How to Choose Between Cartesian and Delta 3D Printers

LulzBot TAZ 6 3D printer

In 3D printing, there are several different styles of printers. The two most common desktop 3D printer styles are Cartesian and Delta. These printers both use Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology but have different ways to navigate the print head through the 3D print space.

Cartesian

A Cartesian Printer.
From: All3DP

Cartesian printers are named after the Cartesian coordinate system that uses X, Y, and Z coordinates to plot points. This system of coordinates is used to determine the location of the print head and the extruder. Cartesian printers do this through a system of rails which are used to move the print head and the print bed to position the extruder anywhere in the 3D space.

Pros

One of the greatest advantages of Cartesian printers is their popularity. Since Cartesian printers are the most widely used type of printer, there is far more support for users of these printers than for users of Delta printers. It is easier to find parts and to repair Cartesian printers because of this solid market.

In addition, prints from a Cartesian printer tend to have a better surface finish than prints from a Delta printer. This is because Cartesian printers have more rigid axes, which allow less room for error when the print head moves within the 3D space.

Cons

There are no overall problems with Cartesian printers. Most issues that arise are specific to different brands. As such, any disadvantages of Cartesian style printers depend on the manufacturer. Check out our troubleshooting and guide pages to see common issues with various 3D printer brands and models.

Delta

A Delta Printer.
From: All3DP

Delta printers, like Cartesian printers, also work within the Cartesian plane. However, they use a different system to navigate and locate the print head within the 3D space.

A delta printer consists of three arms on rails that move up and down independently to move the print head. Delta printers use trigonometric functions based on the angles that these arms create to determine the precise location of the print head within the 3D print space.

Pros

Delta printers have circular print beds which gives them a more efficient use of the printing space, especially when printing circular prints. Additionally, many of the print beds are non-moving, which can be an advantage for some prints. Due to their design, Delta printers can also print taller objects than most Cartesian printers.

One of the main advantages of a Delta printer is its speed. These printers were designed for quick printing. Delta print heads are built to be as light as possible, which results in a quicker printing process.

Cons

However, this design’s focus on speed results in several disadvantages for the printer. One is the precision of the printer. As the speed of the printer increases, its precision decreases. Because of this, Delta printers tend to print with less detail and a rougher surface finish than Cartesian printers.

Another main disadvantage is the Bowden style extrusion. To reduce the weight of the print head, the stepping motor is removed and placed on the body of the printer. The filament is then fed to the print head using a Bowden tube. This style of extrusion limits the number of filaments that can be used and can cause binding within the tube itself. This is a problem that is currently being addressed by Zesty Technology and their new Nimble extruder drive, which is lighter than a standard extruder drive or stepping motor. Learn more about Bowden extrusion here.

Which One Should You Choose?

Diagram of a Cartesian Printer (left) and a Delta Printer (right).
From: Printspace3D

When choosing between them, you should consider what you want from the printer. Cartesian printers often come preassembled and work right out of the box. In addition, as they are more popular, there is more customer support for Cartesian printers. Delta printers often come in kits and need to be assembled before use. They are also very advantageous when making tall objects.

 

 

 

 

 

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Logan Jorgenson
Content Writing Intern
Logan Jorgenson is currently a senior at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN where he is studying English Writing. He has been previously published in The Odyssey Online, The Blue Route Literary Magazine, and 30 North. In his free time, Logan enjoys reading and writing science-fiction and fantasy.
5 Comments
  1. facebook 3 weeks ago

    when coming to buy a 3D printer you should have a basic idea about what type of work you want to do. So there are many factors remember in your mind that what types of filament, print speed, image quality, size power consumption, etc.

  2. facebook 4 weeks ago

    when buying a 3D printer, give special consideration to what you from it. That being said, if the quality is your main priority.you are looking for print speed, image quality Delta is the way to go.

  3. Stephen Brinks 3 months ago

    This article is wrong. A delta 3D printer is more accurate because it has 6 arms securing the hotend. It also requires more steps per mm and more computation for movement calculations. That makes it far better for complicated prints. It also has a nicer finish because the head can navigate in any direction without having to cross or combine linear xy directions. On a Delta 3D printer the bed does not move and that is already a huge advantage to the print quality. Delta 3D printers if made correctly like Trinity absorb any vibrations in the oversized motion platform leaving only smooth movments at the nozzle.
    Cartesian 3D printer rails and frame are closer to the hotend meaning any vibrations reach the nozzle. Cartesian 3D printers are simple to build meaning everyone is making them and there are so many hundreds of brands that its hard to know if your buying a quality machine or Chinese copy. Delta 3D printers are only available in Europe and Australia and built with quality and care. Delta 3D printers are also amazing to watch and learn from making them great for schools and universities.

  4. Rick Sisco 6 months ago

    Hope is a round plate more efficient? It’s opposite. A square build plate is more efficient, that’s why houses, vehicles, even cardboard boxes are not typically designed round.

  5. Bigtexun 12 months ago

    A printer that the user assembles is a huge advantage over a factory assembled unit. The reason is simple, the assembly process, as painful as it is, instructs the user in many aspects of repair and tuning. I can’t tell you how many people I talk to that have factory assembled printers in a non-working state that they abandon because they can’t fix it. 3d Printers take a lot of constant repair and tuning, and your ability to maintain the system is directly related to your intimate knowledge of the system.

    What I did was make things hard for myself by buying a cheap prusa i3 in kit form, but only using it as a part inventory for a completely custom build based on an extruded aluminum frame. I ended up with a serious printer that I was expert in tuning/modding/repairing. It is a reliable workhorse, and I am very happy with it. I /do/ intend to use it to build a larger format printer, with upgrades to the x and y motion system by using V-Slot linear bearings instead of the rod bearings, as well as steppers with finer resolution and higher torque. “Make things hard for myself” is code for forcing myself to become an expert with *my* printer. I was not inventing anything, this is a tried and true path that is well documented, and in the end I feel like I am more skilled than the people that wrote the documentation. You can’t get THAT factory assembled in a box.

    The journey is more important than the destination.

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