What Is the Optimal Layer Height for 3D Printing with ABS?

The layer height and the initial layer height parameters decide the thickness of each layer of the 3D printed model, making them a significant factor in how the physical form of the model will turn out in terms of how the layers combine together to create the object.

On the other hand, as these two parameters play a vital role in the success of the 3D printing process, and as the optimal values for these parameters vary depending on a fair few factors, configuring them can sometimes become challenging.

Today, we have the layer height parameter in the spotlight – where we will find the optimal value for this parameter for printing with ABS filament in specific, which we believe is vital especially considering that this value is highly dependent on the filament type you use. 

So, what is the optimal layer height for 3D printing with ABS filament?

Assuming that you’re conducting the printing process with a standard 0.4-millimeter nozzle, using a layer height of 0.24 millimeters for printing with ABS filament should provide a balance between the amount of time it takes for the print and the level of detail on the model you’re printing.

In the upcoming sections of the article, we will analyze the optimal layer height and initial layer height values for ABS filament in better detail and find out how different layer height values can impact the printing process while 3D printing with ABS.

What Is the Optimal Layer Height for 3D Printing with ABS?

Due to its capability of impacting the print in various ways, it’s absolutely paramount to get the layer height value correct while printing with ABS filament and keep in mind that the optimal layer height value varies between different filament types.

In the case of a 0.4-millimeter nozzle, we have found 0.24 millimeters to be the optimal layer height for everyday printing with ABS filament, as this value provided us with a perfect balance between print quality and print time.

For those who would like to calculate the optimal ABS layer height value for themselves, we have listed the steps we used to arrive at the figure we have mentioned:

  1. Multiply the size of your 3D printer’s nozzle with 0.25, and note the value down.
  2. Multiply the size of your 3D printer’s nozzle with 0.75, and note the value down.
  3. Find all the magic numbers between the values you have found in steps 1 and 2.

Following these steps gives us the possible layer height values suitable for our 3D printer, and in the case of our Ender 3 with the stock 0.4-mm nozzle, following these steps yielded the numbers 0.28, 0.24, 0.20, 0.16, and 0.12.

0.04 * 0.25 = 0.01 -> lower bound

0.04 * 0.75 = 0.03 -> upper bound

Numbers that fall between 0.01 and 0.03 in increments of 0.04 (magic numbers for Ender 3) -> 0.12, 0.16, 0.20, 0.24, 0.28

After the calculations, we printed the same test object with each layer height value we have found, and by putting both the print times and the print quality into consideration, we arrived at a value that we deemed to produce a balanced result, which was 0.24 mm.

On the other hand, if we wanted to go for a value that would increase the quality of our prints at the expense of print times, we could have probably gone for 0.20 or even 0.16 millimeters, and on the other hand, if we wanted pure speed, we could probably go up to 0.28 millimeters.

Prusa’s website has a fantastic calculator for calculating the magic numbers for any 3D printer, provided that you have the information required for the calculation, such as the motor step angle.

What Is the Optimal First (Initial) Layer Height for Printing with ABS?

While similar to the layer height parameter, the optimal initial layer height value is not the same as the layer height value due to the fact that the initial layer connects the print to the build plate and hence has distinct requirements.

With a standard 0.4-millimeter nozzle, we recommend using an initial layer height value of 0.28 mm for printing with ABS, which is slightly larger than the layer height value we have suggested, as this slight increase allows the first layer to stick better to the build surface.

To calculate the initial layer height value for any other nozzle size, we recommend multiplying the size of your nozzle by 0.75 and rounding the number down to the closest magic number for your 3D printer.

While rounding the value to the closest multiple of the step distance of your 3D printer’s motor may not seem vital, it will make it much easier for your printer to print the first layer with accurate dimensions due to how stepper motors operate.

How Does the Layer Height Value Affect 3D Printing with ABS?

If you suspect that there is a problem with the value you’re using, having an idea of how changing the layer height parameter affects the printing process will be pretty helpful to diagnose the problem and find the optimal value to achieve a successful printing process.

When printing with ABS, you will observe that the layer height value affects two significant factors pertaining to the printing process and the final product you get out of it: print time and model quality.

As the layer height value goes down, the quality of your prints will go up due to the increased amount of layers, but so will the print time. On the other hand, as the layer height value goes up, the quality will decrease due to larger layers being rougher on the surface, but your prints will get quicker.

Alongside the two factors we have mentioned, it’s also worth noting that using smaller layer heights is more challenging for your 3D printer to handle and can cause unexpected imperfections on your models in cases where the printer’s hardware is unable to be precise enough.

How Does the First Layer (Initial) Height Value Affect 3D Printing with ABS?

Since changing the first layer height value has considerable effects on the model’s foundation, understanding when the first layer height value is either lower or higher than optimal goes a long way in getting your configuration right.

The effects of the first layer height are pretty straightforward regardless of the type of filament you use, and ABS is no exception.

The larger the first layer height gets, the firmer the plastic will adhere to the build plate since the increased amount of plastic that goes into the first layer will cause the plastic to cool down slower and give it enough time to form strong bonds with the surface.

As facing bed adhesion issues is pretty likely while printing with ABS filament, getting the first layer height correct to allow the plastic to adhere firmly to the build surface is a vital step to avoid such problems and obtain a successful final product.

Wrapping Up

Using optimized values for both layer height and first layer height is paramount to the success of the 3D printing process, as each of these parameters is capable of causing the print to fail when wrongly configured.

To quickly recap, we recommend a layer height value of 0.24 millimeters for printing with ABS filament, as this value should provide a printing process that both takes a reasonable amount of time and produces an appropriate level of surface quality at the same time.

If you would like to lean towards more quality or faster print times, you can always decrease or increase the layer height value to fit your needs, as the value we have provided is mostly for maintaining the balance between the print time and quality and is by no means the only value you can use.

Happy printing!