Speed Demons: The New Generation Of 3D Printing

3D Printing & Imaging Digital Fabrication
Speed Demons: The New Generation Of 3D Printing

3D printing is great but it’s always been slooooow, with average print speeds for extruder movement around 60mm/sec. But in the past year or two, that number has gone up quite a lot, with some printers printing reliably at a blazing 250 or even 300mm/sec. That means a 4-hour print could take just 48 minutes!

This article appeared in Make: Vol. 84. Subscribe for more great articles.

There’s a ton of reasons to want faster 3D printers — lower cycle times for prototyping, quicker turnaround for orders, and just higher throughput when printing batches of parts — so it’s not surprising that manufacturers are constantly pushing for more speed.

But it’s not just mechanical tweaks; there are smart new electronics and software going into this push too. The addition of more powerful computers such as Raspberry Pi, combined with the open-source firmware Klipper, allow for far better motion control and faster processing of commands to increase both speed and precision. Some machines even have onboard AI to monitor the print and keep it on track. Notably, these innovations are coming from both industry newcomers and amateurs in the 3D printing community (“3D Printing Gets a Brain”).

You don’t need to go out and buy a new printer. With a Pi, an inexpensive accelerometer board, and some new software, you can breathe new life into an old machine with higher accuracy, quality, and speeds. But if you’re in the market for a new machine, there are a few solid options that’re fast right out of the box, with extra smarts that make the printing experience much more seamless. 

With companies like AnkerMake and Bambu Lab, high-speed and consistent 3D printing has quickly become significantly more accessible. And if you’re looking for a less “plug and play” solution, the Voron project is a great way to get a custom printer that’s exactly what you want.

ANKERMAKE M5

Made by the same company best known for their charging tech, the AnkerMake M5 is an i3-style printer that can print up to 250mm/sec right out of the box with 0.1mm detail. With a build volume of 235×235×250mm, there’s plenty of room for pretty much any project. Along with size and speed, you also get some intelligence: a 1080p camera and dual processors for AI error recognition and notification, live monitoring, and remote access to your printer.

SUPERCHARGED: Anker’s first foray into 3D printing, the AnkerMake M5, is fast and smart.

Starting at $799, the M5 appears to be a good combination of speed and reliability — in YouTube reviews of the preview machines (it’s still in pre-order at the time of this writing). With the optional V6 Color Engine to print up to 6 colors, the AnkerMake M5 has the potential to unlock a new level of creativity with 3D printing. But all of this does come at a cost — the design is proprietary. If something were to go wrong, there wouldn’t be an open source option for repairs, only those provided by AnkerMake.

BAMBU LAB X1

Bambu Lab’s X1 3D printer isn’t just fast. Along with print speeds that push 250mm/s, there’s a suite of sensors for AI-powered calibration — accelerometers, force sensors, and lidar — so the X1 prints reliably and consistently. This, combined with lightweight rails, a high-performance hot end, and a sturdy chassis, help make the process of 3D printing easier and faster. And a build volume of 256×256×256mm is plenty of space to print large parts or larger batches of smaller parts.

STRAP ME IN: Multi-color Makey printed on the Bambu Labs X1 using their Automatic Material System.

Starting at $999 with the base model X1, Bambu Lab has been able to make a fairly plug-and-play 3D printer that’s also optimized for speed. Much like AnkerMake, Bambu Lab also has their own optional Automatic Material System that supports up to 4 colors and can be linked with other units to print up to 16 colors and take prints to a whole new level.

VORON

The Voron project is an open-source set of printer designs that are quiet, consistent, and really fast. Rather than sell you a full printer, Voron compiles a list of parts that you need to buy and provides STL files for the printed parts. There’s even a configurator so you can customize your setup and get the exact list of parts you need. You can also buy a kit from vendors such as LDO Motors.

HOME-BUILT HOT ROD: Wicked fast and reliable, the Voron 2.4 takes a variety of high-performance extruders.

Started in 2015 by Apple engineer Maksim Zolin, Voron quickly gathered a community of dedicated engineers and amateurs with the common goal of “creating production-quality printers you can assemble in your kitchen.”

Since Voron just provides a BOM, the price does vary based on the size, configuration, and source of parts that you pick. But Vorons are built for Klipper, designed to push 200mm/s while printing consistently without constant repairs. The latest design, Voron 2.4, has been clocked at 350mm/sec with excellent part quality. It may not have the AI features you get from the X1 or M5, but if you’re looking for a printer that you can customize and rely on, a Voron is the way to go.

I know they look cool, but what really makes a machine a Voron?

 That’s a question that gets asked a lot, actually. Aesthetics are in the front of people’s minds, but being able to build this from commodity parts and being able to print this at home is a big part. It’s really one of the few remaining RepRap projects where you’re actually truly getting off-the-shelf parts, printing your own custom parts, and then putting it all together in your garage. These are engineered to do fast prints, unattended, and for a long time.
—Maksim Zolin at Midwest RepRap Fest 2022

ALTERNATIVE SPEEDSTERS

If you prefer something outside the traditional, Cartesian-style FDM printer, there’s plenty of speed to be found with delta and resin printers. The Flsun Super Racer delta definitely lives up to its name, hitting 200mm/s. On the resin side, the Phrozen Sonic Mega 8K prints 70mm/hr (vertical) with a massive 330×185×400mm volume, while the much smaller Prusa SL1S Speed claims to be the fastest at 80mm/hr.

GAME CHANGED

There are lots of superfast 3D printers out there, and lots that are incredibly reliable, but these new printers that can do both — consistently print fast — are a game changer. It’s just the start of a new wave of 3D printers that will continue to refine the user experience and get rid of the guessing for things like “Is my first layer going to stick?” or “Will this print be OK overnight?”

Both Bambu Lab and AnkerMake are relatively new to the market, with these being their first printers. And open source options like Voron and Klipper are only the start of what the maker community is capable of doing; high-speed features are now being added to Marlin and RRF firmwares as well. If this is what we have now, I’m excited to see what comes next. 

Blazing Benchies!

The cute little tugboat named Benchy is a very popular file to 3D print to benchmark your machine, hence the name. Of course, being a benchmark file, it seemed the perfect tool to use when the modding community took a page from the classic car community and started really hot rodding their 3D printers, hitting insane speeds of 600, 1000, even 1500mm/sec.

This group of intrepid tinkerers posts their exploits on YouTube and it can be thoroughly entertaining. The machines move so quickly they look like they’re about to vibrate to pieces! Just for example, the channel Fail Fast! managed to produce this Benchy in 2 minutes 43 seconds on an over-amped Voron 0. For comparison, my stock 3D printer takes roughly 90 minutes!

YouTube player

Of course, at that speed, quality left a lot to be desired — fast but ugly! — but I’ve seen others print beautiful Benchies in less than 10 minutes. —Caleb Kraft

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Sumit Basra

maker, video producer, and engineer. He loves taking projects from initial ideas to finished

View more articles by Sumit Basra

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