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It has recently been shown that there is a well defined upper limit to the rate of magnetic merging for two-dimensional flux pile-up solutions. This rate, derived by equalizing the dynamic and magnetic pressures in the reconnection region and saturating the magnetic field in the current layer, leads to a significant enhancement of the classical Sweet–Parker merging limit. In this study we explore optimal merging rates in the case of three-dimensional fan and spine reconnection solutions. The ideas of optimization and saturation are first illustrated using an exact fan solution. We go on to show that while spine solutions seem ineffective as flare release mechanisms, optimized fan solutions have energy release characteristics typical of modest events.