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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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.