3D printing: Does size matter?

3D printers vs 3D prints

There are two ways of looking at this question, the size of prints and size of the printer. Most of the time when people want to 3D print something it is quite small (relatively). Most 3D prints are generally smaller 10cm in any one direction, but every now and then you want to print something a little larger.


Different sized 3D prints



3D Printers seem to be getting bigger 

At a glance from this information, it would seem all 3D printers are easily large enough with the average being able to print a 20-cm cube, more than double my requirements in every direction.

Despite this, we seem to be seeing bigger and bigger printers entering the market, and printers such as Ultimaker having extended versions of their printer. Which I get the need for, I have several times had a print that was too big for my printer, the one that jumps to mind is I wanted to print a shoe. However, most of the time as I said prints are quite small so can we justify buying a larger printer just for those occasional large prints.

Big 3D printers require space (obviously)

The obvious solution is to get the larger printer as a ‘just in case’, the problem with this is of course cost and where do you put the printer. With the Ultimaker the latter is less of an issue as it is only taller, but some printers are less practical such as gmax from gcreate taking up most of your desk (40cm build plate) to the completely impractical such as big rep with its 1 metre build, so while it won’t fit on your desk it could print it.

Now don’t get me wrong if I had the room and the money I would probably own all the printers mentioned. The question is if you are buying a printer how big a consideration is the size, my advice would be to go as big as you can without taking up too much desk space if you can spare half a desk then get one that size.

Some considerations

The main thing to consider if you are going to be printing out big prints regularly is reliability and material cost. If you have spent any time with FDM 3D printing you will have experienced jams, layer skips, and poor layer adhesion. If you are printing big this means you have more chance for any of these to occur, so the reliability of the printer becomes more important the bigger you go.

Big 3D prints need more filament

If you want to print big then you need the raw material, especially if you have the above-mentioned problems and waste prints. There are many things you can do here to cut down on this cost, ranging from changing infill and shell counts to lower the amount you need, to getting a Strooder to cut down on filament cost. If you are printing big then a filament extruder just makes sense, big rep sells an 8kg roll for 225.95 EUR (~£200) while 8kg of Pellets cost ~89 EUR (£80). That’s a saving of £120 per roll and that’s before we include recycling.

3D printed marvin strooder filament

Giant Marvin with banana for scale



How about you? What is the biggest thing you have printed?



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