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What Does Resolution Mean in 3D Printing?

3D printing resolution is the quality, or level of detail, at which your part is created. In general, the printer’s movement on both the XY and Z planes determines how fine the resolution will be, with smaller movements typically yielding higher resolutions.

In this article, we’ll discuss the multiple factors that contribute to a 3D printer’s resolution and explain how it differs for each of the main six 3D printing technologies.

Minimum Feature Size

Minimum feature size is often confused with XY resolution. While XY resolution does play a role in determining the minimum feature size, there is more to it than that. Basically, minimum feature size is the smallest “thing”, or “dot”, a printer can make. This is determined by the diameter of the nozzle, hole, or laser on the 3D printer and the height of one layer. You may picture this as a Lego brick. Just as those single units are stacked together to create a larger structure, so do 3D printers use the same method to construct 3D printed parts.

The closest that these dots can be together is either one motor step away or as close as the holes are spaced on your printer’s dot matrix, depending on the technology. Regardless of how close or far apart these dots are, however, keep in mind that any features on your part that are smaller than an individual dot will not resolve correctly. To produce finer features, a printer with a smaller minimum feature size will be required.