3D printers allow you to maximize your usage of materials and print time versus model strength and appearance by setting wall thickness to whatever you want.
The shell or outer walls are the most important part of the model, because they’re visible and because they provide most of the support for the model.
Deciding how thick to make those walls can be difficult, especially if you’re not used to working with 3D print settings.
In most cases, the ideal wall thickness is a multiple of your nozzle size. Normally, that works out to 0.8mm to 1.6mm for walls and 0.8 to 1.2mm for the bottom and top. However, wall thickness depends on the required strength, and you may want significantly thicker walls.
Role Of Wall Thickness In 3D Printing
The wall thickness includes the vertical exterior of your model or print, usually everything but the top and bottom of the shell. Depending on your slicer, you’ll either see “wall thickness” as “shell”, “exterior”, or “perimeter”.
Cura and Chitubox use “wall thickness”, Prusaslicer and Slic3r use “perimeter”, and Octoprint uses “shell”. They all refer to the same thing: the outer layer of your 3D print model.
In some cases, you can also adjust the thickness of the “inner wall” or “inner shell”. In this case, you’re printing more than one wall.
Often, that means you’re adding internal walls for structural support, which may be necessary on models requiring high strength or more support in one area.
Thickness or wall line count refers to the number of passes the extruder has to make to complete the wall.
A lower setting will reduce filament used and time to print. A higher setting will increase the strength and stability of the model – but will increase the costs and time required.
- Our new Filament Printing 101 Course is just for you! Lean how to create perfect professional prints without all the hassle.
- Don't let common mistakes hold you back, click the link to learn more and get ahead now!
In addition, thinner walls increase the chance of leaks.
Recommended Wall Thickness Settings
Wall thickness should almost always be a multiple of the line width, or the extruder nozzle size. This is so much true that many slicers like Cura will simply round your wall thickness setting to the nearest line to ensure even passes.
On average, you want a wall thickness between 0.6 and 1.6 mm. However, you can make your wall thickness much higher, depending on what you want the model for.
The rule of thumb is a wall should be at least two passes of the nozzle or twice the thickness of the nozzle. However, three passes are normally considered the minimum for “strong” walls.
In addition, different materials might require more support than others.
Wall thickness should also vary depending on the model and what you intend to do with it. For example, a light display piece can get away with very thin walls.
Most printers can do walls as thin as 0.4 mm, although it’s not recommended because those walls would be thin and fragile.
Factors Affecting Wall Thickness
Wall thickness is heavily impacted by what you want to do with your model. However, you’ll also have to consider your machine and what you’re printing.
In most cases, there are no hard rules and you’ll have to make adjustments based on your model and the strength required for that model.
If your part is too thin, it may peel or deform when it cools. This means that very thin walls may not stick to the rest of the model.
In fact, often, if you’re having issues with the model peeling away from the base, the walls may simply be too thin.
That also holds true with cleaning. If you keep breaking your model while cleaning it or removing supports, it likely means that you need thicker walls.
Some 3D printed parts need a significantly larger amount of support than others. That may be corners that are supporting more weight. That’s also true if the model is something you’ll be picking up and using a lot.
On the other hand, if you’re making something for display or for a prototype and you don’t mind if the shell cracks or peels, then you can always go as thin as you want.
The wall should normally be at least 2x the nozzle diameter and sometimes 3x if you want a strong wall. That’s especially true if you’re working with a very fine extrusion nozzle, like a 0.25 mm.
You wouldn’t do 6 wall layers with a 1.2 mm nozzle unless you’re trying to build something extremely sturdy. However, you might want to with the 0.25mm nozzle.
Most materials have their own minimum and maximum layer thicknesses.
For example, PLA prints best at about 1.5 mm in thickness, but you can go much thinner. On the other hand, there’s no real upper limit – although your print bed is a limiting factor.
For example, the following settings apply to printing a single wall:
|Material||Min (mm)||Recommended (mm)|
These settings will change depending on what kind of material you’re using, so be sure to check the recommendations on the materials you’re actually using.
Number of Passes
Wall thickness, number of walls, or line number refers to the number of walls you print together. This dramatically changes the available wall thicknesses you can use.
For example, if you’re 3D printing PLA, you can expect the following results:
|Nozzle Size||Wall Thickness||Number of Walls||Strength|
|0.4 mm||0.8 mm||2||Minimum|
|0.4 mm||2.4 mm||6||Strong|
|0.6 mm||1.2 mm||2||Recommended|
|0.6 mm||2.4 mm||4||Strong|
|0.8 mm||1.6 mm||2||Recommended|
|0.8 mm||2.4 mm||3||Strong|
|1 mm||1 mm||1||Weak|
|1 mm||2 mm||2||Strong|
|1.2 mm||2.4 mm||2||Recommended|
|1.2 mm||3.6 mm||3||Strong|
Of course, the eventual strength of walls will also heavily depend on your infill settings.
More infill means more support for your outer walls.
So, if you’re 3D printing resin, your settings could look something like this:
Normally with resin and good hollowing settings (15-20%), it’s good to keep wall thickness around 2 mm. But, with other materials like PLA or ABS, you can go thinner without too many problems.
In addition, wall thickness should also depend on how much support your walls actually need. So, better infill and better infill shapes will mean more wall support – so you’ll need less wall thickness for a sturdy model.
Some printers recommend that you double, triple, or quadruple the layer height for the wall thickness. This is a good policy for creating strong walls. However, you can absolutely go thicker.
It’s also important to note that you can’t make half lines, so you’ll always need multiples of the layer height.
If you have a 0.2mm nozzle and you choose a 0.7 mm wall thickness, your printer will likely round it up or down to a multiple of 3 or 4 depending on settings – and normally, it’s rounded up, like with Cura.
If you still have questions about setting wall thickness for your 3D printer, these answers might help.
What should wall thickness be for Ender 3?
The wall thickness for filament should normally be 2-4 times the nozzle diameter. This means that ideal wall thickness changes depending on the diameter of the nozzle.
In addition, if you have a very small nozzle, you can still print thicker walls with an Ender 3, it will just take a lot more time. For example, there’s nothing stopping you from doing a 4 mm wall with a 0.25 mm nozzle, it will just take a long time.
However, the standard Ender 3 ships with a 0.4 mm nozzle. In this case, it’s a good idea to do at least 3 passes, or 1.2 mm for most walls and add a layer if you think it needs more strength.
What is the strongest shape for 3D printing?
Triangles are the strongest shape because they provide the most support to corners. That also holds true for infill, where triangular infill offers the most strength.
Triangular shapes are also the least likely to deform, meaning you can sometimes get away with thinner walls.
There is no one correct wall thickness setting for any single material, nozzle, or printer. Instead, it’s a good idea to do at least two passes of the extruder, or twice the diameter of the nozzle. A single layer may be too weak and it may deform. If you’re printing with resin, you also want to ensure that your resin is thick enough that it won’t crack and peel – which means it needs support in the form of wall thickness or infill.
So, it’s a good rule of thumb to go 3x the nozzle diameter or a minimum of 1mm and preferably 2 mm for resin. You can then tweak and adjust your settings from there based on how your prints turn out and what you’re doing with them.