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3D Printing Tolerances

  • 6 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Improve3D Printing Tolerances 2024

In the rapidly advancing world of additive manufacturing, understanding 3D printing tolerances is crucial for the final product's success. This article focuses on the importance of tolerance in 3D printing, providing comprehensive steps to test and enhance your print outcomes. Whether you are a novice enthusiast or a intermediate users, this complete guide will impart vital knowledge to make your journey more precise and rewarding.

What Are 3D Printing Tolerances?

The tolerance of 3D printer refers to the acceptable variance in the dimensionality of a printed object compared to the original model. This variance is inevitably caused by numerous factors—including the printer type, material being used, part design, and even the printer's calibration. High-precision printers can limit this variance, often measured in micrometers (µm) or millimeters, ensuring the finished product adheres as closely to the intended design as possible.
3D printing tolerance requires a delicate balance. If they're too tight, the print can fail; if they're too loose, an assembly may not fit together properly. Therefore, understanding and adjusting tolerances are critical to the success of 3D printing processes.

Why Tolerances Matter in 3D Printing?

Understanding 3D printing tolerances is key to achieving high-quality prints. In this section, we'll explore why tolerances are critical in 3D printing, affecting everything from print accuracy to functional fit, ensuring your projects meet the desired specifications and standards.


  1. Accuracy and Precision: Accuracy refers to closeness of a measured value to a standard or known value, while precision pertains to the closeness of two or more measurements to each other. In 3D printing, both are critical. A part with proper tolerances ensures it is both accurate (close to the original design) and precise (consistent in dimensionality).
  1. Efficiency and Cost Savings: Knowing and working with tolerances can help you reduce print failures and the need for post-production refinement. This contributes towards time and material efficiency, ultimately resulting in cost savings.
  1. Interchangeability of Parts: For projects involving interchangeable parts, precise tolerances are crucial. Even the tiniest variance in a design's dimensions can render parts incompatible, leading to additional iterations or even project failures.
  1. Functional Parts: Strict tolerances are crucial when printing functional items like gears and connectors, to ensure proper performance and fit of the part.
  1. Surface Quality: Tolerances also impact surface quality, texture, and the aesthetic outlook of the printed object. Adjusting tolerances can help minimize print errors such as warping, stringing, ghosting or layer shifting.
  1. Material Characteristics: Different printing materials can have varying effects on tolerances. For instance, some materials may shrink when cooled, which should be taken into account when designing tolerances. Understanding the behavior of various materials is crucial for achieving desired tolerances.

How to Test 3D Printer Tolerance?

Understanding the intricacies of 3D printer tolerance is one thing, but putting it into practice is another. In this section, we delve into the practical aspects of a 3D printer tolerance test. This crucial step not only reveals the precision of your printer but also serves as a baseline for improvements. Whether you're troubleshooting issues or simply aiming to refine your print quality, learning how to effectively test your 3D printer's tolerance is an essential skill for any 3D printing enthusiast. Let's explore the methods and tools you need to conduct these tests efficiently.



  1. Print a Calibration Model: Start your 3D print tolerance test by printing a calibration model specifically designed to test the printer's tolerances. The model should test various dimensions and features, such as thin walls, holes, and overhangs. You can easily find such models online or create your own using CAD software.
  1. Measure the Results: After printing the calibration model, use precision measuring tools like calipers or micrometers to measure the dimensions of the printed parts. Compare these with the original design measurements to determine the deviations, which will help you understand the printer's tolerances.
  1. Test Different Print Settings: Change the printer's settings to test its performance under different conditions. This may include adjusting layer height, print speed, nozzle temperature, and infill percentage. By doing this, you can identify the optimum settings for improving the printer's tolerances.
  1. Test Various Materials: 3D printing materials have varying properties that can significantly affect tolerances. Test your printer with different materials, such as PLA, ABS, PETG, and others, to see how material choice affects the printer's tolerances.
  1. Test Overhangs and Support Structures: The ability to print overhangs and generate support structures is crucial for complex 3D models. Test your printer's performance in these areas by printing models that incorporate varying degrees of overhangs and different support structure types.
  1. Repeat Tests for Consistency: To ensure accuracy and reliability, it's beneficial to perform multiple tests using the same calibration model. Repeated testing helps in verifying the consistency of the printer's performance under the same conditions.

How to Improve 3D Print Tolerance?

