What Are the Fastest Infill Patterns in 3D Printing?

Alongside factors widely known to affect print times, such as the line width, layer height, print speed, and infill density, the infill pattern you have chosen can have a considerable impact on the amount of time your 3D printer will need to spend printing your model as well, which makes it a critical factor to keep in mind when optimizing for print time.

In this article, we will look at some of the fastest infill patterns in 3D printing that you can use to speed your prints up whenever necessary, which will come in particularly handy in cases where you need to quickly produce some 3D printed models for the purposes of prototyping and iterating or small-scale bulk production.

What Are the Fastest Infill Patterns in 3D Printing?

To find the fastest infill patterns in 3D printing, we have sliced the 3D model of a calibration cube (scaled to 60 x 60 x 60 mm) and a low poly T-rex (scaled to 106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) by using each of the infill patterns available in Cura 5, along with the print settings we have listed below, and noted the print time that Cura has estimated in each case.

  • Filament: PLA
  • Nozzle Size: 0.4 mm
  • Line Width: 0.4 mm
  • Infill Density: 40%
  • Layer Height / Initial Layer Height: 0.16 mm / 0.2 mm
  • Print Speed / Initial Print Speed: 60 mm/s / 20 mm/s
  • Travel Speed / Initial Travel Speed: 150 mm/s / 100 mm/s
  • Combing Mode: Within Infill
  • Retraction Speed / Distance: 45 mm/s / 5 mm/s

For the purposes of our experiment, we thought of the cube as the representative of the simple shapes without a whole lot of detail involved, such as when you’re printing a standard box, and the low poly T-rex as the representative of the more complex shapes you can come across in 3D printing, such as when you’re printing a figurine or a desk toy.

As it’s a well-known fact that the shape of a model can drastically impact print times, experimenting with two different models allowed us to see whether an infill pattern can become quicker or slower based on the model’s shape.

Once we concluded our experiments, we found that two infill patterns were a cut above the rest in terms of quickness; Lightning and Cubic Subdivision, with the rest of the infill patterns showing varying results based on factors such as the shape of the model and the infill density used.

So, without further ado, let’s inspect these two infill patterns in closer detail and find out the scenarios it would be most suitable to use them.

Lightning

The Lightning infill pattern enters our list as the undisputed winner in terms of speed, which isn’t surprising considering that it’s considerably different compared to the rest of the infill patterns available in Cura, with attributes that make it require a lot less time to print.

Unlike the majority of the infill patterns that add strength to the part in some way, usually by supporting it from all sides, the Lightning infill pattern doesn’t bring any benefits to the table in terms of strength, as it practically leaves the majority of the space empty, and supports solely the top surface with the specified amount of infill density.

Because of this, we can consider the Lightning infill pattern entirely unsuitable for prints where strength even matters in the slightest form, whether it’s replacement parts or wall mounts, as the printed part cannot bear any load with no infill to support it.

lightning infill example for calibration cube


On the other hand, the areas where the Lightning infill pattern really shines are material usage, print times, and visual quality.

As the Lightning infill pattern causes the 3D printer to add infill only underneath the top surface, the amount of material used, regardless of the infill density value, stays incredibly low compared to every other infill pattern available, which drastically reduces the amount of material used, and with it, the print time.

Additionally, as there won’t be any infill near the walls, the common issue of the infill shining through the walls is entirely out of the question when using the Lightning infill pattern, and the way that the top surface is supported produces the best top surface quality out of all infill patterns.

Higher infill densities further increase the top surface quality while barely having an effect on the amount of material or time required to complete the print, which makes it a good idea to bring the infill density value all the way up in cases where you want the highest top surface quality possible.

With the advantages and disadvantages in mind, we recommend using the Lightning infill pattern whenever you want to print a decorative object, as this will allow you to obtain the best surface quality possible and conserve material & time while entirely avoiding the downsides.

lightning infill example for low poly t-rex


Finally, let’s look at the print time results of the Lightning infill pattern to close things out before moving on to the following infill pattern on our list.

For the calibration cube, Cura gave us a print time estimation of 4 hours 41 minutes with the settings we mentioned at the start of the article, using the Lightning infill pattern.

lightning infill print time test for calibration cube


On the other hand, for the low poly T-rex, the print time estimation we got from Cura for the Lightning infill pattern was 5 hours 8 minutes, again using the same settings mentioned above.

lightning infill print time for low poly t-rex


Cubic Subdivision

The second entry in our list of fastest infill patterns is Cubic Subdivision, and even though it ranks directly below Lightning, there is a considerable difference between these two infill patterns regarding print times, primarily due to the Lightning infill pattern being unique in a sense as we have mentioned earlier.

Similar to the standard Cubic infill pattern, Cubic Subdivision also supports the part you have printed in every direction by creating a 3-dimensional pattern composed of cubes, with the slight difference of gradually increasing the size of the cubes when moving away from the edges and toward the center of the printed part.

While this modification decreases the strength that Cubic Subdivision provides compared to Cubic, it also reduces the amount of material used, which in turn shortens print times as well and makes Cubic Subdivision the infill pattern that delivers the best strength to material usage (and print time) ratio in Cura.

cubic subdivision infill example for calibration cube


With these attributes in mind, we can consider Cubic Subdivision to be the go-to option for any scenario where print time and material usage are still the number one consideration, but with an additional need for strength that the Lightning infill pattern won’t be able to provide, and also an overall solid pick for any scenario where strength is required.

