3D Printing - Optimizing for Speed

We have spent a while printing with larger size nozzles and have gotten fairly decent at it.  We didn't really realize quite how uncommon this was in the maker community.  With the COVID19 3D printing efforts of the maker community worldwide, we realized that this is information worth sharing.  There are many factors when going fast.  This list is is not polished, we just drafted out these notes.  We will be updating over time, this is just to get the information out there as quickly as we can.  If you have any questions please feel free to send them our way and we'll try to help if we can.  Keep in mind we're not 3D printing professionals.

  • Nozzle size is the single biggest factor

    • If you want to go fast, you've got to lay down more plastic at once, and the nozzle controls that most directly.  However, you can't just independently change the nozzle and nothing else:

      • Layer thickness

        • 1.0mm nozzle layers of 0.5mm - Trade precision for mass, well worth it for prints that do not need to be machine spec tolerance.  Can require cooling modifications.

        • 0.8mm nozzle layers of 0.4mm (or close even multiple of total print thickness for optimization.  0.8mm often works with stock part cooling systems, but may require some cooling modifications on some machines

      • Initial Layer thickness - We’ve had good success with .4mm initial layer with a 1.0 nozzle at 0.5mm thicknesses and 0.32 for the 0.8mm nozzles.

      • Hotend Temp- up significantly (beyond typical temp settings for material)

        • At 1.0mm nozzle PLA (or PLA+) around 240°C (our PLA+ states and upper temp of 230°.  It’s not in the hotend long enough to change its properties and become brittle.

        • At 0.8mm nozzle PLA (or PLA+) around 215-230°C depends greatly on hot-end capabilities, and of course the "normal" ranges for your filament

      • Part Cooling - This varies greatly by printer.  Some machines with stock cooling set ups such as the Ender 3, have a hard time cooling down the filament coming out of the nozzle when at the extreme ends of what the machine can print.  Modifications to the part cooling up to and including ducted fang style cooling, after market fans, or additional fans may be necessary to avoid stringing.  A quick search on Thingiverse.com for your printer and you will often find community designed aftermarket cooling solutions that are printable using your stock fans in a differnt configuration, or to really dial things up, adding additional fans.

      • Print Speed - ~10-30% slower for the 1.0mm nozzles- this is counter intuitive but you have to slow down to speed up.  You overcome this with the increased volume of filament coming out of the printer.  We’ve found that 55mm/s works well for our printers in our set up with the PLA+ we use, that’s actually considered pretty fast.  Many folks go slower, closer to 40mm/s. 

      • Retraction settings - need to be increased typically 1-2mm on a Bowden extruder machine, less on a direct drive, speed doesn’t need much modification in our experience.

  • Layer Height optimization

    • Smart division of layers, even multiples of total height on thin prints, aiming for the max your nozzle can support.  Thicker layers produce stronger prints, and reduce print time, trading fine tolerance precision to get the speed.

  • Optimized part design

    • Minimize supports required to save filament and print time

    • Increase wall count for thick nozzles - sounds counter intuitive but can work with experimentation on specific models, especially with bigger nozzles.

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