How Small Can A 3D Printer Print?

Cheryl Owens12 Mar 2022

3D printing is a process that uses an industrial printer to create three-dimensional objects. It's been around for a while, but it has become much more accessible and affordable in recent years. The process of 3D printing is based on adding layers of material around a digital file to form the shape you want. You can use this process to make anything from toys to medical prosthetics and everything in between. But how small can a 3D printer print? This 3D printer can produce smaller objects than your average printer. However, printing something as significant as a car or a house is still not practical because the materials are too expensive and time-consuming.

The Challenges of 3D Printing

The biggest challenge of 3D printing is the size limitation. This is because 3D printers have limited resolution, but they compensate with speed and volume. For example, a printer might make something as significant as 20 inches long, but only at the height of about 2 inches. This means that you’re not going to get a replica of your model if it is only 2 inches high or wide. In addition to size limitations, the other challenges of 3D printing are related to the material being used and how the material interacts with heat and light. The precision needed for creating a print is brutal when using materials like metal or glass because they can lead to cracking or warping in your object. Another issue is that prints can take up too much time during production because they need time to cool off after each layer has been applied. These challenges come into play when you're trying to create objects that have joints or moving parts, so your idea needs careful consideration before you start printing it out on your desktop printer.

How Small Can A 3D Printer Print?

The size of a 3D printer depends on the materials it's using. For example, if you're printing with plastic, the size can range from a few inches for small objects to several feet for large ones. If you want to print in metal or ceramic, the printer may be smaller or larger depending on your design and what material you're using. However, there are limits to everything in life. With 3D printing, you're able to make almost anything. However, some materials are more complex than others to work with. Some substances have high melting points that can cause issues with printing features, while others will damage the printer itself when trying to create 3D models. If you're exploring the possibility of getting a 3D printer, it's essential to find out how much material the machine can handle before investing in one. This also depends on the types of your printer e.g;

FDM 3D Printers

FDM 3D printers can print features as small as the diameter of their printing nozzles. The most common nozzle size for these printers is 0.4 millimetres, so that means the minor feature they can print is that same size, too. However, third-party nozzle upgrades are available. You can get a 0.15-millimetre nozzle and swap your printer’s old nozzle with it so you can print more minor features. FDM 3D printers can print objects up to eight times smaller than their original model in a single pass, and they only need one layer of material to do it! They make objects that are much smaller than the size of a penny, and that’s just one of their features.

SLA 3D Printers

Although this is one of the techniques that can create objects more than 10x smaller than their original model, it's typically used to rapidly design prototypes or parts before embarking on research and development. Most SLA printers can produce objects only eight times larger than their model or less in each pass from a process that generally is just hours long. SLA printers have often been referred to as micro windows, as they can create objects one-third the size of their model in a single pass. For instance, SLS machines with output at approximately 500 micrometres (the printed layer thickness) can print objects whose size is 53 micrometres or less. An 'average' object is only 5 millimetres in width and 2 millimetres high. Most materials used today only require one layer. The models themselves pass through a series of filtering stages in the machine, allowing higher throughput volumes and speeds than traditional FDM 3D printers that print layer by layer.

DLP 3D Printers

DLP 3D printers can make objects that range from as small as 16 micrometres in diameter (1/60th the size of an average cell) up to 200 micrometres or more significantly. Popular materials used in printers such as rapid prototyping machines typically have five mils or fewer layers and still produce reasonably sized parts with impressive resolution and excellent detail.

DMLS Printer

DMLS, sometimes called Delta printers, are designed to make objects that are only twice as small as their model. They usually have rectangular nozzles instead of round ones like the other methods. These allow much more refined lines and tend to work in two or three passes through their arrays of material. Many makers say it’s hard to imagine doing something 1/20th the size of a digital model such as yourself but not impossible. However, printing engine technology is still evolving. Many printers can still be overrated, claiming resolution more refined than one voxel (0.004m) without actually measuring it or testing how dense the materials they use could be before producing a series of prints at different speeds, which is, after all, the whole point in ordering such a printer in the first place! Typically, layers wouldn’t be perfectly spaced apart, and often a few mistakes are made in the process, but these are things to tackle when creating an actual final product.


3D printing is a process in which a three-dimensional object is created through deposition modelling. It uses a digital model to describe the shape of an object and then uses a 3D printer to create objects of various materials.

Cheryl Owens

Cheryl Owens

Welcome to Printlitic! 3D printing became a hobby of mine 5 years ago with an earlier model of Anycubic printer. Since then, I have grown to love seeing what people can build & create, and how these printers can change the world.

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