Even though Cubic Subdivision isn’t the infill pattern to create the strongest (standard Cubic is a fantastic option for that) print by any means, it’s the one that will use time and material in the most efficient way to provide as much strength as possible to your 3D printed part and one that’s suitable for almost all functional print scenarios where you aren’t fully pushing the limits of how much load the part can bear.

When it comes to downsides, two that come to mind are longer slicing times, which barely have an impact in most cases since slicing takes a few seconds at most in a standard scenario – and the necessity for retractions to print the infill, which, other than when printing flexible materials where retractions are problematic, such as TPU, isn’t anything to worry about.

cubic subdivision infill example for low poly t-rex


Finally, to wrap things up, let’s find out how the Cubic Subdivision infill pattern held up regarding print times.

In the case of the calibration cube, Cura has estimated that utilizing the Cubic Subdivision infill pattern would take 8 hours and 50 minutes, which is 4 hours and 9 minutes longer than the estimation we got with Lightning.

cubic subdivision infill print time test for calibration cube


On the other hand, for the low poly T-rex model, Cura’s estimation for Cubic Subdivision was 8 hours and 30 minutes, which, compared to Lightning, is 3 hours and 22 minutes longer.

cubic subdivision infill print time for low poly t-rex


Full Results of the Infill Pattern Speed Tests

For those interested, we listed the full results of our experiment of finding the fastest infill patterns, with each section containing the estimated print time that Cura gave us for both the cube and the low poly T-rex model when we used the listed infill pattern; once again using the same print settings listed below:

  • Filament: PLA
  • Nozzle Size: 0.4 mm
  • Line Width: 0.4 mm
  • Infill Density: 40%
  • Layer Height / Initial Layer Height: 0.16 mm / 0.2 mm
  • Print Speed / Initial Print Speed: 60 mm/s / 20 mm/s
  • Travel Speed / Initial Travel Speed: 150 mm/s / 100 mm/s
  • Combing Mode: Within Infill
  • Retraction Speed / Distance: 45 mm/s / 5 mm/s

Grid

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 10 hours 33 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 5 hours 52 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 1 hours 43 minutes (slower)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 9 hours 56 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 4 hours 48 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 1 hour 26 minutes (slower)

Lines

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 11 hours 4 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 6 hours 23 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 2 hours 14 minutes (slower)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 10 hours 4 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 4 hours 56 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 1 hour 34 minutes (slower)

Triangles

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 10 hours 54 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 6 hours 13 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 2 hours 4 minutes (slower)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 9 hours 59 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 4 hours 51 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 1 hour 29 minutes (slower)

Tri-Hexagon

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 10 hours 23 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 5 hours 42 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 1 hour 33 minutes (slower)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 9 hours 37 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 4 hours 29 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 1 hour 7 minutes (slower)

Cubic

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 10 hours 38 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 5 hours 57 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 1 hour 48 minutes (slower)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 9 hours 46 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 4 hours 38 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 1 hour 16 minutes (slower)

Cubic Subdivision

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 8 hours 50 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 4 hours 9 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube:

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 8 hours 30 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 3 hours 22 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex:

Octet

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 10 hours 50 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 6 hours 9 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 2 hours (slower)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 9 hours 54 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 4 hours 46 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 1 hour 24 minutes (slower)

Quarter Cubic

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 10 hours 48 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 6 hours 7 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 1 hour 58 minutes (slower)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 9 hours 46 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 4 hours 38 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 1 hour 16 minutes (slower)

Concentric

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 10 hours 36 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 5 hours 55 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 1 hour 46 minutes (slower)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 10 hours 7 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 4 hours 59 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 1 hour 37 minutes (slower)

Zig Zag

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 10 hours 36 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 5 hours 55 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 1 hour 46 minutes (slower)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 9 hours 46 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 4 hours 38 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 1 hour 16 minutes (slower)

Cross

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 20 hours 28 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 15 hours 47 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 11 hours 38 minutes (slower)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 17 hours 45 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 12 hours 37 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 9 hours 15 minutes (slower)

Cross 3D

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 17 hours 47 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 13 hours 6 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 8 hours 57 minutes (slower)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 15 hours 32 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 10 hours 24 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 7 hours 2 minutes (slower)

Gyroid

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 19 hours 8 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube: 14 hours 27 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 10 hours 18 minutes (slower)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 16 hours 29 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex: 11 hours 21 minutes (slower)

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 7 hours 59 minutes (slower)

Lightning

Calibration Cube (60 x 60 x 60 mm) Print Time: 4 hours 41 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Calibration Cube:

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Calibration Cube: 4 hours 9 minutes (faster)

Low Poly T-Rex (106.6 x 70.5 x 94.8 mm) Print Time: 5 hours 8 minutes

Difference compared to Lightning for Low Poly T-Rex:

Difference compared to Cubic Subdivision for Low Poly T-Rex: 3 hours 22 minutes (faster)

Conclusion

Now that you know which infill patterns will provide the lowest print times and the advantages and disadvantages of these infill patterns, you can quickly improve your print time optimization even further by choosing an infill pattern faster than the one you’re currently using.

That being said, as the infill pattern also has a considerable impact on factors such as the weight and the strength of the printed part alongside the print times, it’s worth noting that it’s critical to consider all of these factors when choosing the infill pattern which will work best for your purposes, and not just the speed advantage you will gain.