Having explored how to test your 3D printer's tolerances, let's now dive into effective strategies for enhancing them. This section will guide you through practical tips to achieve precision in your 3D prints.
  1. Maintain and Calibrate Your Printer: Regular maintenance, such as cleaning the print bed, lubricating moving parts, and tightening screws, can significantly improve the tolerances of your 3D prints. Additionally, ensuring the print bed is level and calibrating the extruder and other printer components can help with accuracy.
  1. Optimize Slicing Settings: Fine-tuning your slicing settings is an essential step in achieving better tolerances. Adjust parameters such as layer height, print speed, and nozzle temperature to find the optimal balance between print quality and speed.
  1. Environmental Control: The temperature and humidity of the printing environment can significantly impact print tolerances. Maintaining a stable and controlled environment can lead to more consistent and accurate prints. Consider using an enclosure to stabilize the temperature and reduce drafts.
  1. Use High-Quality Materials: The quality of your filament or resin plays a crucial role in the finished print's tolerances. Investing in high-quality materials can help you consistently achieve better results.
  1. Improve Part Cooling: Cooling the printed parts evenly during the printing process is essential for maintaining dimensional accuracy. You may need to adjust your fan settings, reposition the cooling fan, or add more fans to achieve better cooling.
  1. Post-Process Your Prints: Sometimes, a little post-processing is necessary to improve tolerances, especially for tight-fitting parts. Techniques like sanding, filing, or drilling can help achieve better fit and function for your printed parts.
  1. Consider Upgrading Your Printer: Hardware upgrades can significantly improve print tolerance. This may include replacing the stock nozzle with a high-precision nozzle, upgrading to a more accurate bed leveling system, or investing in a printer with a more rigid frame.
  1. Adjust Model Tolerances During Design: In CAD software, design your parts with intended tolerances in mind, taking into account the expected shrinkage and known printer limitations. By doing this, you can increase the likelihood that your printed parts fit and function correctly.
For your ultimate 3D printing creations, having a top-notch printer is a must. Check out AnkerMake's line of 3D printers today!
  • AnkerMake M5 3D Printer
The AnkerMake M5 3D Printer is a game-changer in additive manufacturing, revolutionizing printing speeds up to 500 mm/s. With detailed precision of 0.1mm and built-in AI camera monitoring, each print is captured with extreme accuracy and efficiency. It offers auto-created timelapses and a mobile app for connecting multiple devices. The 7x7 auto-leveling and easy assembly set the stage for an effortless printing experience. Its structure, crafted with sturdy aluminum alloy, ensures durability. With a print volume of 235×235×250 mm³, the AnkerMake M5 is designed for expansive creativity.
  • AnkerMake M5C 3D Printer
The AnkerMake M5C 3D Printer, emphasizing convenience, offers easy multi-device control through our AnkerMake app along with a customizable one-click button for seamless operations. It maintains exceptional performance, executing high-speed printing up to 500 mm/s and a substantial extrusion flow of 35 mm³/s. With a precision of 0.1 mm, it guarantees clear and detailed prints. Similar to the M5, it boasts 7x7 auto-leveling, allowing for precise alignment with every print.



By leveraging the power of 3D printing tolerances, we can unlock various possibilities for precision design, resulting in top-notch outcomes that surpass our wildest imaginations. Understanding and mastering them can redefine the standard for producing flawless 3D-printed objects, whether we need tight or loose tolerances. Hence, a clear mastery, rigorous testing, and continuous improvement of our 3D print tolerance mechanics prove advantageous, fundamentally enhancing our creations' quality, performance, and life span.



Here are some commonly asked questions about 3D printing tolerances.


What is a good tolerance for 3D printing?

A good dimensional tolerance for 3D printing is typically around 0.1 mm. Because 3D printing operates through additive processes, it often sees greater deviations in tolerances in comparison to subtractive techniques like injection molding or CNC machining. Hence, it's important to account for these potential discrepancies within the design phase.

What tolerance do 3D printing parts need to fit together?

The required tolerance for 3D printed parts to fit together varies based on the desired fit. For a tight fit, strive for a clearance gap of 0.005 in (or 0.127 mm). For a standard fit, it's typically around 0.010 in (or 0.254 mm), and for a loose fit, it should be about 0.020 in (or 0.508 mm). For press fits, the parts are often produced line-to-line, where the shaft and hole diameters are almost the same. In all cases, testing and iterative design may be required to achieve the desired result, given the nature of 3D printing tolerances.