Can You Print Multiple 3D Objects At Once? Pros and Cons


Oftentimes, you need to print multiple parts to complete and put together a single object. And 3D printing each part one at a time takes longer than having it all printed at once.

So, to save some time and effort, you would want to print multiple 3D objects at once. check out our article addressing the topic of How Long Does it Take to 3D Print an Object at Home? Small, Big and Compex

But is that possible? How can you achieve that? And is it really advantageous to 3D print multiple objects at once?

It is possible to 3D print identical and different parts at the same time through sequential or single process printing. It depends on the printer bed, the object’s size, slicing settings, and the spacing between each model.

3D Printing Is Here To Stay

Though there are a few advantages and disadvantages to multiple object 3D printing.

Worried about the cost of 3D printing: Check out How Much Does It Cost To DIY 3D Print? Filament, electricity, post-processing…

Putting Multiple Models In 3D Printing Slicers

3D printing slicers, such as Ultimaker Cura and Slic3r, allow you to place more than one STL file or g-code for 3D printing at once. These slicers can let you duplicate or add additional parts in the given area of the printing bed.

Of course, this depends on the size of the object you are intending to print and whether it fits with your printer’s bed size. This is why both slicing engines have the specifics in place to complement your kind of printer.

Each part size of a given 3D object that you are printing has to fit within the area of the printing bed. There should also be enough spacing between each part to prevent the nozzle from oozing excess filament and leaving behind ‘hairs’ between the prints.

During Slic3r’s automatic printing, problems with the nozzle or extruder colliding into your model are already screened out. In Cura, objects can be printed one at a time, so printing won’t resume until a finished model’s removed from the bed.

With that said, it is definitely possible to 3D print multiple objects at once but there are some requirements and restrictions.

An Example of Multiple Object Slicing

Let us take an example to help us picture the situation. Suppose you want to print these Bearings on Thingiverse and your printer is the Ultimaker S5. For clarity, I have picked the low clearance version of the bearings, titled “tolMin.”

Which means, the build volume is 330 x 240 x 300 mm of the printer. And the dimensions of the five different sizes of bearings are as follows:

  • 608: 8 x 22 x 7 mm
  • 609: 9 x 24 x 7 mm
  • 6000: 10 x 26 x 8 mm
  • 6002: 15 x 32 x 9 mm
  • 6004: 20 x 42 x 12 mm

This means all the bearings can be easily placed on our printer’s bed.

With Cura, you have to manually space out each bearing. Though it does arrange it in default position when you first upload all the STL files, it is still better to space them out properly.

With Slic3r, you can manually assemble the parts or click on the “arrange” button to have the system do it for you.

The end result will be around a 9-hour print. If we printed each bearing separately, it would take around 14 to 15 hours on average. And that is excluding the time to reset the bed, the slicing settings, removing the object etc.

Sequential and Single Process 3D Printing. How are they different?

For printing multiple objects at once, some people prefer the method of sequential 3D printing. In this method, no matter how many objects are set on the plate, each object is printed one at a time in sequence.

This means, if we have 5 bearings to print, one bearing would be completely printed before moving on to the next one. This way, the finished object can be removed whilst the printer moves on to the next one in the sequence. However, there are certain restrictions to this.

It demands “enough clearance” between each object so there are no collisions with the printhead. And the height of the object can “only be as tall as the distance between the printhead nozzle and the XY gantry of the 3D printer.” (Source)

Single process printing, on the other hand, is used when each object has the same slicing settings, and the design is small and uncomplicated. (Source)

In this process, the printer moves layer by layer for each object instead of moving in a sequence. The objects can only be removed once all have been completed.

This way, there is a lot of back-and-forth movement since the printer has to complete one layer of each object before moving on to the next.

Why Should You 3d Print Multiple Objects at Once?

It might be obvious at first that printing multiple objects at once is bound to be relatively less time consuming. But there are more advantages to this practice than you may think.

  • the print quality actually improves when printing multiple objects because the print needs a longer print time
  • the time it takes you to clear the build plate and restart the print is significantly cut down
  • leaving the printer on for multiple prints gives you more time to work on other stuff or sleep rather than wait for each print to be done to start another
  • in sequential printing, your objects cool quicker, since they can be left to cool whilst the next model is being printed
  • you can print a number of different models, with varying slicing settings, as long as they fit the printer bed
  • gives you a way to split the model into multiple parts if it does not fit your 3D printer
  • easy to set up with free slicing software available online

Why 3d Printing Multiple Objects at Once Might Not be Good?

Though time is a great factor when it comes to 3D printing, it is not the only factor that everyone needs to focus on.

Disadvantages of multiple object 3D printing are just as much as its advantages.

  • there are higher chances of print failure, with not just one but multiple objects
  • you can only print multiples of small and not tall objects, due to restricted printing area
  • setup and arrangement of multiple files in the slicer can turn complicated especially if the objects are not identical
  • incorrect clearance can cause the filament to seep into the next print and ruin it
  • cannot print multiple complex geometrical designs or intricate objects without mistakes
  • sometimes the continuous retraction of the filament when it moves between parts creates a deformation in the finished object

Is it safe to leave your 3D printer unattended for multiple prints?

It is not essential that you stay on top of the 3D printer the whole time it is in the printing process. Since printing multiple parts take some time, it is difficult to be present the entire time. However, it is not exactly safe either to leave it completely unattended.

It can be unpredictable when something goes wrong with your printer. An unattended printer can be a fire hazard too since no one will be there to turn it off. So, it is recommended that you keep checking in when it is printing.

If you are unable to be present around the printer yourself, you can ask someone to keep an eye on it by someone else around the house. Someone who knows where the power supply is and how to work it.

Also check the article we wrote about Where To and Not To Place A 3D Printer In Homes And Schools? Potential Risks!

Can you 3D print multiple parts continuously?

Automated continuous 3D printing is still somewhat new to the community and is in the midst of growth. It is not entirely a foreign idea, but it might be impossible to modify for desktop 3D printers.

However, there are industrial 3D printers so far that have been developed for this specific action. There are also conveyer belt 3D printers built for this purpose! (Source)

For home 3D printers, such systems are not that common. PowerBelt3D Zero is considered ideal for those who 3D print as a hobby. We can only hope this notion will be further developed in the near future for the home 3D printer.

Conclusion

To summarize, you can print multiple 3D objects at once but there are some restrictions to the process. Such as the height and size of the object, the area of the printing bed, and the clearance space between each part.

Free slicers such as Cura and Slic3r are great platforms to set up multiple prints on your designated 3D printer. They are specific enough to give you the ideal arrangement of each part to minimize error.

There are two main processes for multiple object 3D printing that people use. Sequential printing and single process printing.

Sequential prints objects one at a time, going in sequence. While single process has the printer print the first layer of every part and then moves on to the next layer. There are just as about the same advantages for printing multiple parts instead of single printing as there are disadvantages.

So, it is better to draw out both pros and cons and apply them to your particular situation before deciding to 3D print multiple objects.

Preh

A writer and student who is excited to see the 3D printing world evolve and bring the information you crave for it.

Recent Posts