3D Printer Position Axis Explained [X, Y & Z]

A 3D printer head has 3 axis to move in order to create the part in space. This guide will show you what they are, how many different systems are out there and how they work. If you’re new to 3D printing, this quick read will help you better understand a 3D printer’s basic mechanism before buying your first one!

Let’s Define Dimensions In Space

A 3D printer prints the object by coordinates information commonly referred to as X, Y and Z. The Cartesian system, named after mathematician René Descartes. X & Y represent horizontal dimension Z represents vertical dimension Each coordinate represent a point in space to make up the dimension of the object in space. One single axis can indicate a position along a line and the other two axis can define the object in 3 dimensions. In 3D printing, these coordinates determine the position of the hot end nozzle, which is moved around by different rails and driving systems. Most FDM 3D printers feature least three different orthogonal axes to be able to create three-dimensional objects. The layer-by-layer deposition process is highly dependent on the axes’ movement, so having a leveled print bed and carefully calibrated printer is paramount for a high-quality print, and features that make this part easy generally increases the cost of the printer.

Types Of 3D Printer Axis Systems

Referenced Creality

Cartesian Printers

The cartesian printers use one or more electrical motors along each axis to move the print bed instead of the head. These are the most common printers for consumer grade desktop 3D printers. It’s the most basic level 3D printer axis system. It’s an affordable system for students to start on simple DIY projects before moving to something better. The moving components can cause problem at high print speed, and it can lead to inaccurate deposition

CoreXY Printer System

Similar to Cartesian printers, the difference is that the XY movement is run by 2 motors and timing belt, and the Z axis is run by the build plate always progress in a downward direction as the part is being printed. The advantage of this system is the ability to handle much higher speed print, and the XY axis motor are fixed to the printer’s body frame to reduce vibration for a faster and higher quality print. The downside to this system is that the timing belt can fatigue and lead to constant maintenance. When the timing belt loses tension over time, it can lead to inaccurate movements and misalignment. On the other hand, overly tensioned belts will increase wear and tear greatly over time. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Delta Printer System

The delta printer system is also known as the “delta robot” in the industry. Instead of the traditional XYZ system, the hot end is attached to 3 moving arms connected to 3 separate vertical rails. the hot end moves simultaneously to print the part in a linear vertical movement. The delta system features stationary circular build plates and it works well for printing circular and taller models. The downside of this system is that it’s more difficult to calibrate due to the axis complexity, and smaller XY dimensions can be quite limiting.

Motor Systems

Now that we have shown you the types of axis systems are available on the market for 3D printers, and in this section, we will briefly talk about the most crucial mechanics – Motors

Stepper Motor

Stepper motor system is commonly used in 3D printers. They are precise and inexpensive for controlling their rotation without positioning sensors. The typical torque for these motors range from 40 to 45 N cm, which is the balance between torque and speed for cartesian printers and fast Core XY printers.


Leadscrew system translates rotational motion into linear Z axis movement and these long threaded rods are connected to the stepper motors by flexible couplings that allow a certain amount of end movement of the shaft to avoid bearing wear and tear.

Timing Belt

Timing belt pretty much acts like a pulley system. It’s often used for X and Y axis in 3D printers. As we mentioned above that timing belt tension matters when it comes to alignment and print accuracy. So it’s crucial to have it setup correctly and many printers have built in tension adjuster to adjust the belt tension.

Leave a Comment