ZeitmeisterZeitmeister (Not 3D Printed)Very high-resolution 3D printing is associated mostly with layer height designated as Z in most systems. There is also resolution in the X/Y plane. FDM filament printers control X/Y resolution with nozzle diameter and flow rates.

With SLA resin printers, X/Y resolution is the size of the laser spot or focus point. Laser power levels and slow travel can cause light “bleed” and affect the effective dot size very slightly. Generally, the spot size is fixed by the design of the machine and the laser.

DLP and DLM (Digital Light Projection and Digital Light Masking) resin printer dot size is fixed by the number of pixels and their projected size. One to one is the highest resolution but it is possible and common that the image has less pixels than the hardware. A 1K image on a 4k screen, enlarged to fill the screen, is still a 1k image.

By far the most common and manipulated resolution variable with every type of 3D printing is the Z layer height.

There is a very serious factor to consider when attempting very high-resolution 3D printing. That factor is printing time. Time increase as the cube of the size and in inverse proportion to the layer height with FDM printing. Double the size and halving the layer height (Four time the number of layers) could take 16 time longer!

Large FDM printers (prints) and super fine resolution are just not practical together.

DLP and DLM print time are ONLY affected by height and number of layers, and NOT X/Y size. Doubling the height doubles the time. Reducing layer height by 50% does not again double the time as exposure times decrease as layers become thinner. Rather than 200% longer print time, it may be 190% longer.

Doubling the size and reducing individual layer height by half will be 3.8, say... something less than four times longer print time.

Good FDM printers will produce 100um (micron) layers. I have seen claims for as small as 50um. But doing any print of reasonable size, say... within 64 cubic inches (4x4x4) at 50um will take (just for comparision) perhaps 32 hours. The Resin DLP/DLM printer could probably do it in half the time 16 hours) or better as it does a complete layer at once without X/Y travel.

My general rules:

Large prints, 100um to 400um layers then FDM (filament) printing

Small prints, very fine resolution 10um to 100um then SLA, DLP, DLM (resin) printing.

Otherwise, pay the Zeitmiester (time master) his due.