Quick 3D Prints: Choosing the Most Efficient 3D Printer

Print speed is a manufacturer battleground, but a faster 3D printer to get quick 3D prints on paper won’t necessarily be the quickest for you in the real world due to material requirements and build specifications.

3D print speed refers to the rate at which a 3D printer extrudes plastic or the rate it completes a cross-section or layer.

The larger the layers, the faster the print speed because fewer layers produce the desired volume. In other words, speed is offset by layer height.

You can also speed up build time by increasing print speed, infill speed, and wall speed in tandem, which reduces the possibility of problems like layer shifting (a common issue if you only crank the infill speed). Just remember that printing faster can have a negative impact on surface quality.

Of course, there are more variables that determine print speed, not least the technology that underpins the print process.

Choosing the most efficient 3D printer for quick 3D prints is not simply a case of scouring spec sheets and looking for the fastest extrusion or build speed.

You must also consider the nature of your models, the build materials, infill density, nozzle or laser spot size, and support structures.

The fastest print technology

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) and Stereolithography (SLA) are the most common technologies in the desktop 3D printer space. Other technologies include SLS, DLP, and LCD, which we will discuss below.

Ultimaker S5

FFF and SLA can offer similar print speeds printing at the same resolution, with SLA printers able to print multiple prints on the same print run more quickly.

SLA has a smaller cross-sectional area than an FFF printhead. In simple terms, it can take longer to build each layer, albeit with a more detailed surface finish.

FFF is best for prototyping and iterative design with low-cost materials. However, it can also produce functional, end-use parts with engineering-grade materials like PEEK and PEEK with a machine like the 3DGence F421, which prints at speeds up to 400 mm/s.

3DGence F421

However, while FFF is best for quick prototypes, it usually produces a lower surface quality than SLA, making it less suited to making highly precise models. SLA can also produce geometries that are impossible with a mechanical print head.

How fast is a resin 3D printer? The Formlabs Form 3+ prints up to 40% faster than the previous Form 3 model, completing a 4-inch model in around 2.5 hours with Draft Resin, a unique material formulated for print speeds.

Formlabs Form 3+

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printers like the Formlabs Fuse 1 are even faster than FFF for large and small series production on an industrial scale. For example, the Fuse 1+ 30w can print a bike seat in 14 hours and 1 minute.

Using a faster 3D printer increases production capacity, with a mere difference of 10 mm/s potentially slashing printing times by hours.

Another fast 3D printing technology is Digital Light Processing (DLP), which uses digital light projectors to rapidly cure a liquid resin and produce entire layers of an object.

A digital micromirror device (DMD) composed of hundreds of thousands of small mirrors is employed to selectively direct the light. 

Layering via DLP produces 3D components referred to as voxels, the equivalent of pixels in the 3D world. DLP print speeds can exceed SLA. 

Last but not least, we have LCD 3D printing (also known as MSLA or Masked Stereolithography). This utilises an array of ultraviolet LEDs and a liquid crystal display (LCD) to selectively cure resin layer-by-layer.

LCD 3D printing offers excellent print speeds, albeit not quite as high as DLP.

With resin printers powered by SLA, DLP, and LCD, print speeds can exceed FFF when printing multiple objects in one session, and you also have the opportunity to produce more intricate geometries.

The fastest print materials

Print materials are linked to print speed because different materials need specific extrusion and bed temperatures and varying times to adhere and set on the print bed.


For example, PET-G usually prints slower than PLA because it prints at a higher temperature, increasing its viscosity and requiring slower extrusion.

When choosing a 3D printer for quick 3D prints, you must consider the material library you need and the ultimate compatibility of the machine.

Draft Resin

For example, most FFF 3D printers will print PLAABS, and TPU if they have the option of a heated build plate, but PET-G, Nylon, and carbon fibre-filled materials require particular temperature and flow rate settings, which not all 3D printers support.

Additionally, you must factor in the shore hardness of a material, which can determine whether it is suitable for Bowden or direct drive extruders.

Another consideration is whether a 3D printer has an enclosed chamber, which can sometimes facilitate faster print speeds by more closely controlling curing times.

With SLA 3D printers like the Form 3+, you have access to a vast catalogue of proprietary resins, some with super-fast or relatively slow print speeds.

The fastest material is Draft Resin, while Standard resin offers more quality with less speed. Speciality 3D printing resins like Flexible resin are slower, although this is the price you pay for formulations created for specialist applications.

Find out more

To find out more about quick 3D printing, call us on 01765 694 007 or email team@additive-x.com.

book an appointment with Tammy

Top image credit: 3DGence.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *