What Is the Minimum Wall Thickness in 3D Printing? (How Thin Can a 3D Printer Print?)

Pushing the limits of a 3D printer in various ways, such as trying to print the largest or the tallest model possible, is always a fun challenge since it allows us to see what is possible in 3D printing and what isn’t in an observable way.

Perhaps the best part about such challenges is that there is always room for improvement, and such advancements act as a way to push the boundaries and take the 3D printing process another step forward to allow us to print better models than we could before.

Today, we will learn about the minimum wall thickness value a 3D printer can handle, which we believe will be particularly useful for scenarios where the model contains intricate details that should be as thin as possible for the model to look aesthetically pleasing.

So, what is the minimum wall thickness in 3D printing?

The minimum wall thickness value you can use in 3D printing is equal to the line width (or wall line width) value you have set in the slicer software, such as the minimum possible wall thickness value equalling 0.4 mm for a 0.4 mm line width.

Setting the wall thickness parameter to the minimum will instruct the printer to print only the outer wall of the model, as this thickness will be enough for a single wall line.

Next up, we will dive deeper into the minimum wall thickness possible in 3D printing, find out how thin a 3D printer can print the lines of a model, and look at an alternative way of printing thinner walls than technically possible with Cura.

What Is the Minimum Wall Thickness in 3D Printing? 

While not something you would need for a standard print, pushing the limits on printing the thinnest walls possible with your 3D printer can come in handy for printing figures that have very intricate details.

As the wall thickness is directly related to the line width parameter, with slicer software dividing the wall thickness by the line width to determine the number of wall lines, the minimum wall thickness you can use is equal to the line width value itself.

When you utilize the minimum wall thickness value possible by setting the wall thickness to the line width, your model will have a wall line count of 1, meaning that there won’t be any inner walls as the printer will only print the outer wall.

Choosing a lower value than the line width for the minimum wall thickness parameter will cause the slicer to round this value up to the line width value automatically, and the slicer will essentially be using the line width value regardless of what you input.

How Thin Can a 3D Printer Print?

How thin a 3D printer can print primarily comes down to the printer hardware, with each 3D printer being capable of printing with different line width values.

While the line width parameter determines how thin the 3D printer will print, the optimal line width value is primarily dependent on the size of the 3D printer’s nozzle.

As a rule of thumb, while it’s best to use a line width value between 100% and 120% of the nozzle size, we can consider 60% and 150% of the nozzle size to be the minimum and maximum values, respectively.

With these figures in mind, we can say that a standard 0.4 mm nozzle can technically print lines that are 0.24 mm in width, which would be the thinnest for a nozzle of this size.

How to Print Thinner Walls than Nozzle Size in Cura?

While a 3D printer technically cannot print lines that are smaller than its nozzle size, Cura offers an experimental feature that causes the printer to print walls that are even thinner than what the nozzle size allows.

Activating the Print Thin Walls setting in Cura instructs the 3D printer to print the walls that it would otherwise ignore due to them being thinner than what the nozzle can successfully print, which offers a way to print thinner walls than what the nozzle size allows.

Since the 3D printers ignore these walls due to physical limitations, this feature may not always work as intended and cause these thinner walls to be over-extruded. As a result, we can only recommend enabling this feature in cases where the measurements of these walls don’t need to be too accurate.

What Is the Minimum Wall Thickness for Ender 3?

We have noticed that many Ender 3 users in the community wonder about the minimum wall thickness that the printer can handle, which is why in this section, we will analyze the minimum wall thickness specifically for the Ender 3.

Since the Ender 3 ships with a 0.4 mm nozzle, the minimum line width value suitable for usage is 0.24 mm (0.4 * 60%). Therefore, as the minimum wall thickness equals the line width value, the minimum wall thickness for the stock Ender 3 would be 0.24 millimeters.

As the nozzle size is the primary factor that changes the minimum wall thickness value, keeping the size of the nozzle in mind rather than the model of the printer is the best way to perform the necessary calculation.

How Thin Can You Print PLA?

When trying to print lines as thin as possible, considering the material you’re printing with is also a vital part of the process since some materials won’t hold if the lines get way too thin.

For the best results, we would recommend printing PLA with a line width value that equals the nozzle diameter or slightly less than the nozzle diameter.

While PLA isn’t a type of filament that creates issues with layer adhesion, going way too low with the line width value usually makes issues without any added benefits.

Wrapping Up

While printing walls that are as thin as possible does bring aesthetic qualities to the table, it’s worth noting that such walls may not be able to provide enough structural integrity to the model and make it prone to breakage.

To quickly recap, as the wall thickness should always be a multiple of the line width value since the slicer determines these figures to determine the number of wall lines, the minimum wall thickness you can use in 3D printing is equal to the line width value.

When the wall thickness value is equal to the line width value, your model will only have the outer wall and no inner walls, as the slicer software will calculate the wall line count to be one by dividing the wall thickness by the line width.

Happy printing!