When you first get a 3D printer, it’s easy to get bogged down by all the options and settings you can tweak. However, there’s something a lot simpler than many people overlook entirely: the orientation of the prints themselves.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways that orientation can impact your prints. There are more things to consider than you might expect, so hopefully, once you’re done reading, you’ll have found a few different ways to improve your printing build quality.
Let’s say you want to print a hollow cylinder. If you print it standing on one end, you’ll find that it has a nice, clean, round shape. If you print it horizontally, however, it’ll be created one rectangular slice at a time. So what does this mean for our print?
Well, you’re more likely to have ragged edges for a start. Because our later layers will be hovering above the base, the finished product will likely have a different shape on one side than the other. This is a result of our curve being processed as linear “steps” instead of being printed in a circle.
On the other hand, because the grain of the object is horizontal, it’s less likely to split in half when pressure is applied to the top part. As such, horizontal orientation is better for support structures.
In this example, you’ll find that the horizontal cylinder prints considerably faster than the vertical one. This is because the vertical print is composed of many more layers, and although they’re smaller in size, this takes a long time to print.
Despite the horizontal layers being larger, there are less of them, and so the time to print is reduced. 3D printing is like any other craft, though: if you take a little more time, you’ll find that the end product is usually of a higher quality.
If you need to create lots of items very quickly, you might want to consider whether or not the quality is as important as the quantity.
This one is pretty straightforward: regardless of whether you print horizontally or vertically, the finished product has the same mass and uses the same amount of filament. There is a very slight difference, though, as we’ll explain below.
Remember how we said that horizontal prints use stepping to create curves? Well, it’s a very small increase in filament used, but if you plan to print the same object numerous times, this can quickly add up.
As a general rule, printing vertically reduces the total financial cost and increases the quality of any items that you print, however, it does take a longer time to create each one.
Ask yourself why you’re printing: is it for profit, artistic reasons, or just for fun? If it’s for business, the bottom line is everything and you’ll likely want to compromise, but for any other reason, you may as well print vertically.
There are some real, noticeable differences between two identical objects printed in different orientations. It might be tough to believe, but everything from the price of printing to the final product’s quality is affected by whether your print is lying down or not.
Writer and Researcher
Robert has published articles on digital photography, PCs and printing technology in several online magazines. He frequently gets up at 4am to capture the sunrise with his DSLR.