One of the most important factors to consider when choosing 3D printers is the resolution.
It is one way of measuring the print quality or the level of detail. Most people are only aware of the minimum layer height value, but it’s actually a poor representation of the quality of a 3D printer.
Resolution is usually associated with smartphones, camera lenses, televisions, and even the human eye. In 3D printing, it is important to understand how resolution affects the overall precision, printing time, and appearance of 3D print parts. If you want highly detailed parts, the resolution must not be taken lightly.
Resolution is described in three dimensions: X, Y, and Z.
- Vertical Resolution (Z) – the layer thickness or the layer height. High resolution means small layer height.
- Horizontal Resolution (X, Y) – also known as the planar dimension, the X, Y resolution is the smallest movement a 3D printer laser can create within a single layer. When the movements are smaller, it means better 3D model details.
3D Printing Technology Choice (SLA vs. FDM)
With technological innovations, it is not surprising to see many changes since the introduction of desktop 3D printers to the public.
A new technology that competes for the same desktop spots as FDM or fused deposition modelling 3D printers is stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers. SLA 3D printers are resin-based and have better print quality than any other plastic-melting 3D printers. They produce significantly more detailed and smoother prints. Another advantage of SLA 3D printers is that they have a much higher XY resolution and can typically achieve smaller layer thickness.
With SLA 3D printers, the minimum feature size in the XY plane is not restricted by molten plastic flow dynamics, but rather radical and optics polymerisation kinetics.
In FDM technology, there are various factors that affect the resolution, such as the precision of the extruder, the bonding force between the layers, and the nozzle size. In SLA, however, the optical spot size of the laser/projector determines the printing resolution.
Factors Affecting the 3D Printing Resolution
- 3D Printing Speed
A final 3D model can be affected by the 3D printing speed. If the printing job takes more time than usual, it means that the final 3D model has better finishes on the corners and edges.
Another factor that significantly impacts the entire 3D printing process is the filaments. Using filaments correctly is essential in creating a better 3D resolution printed model. It is important that the temperature of the heated platform is set correctly and that it should wound onto the spool properly.
- Nozzle and layer height
One of the most important considerations in 3D printing is the layer height. Ideally, it should be set between 0.1 and 0.3 mm. For 3D prints that have higher resolution, the layer height can be lowered, making the prints easier. Given that the right filament and nozzle are used, the layer height can be adjusted to from 0.05 to 0.35mm.
Before starting with your 3D prints, it is crucial that you know the desired resolution for your 3D model. How you are going to use the prints and what you need it for will also impact your choice.