How long does 3d printing take?

In this guide you will learn how long it takes to 3D print an object and the factors that affect the speed of 3D printing.

3D printed and gold plated designer toys

February 23, 2021 (Last updated)

8 min read

You're on a very tight deadline and you're probably wondering how long would it take to 3D print your 3D model.

Here's our short answer to that:

On average, 3D printing an object can take anywhere from 30 minutes up to 12 hours to print. Sometimes, it can even take several days depending on how large and detailed your 3D model is.

Why does 3D printing take so long?

First, it depends on your 3D model that you want to 3D print.

Larger and more complex designs take longer to 3D print than smaller and simpler objects. Higher quality 3D prints would also take longer to 3D print.

As you can see there are many variables that can affect the time it takes to 3D print.

The time it takes to 3D print depends on multiple factors such as the type of 3D printing technology, material, size of your 3D model, and any post-processing you wish to do.

In this article, we're going to break down each factors so you can have a better understanding of how long it really takes to 3D print an object.

Factors that affect the time it takes to 3D print an object

3D model

This one is fairly obvious. As mentioned earlier, more complex or larger 3D models would take longer to 3D print compared to much simpler designs. The time it will take to print something can be hard to predict, without a 3D model.

The volume of your 3D model is also a factor. Hollow models are faster to 3D print than models that are solid inside. This is because the 3D printer's nozzle or laser (depending on your 3D printer) would need to travel around the whole object if it's solid. The less surface area it needs to cover, the faster it takes to 3D print.

Layer height and layer thickness

The higher the layer height, the longer it will take to 3D print an object. Similarly, a print with a lower layer thickness takes longer to 3D print.

3D Printing Technology

Different 3D printing technologies also affect how fast your 3D print will finish.

Let's take this miniature figurine for example and see the different 3D printing speeds based on the technology being used.

3D Printing Technology3D Printing Time For A Miniature
SLA 3D Printing~ 5hrs
LCD 3D Printing~ 4hrs
FDM 3D Printing~ 6hrs

LCD 3D printers tend to 3D print faster compared to SLA 3D printers. While SLA and LCD 3D printing are faster than FDM when 3D printing a complex part or a large object. When it comes to 3d printing simple objects, FDM might have a slight edge.

Again, 3D printing speed can vary and your 3D model matters.

3D printing settings

Your 3D printing settings also matter when it comes to the the time it takes to 3d print. If you want more accurate, high quality 3D prints then choosing a slower print speed might be a better option for you.

Better quality means sacrificing speed for accuracy. So if you need a high quality part, then you need to to forget about printing speed and focus on the result.

Post-processing

The 3D printing process doesn't end when it comes out of the 3D printer. We wish it does because it would make our lives so much easier. But in most cases, you still need to clean the resulting print to make it work.

Here's what a typical post-processing looks like:

  1. Remove the supports

  2. Cure the print. (For resin 3D prints)

  3. Start polishing

Post-processing time for FDM 3D prints

Approximate time: 4-24 hrs depending on complexity

Polishing can take forever for objects printed using an FDM machine. We've experienced this first hand. It took us a full day of work just to polish a simple art sculpture and we still ended up with those annoying lines that you see on low quality ABS/PLA 3D prints. To add salt to the wound, removing supports was time consuming as well.

Post-processing time for SLA 3D prints

Approximate time: 2-8 hrs depending on complexity

Compared to FDM, the 3D prints from SLA 3D printers are easier to clean and polish. Objects that used to take us several hours to polish (by hand) would only take a 20 minutes or less with a resin 3D print.

Although 3D prints from an SLA machine requires UV curing, it's less labor-intensive as we usually leave it in a UV oven after cleaning the resin with alcohol.

Post-processing time for SLS 3D prints

Approximate time: 0-2hrs depending on requirements

One of the caveats of additive manufacturing is that supports are usually required in order to print an object. Without them, your 3D print will likely fail.

SLS 3D printers, however, do not require any supports which makes them faster and easier to work with when it comes to post-processing. This makes them popular among on-demand 3D printing companies like Shapeways or 3D Hubs because it doesn't require a ton of labor.

Keep in mind though that SLS 3D prints are rougher than SLA prints, so if you require smooth finishing then you need to take that into account as well.

Finishing touches for your 3D print

Metal finishing

Approximate time: 2 - 3 weeks

Metal finishing can also add time to your 3D printing processes. Want it gold? Chrome? It can take an additional 2-3 weeks as metal plating 3D prints requires a delicate approach as sometimes there is no room for error. A casting house would need to redo the whole process again. So if you're in a rush, getting 24k gold or other metal finishing might be out of your option.

Painting

Approximate time: 1 day - 3 weeks

Painting a 3D print requires less time than metal finishing so this might be a good alternative if your on a tight deadline. Again, it depends on the complexity of your project. If you require a very detailed, multi color painting, then that would take longer. But if you want it in one color, then that would take less time.

With that in mind here are some ways to speed up your print time based on the factors that we mentioned.

How to speed up your 3D printing process

Keep in mind that there are tradeoffs when trying to speed up your 3D printing

  • Optimize your 3D printer settings for speed. You might lose quality and increase your risk of failure so be careful with this.

  • Scale down your 3D model. If size don't really matter then 3D printing it at a smaller scale would decrease the time it takes to print

  • Print all of them at the same time. If you have a large enough 3D printer, then you might be able to get away with 3D printing your parts next to each other.

  • Hire a professional 3D printing service to save you time. 3D printing companies like us can do 1-2 day turnaround depending on your project. We also have large scale 3D printers that can print multiple parts at the same time.

Frequently asked questions

These are some of the questions that our clients keep asking us, so we've summarized them for you.

How long does it take to 3D print a miniature?

It can take approximately 3-4 hrs for 28mm miniatures to 3D print. For large miniatures, it can go up to 12 hrs and sometimes, even more. It also depends on how accurate you want your 3D printer to print. More accurate prints would mean a slower 3D printing time.

How long does it take to 3D print a phone case?

Contrary to popular belief, 3D printing a phone case is not economical because they can take awhile to 3D print. A phone case can take anywhere between 3-8 hrs to 3D print depending on the complexity of your design and your chosen 3D printing technology. If you're planning to sell 3D printed phone cases, take this into account as it will affect your pricing.

In Summary

There are many factors that affect the time it takes to 3D print something, that's why how long it takes to 3D print varies on a project basis. If you're only counting the time from loading it in a machine, it can take between 30 mins up to 12 hours or even days to complete. And if you take into account the additional time it takes to make your 3D print functional or aesthetically pleasing, then 3D printing would take even longer.

If you ever need a 1-2 Day turnaround 3D printing, check out our 3D printing service to see if we're the right fit for your 3D printing needs.