Most 3D printers on the market are cartesian 3D printers. These printers use the cartesian coordinate system of three axes, labeled X, Y, and Z. Technically, cartesian is a catch-all term for any printer that uses the cartesian coordinate system, as opposed to a polar coordinate system. For example, this would include delta, SCARA, and CoreXY style printers, as these all use the cartesian coordinate system.
Somewhat confusingly, cartesian is also the term used to refer to the standard 3D printer design instead of any of the subcategories of the broader cartesian category. Cartesian printers tend to come in one overarching design with two minor variants.
They all have a print bed with a supported overhead gantry for the print head. The variation comes in the movement of the printer. In most cartesian printers, the print bed moves back and forth while the gantry is raised, and the print head is moved from side to side along the gantry.
However, in some cartesian printers – particularly ones with an enclosure – the print bed moves up and down. In contrast, the gantry moves back and forth, and the print head moves from side to side along the gantry. Functionally, these differences have no effect; it’s purely a convenience and space choice.
A single stepper motor powers the movement in each axis, with a fourth, used to drive the extruder. Many makers prefer to use direct-drive extruders over Bowden-style extruders.
Typically, with the weight of the print head – especially with a direct drive extruder and motor attached – the printer can’t move too fast without suffering from speed-related artifacts such as ringing.
One of the many benefits of this design is the particular rigidity of the frame. This tends to minimize wobbling and general inaccuracies in prints.
Have you got a cartesian printer? Cartesian printers are popular for a reason, they’re reliable, easy to understand, and easy to troubleshoot with. Let us know down below what made you go for the model you chose.