Technology, It can print a much finer layer height down to 14 microns, thinner than an average piece of human hair.
For SLA Technology, Stereolithography (SLA) use laser technology to cure resin layer by layer, and it can produce single material parts with a much higher degree of accuracy and finish. So 10 – 15 microns can have adverse effects on the part.
The dimensional accuracy of a print can be affected by warping, temperature inconsistency, part shrinking, poor bed adhesion, material degradation, poor printer setting, poor cooling, and many other factors.
Most FDM printers will build supporting structures around the part as it comes to life. A high-resolution print definitely needs a good support structure to hold certain features “in the air” while it’s being created.
If the support structure is poorly designed, the feature can warp or droop during the middle of the printing process.
Is 50 Microns Good Resolution For 3D Printing?
The standard smallest height is between 50 and 100 microns, which is about 0.05mm and 0.1mm.
A 50 micron is better when compared to a higher micron print. So it’s relative to what’s being prepared.
Here is a 100 microns sample:
Here is a 50 microns sample:
The 50 microns have much more smoothness, clarity, and less visible lines.
Why Does Lower Layer Height Not Always Give The Best 3D Printed Result?
In theory, a lower micron gives more details. However, there are other factors such as:
- Printer accuracy
- Part complexity
- Bridging issues
- Heat transfer on very small part
- Unpractical part size
- Material used
Always be cognizant of what you’re actually printing, and understand the dimensions of the model before sending it to the printer. A high-resolution printer can’t always print high-resolution parts if the part was improperly designed to be manufactured.