Slicing 101 Effects of Layer Height on 3D Printed Parts

3D Printing Curvy Parts

There are many ways to attack a new model.  Here is a prime example that is tricky if you are just getting started-“Dino Dude!”

Dino Dude is tricky because he has a lot of curves as well as small and large area layers.  You need to know things like “cooling,” large and small perimeter speeds, and infill % and infill speeds (all defaults provided in the Airwolf Slic3r config files).

Below is a photograph depicting Dino Dude printed at four different layer heights (.1mm, .2mm, .3mm, and .4mm).  Dino Dude was sliced at 125% scale with PLA using the same settings (except for layer height) with Slic3r 9.5.  As you can see, we used zero infill, which easily illustrates the differences in layer height.

Get Started with 3D Printing at .4mm Layer Height

If you were just starting to learn how to 3d print, you should probably start with .4mm layer height, like #4 on the right.  If you look closely, the 3D printer is working very well.   The perimeter speeds are correct as there are no obvious “blobs” or imperfections in the print.  This print would have taken you about 45 minutes.  If blobs occurred, or you witnessed over imperfections, you would retry the print with slower speeds and only be out about 45 minutes of your time.  However, if you had started with a .1mm layer height, you would be 3 hours into it before you realized your speed settings were off.

If you look closely, you will notice the difference between the models.  For #1, with a resolution at .1mm, there are no “holes” in the object because the layers are very thin.  Think of the layers as “stair steps,” where the finer the layer height, the more stairs in a stairwell.  The more stairs, the less the transition in height and lateral spacing from stair to stair.  Therefore, when 3D printing organic objects such as these, the finer the resolution, the more details are picked up and the better the overall print.  (By the way, Dino Dude was created by cerberus333 on May 26, 2012, as seen on thingiverse)

If you look closely, you can tell the difference in layer height by the “holes” in the feet.  These holes do not reflect problems with the slice or the printer, they reflect the “gaps” in between the stair steps.  Notice that #4 has large gaps, while #1 does not have any gaps:

The same effect is illustrated with the tails:

Finally, a close view of the faces of Dino Dude completes the story:

Work Out the Layer Surface Quality Settings Before Moving on to Smaller (Slower) Layer Heights

The take away here is that layer height has a significant effect on the resolution of organic (curvy) parts.  If you have all the time in the world (and a reliable machine), you have the option to 3D print with the finest resolution and take your chances that your speed settings are correct.  However, the lesson here is that when you are new to 3D printing, layer speed (not overall print time) will be the most critical component in getting the part right.  In other words, it is best to go with a higher layer height first when attempting to print out a new model.  This will save you time and give you a good general feel about the model and the speed settings, such as large and small perimeters and infill.  No matter how fine your layer height, if the machine is moving too fast and the filament is pushing out and back uncontrollably, you will get imperfections.  Therefore, the solution to getting the absolutely best print possible in the least amount of time is to start with a large layer height like .4mm and dial in those speeds.  Once the layer surface quality is perfected, move to finer layer heights to bring out all the pretty details like in Dino Dude #1!

in SlicingWorking With 3D Models