Glossary – 20 Important 3D Printing Terms For Beginners

3D Printing, also referred to as additive manufacturing is an exciting technology that is gaining traction and adoption at breakneck speeds. In fact, almost every major brand manufacturer in automotive, aerospace, consumer electronics and engineering fields own at least one 3D printer.

From simple application for hobbyists to more complex uses like prototyping and tooling, the full potential of 3D printing is yet to be exploited. Today, we take a closer look at the most common 3D printing terms that fly around. This mini glossary is a great use for 3D printing beginners to get a simple and explanatory grasp of the most common industry terms. Let’s get right into it!

1.     Build Envelope

The build envelope refers to the maximum size of the physical 3D material that can be made by the 3D printer. It might be considered the production capacity or volume of the printer. Build envelopes vary from printer to printer.

2.     Build plate

The build plate, also known as the heated bed or print bed, is the part of the 3D printer atop which the 3D printed part is formed as the material is deposited layer by layer. The heated bed keeps the temperature at the base of the build object uniform to prevent uneven cooling and consequently, warping.

3.     Breakaway support

This technology may be available in some printers. They offer support to the printing and 3D printed part. Breakaway support tech (BST) represent overhanging parts or sloping supports that have to be manually removed and disposed on completion of the print.

4.     Curling

Curling, also referred to as warping, is a 3D printing defect that occurs at the outer edges of the print. The part experiences upward contraction and curls upwards at the edges due to uneven cooling and heating.

5.     Nozzle

The nozzle is a hose-like part of the hot end that deposits the extruded plastic material on the print bed.

6.     Extrude

Extrusion is the act of depositing the build material on the build platform through the printer’s nozzle. The mechanism involves the heating of the resin material and depositing it in a programmed manner till the final part is built.

7.     Extruder

The extruder is the part of the 3D printer where the original plastic material is collected, melted and flowed to the nozzle to deposit on the build material. It consists of the cold and hot ends. An extruder can be a single or dual extruder.

8.     Filament

A filament is a wire, commonly 1.75 or 3mm in diameter, made from the 3D print material that is fed to the print head as solid, then heated to its melting point to be extruded through the nozzle unto the print bed. The filament material is usually thermoplastic like ABS or PLA materials, employed in the fused deposition modelling printing technology.

9.     Layer thickness

The layer thickness is the height, resolution or thickness of a single layer of the 3D print measured in microns.

10.  Raft

A raft is used in 3D printing as a disposable base atop which the 3D object will be built. It is employed as a method to preventing warping and provides more adhesion during printing operations.

11.  Rapid prototyping

Rapid prototyping involves the creation of quick and accurate product prototypes through the use of computer-aided operations.

12.  Print Envelope

This is the total space or environment in which the 3D printing can be run. The print envelop is usually expressed along the x, y and z axes.

13.  Slicer

A slicer is a 3D printing software that helps to convert the digital 3D model into a format that is useable for the printer. The slicer works by cutting the model into horizontal layers and generating appropriate tool path to process and fill the layers.

14.  FDM/FFF

FDM, fused deposition modelling or FFF, fused filament fabrication refer to a 3D printing technology that uses heat to join parts of the object that is built by material deposition layer by layer. The term FDM is reserved and trademarked by Stratasys, but is essentially the same technology as the FFF.

15.  SLA and SLS

SLA refers to stereolithography while SLS is Selective laser sintering. SLA and SLS are both additive manufacturing processes. SLA uses an ultraviolet laser to cure a photo-sensitive resin into the final object layer by layer. SLS on the other hand, uses a laser technology to bind a powder of photo-sensitive materials layer by layer till the final product is formed.

16.  Tool path

The Tool path is the path of movement made by the hot end of the extruder when depositing the material to form the object.

17.  X, Y and Z Axes

The X, Y and Z axes represent the left and right, forward and backward, and up and down directions respectively of the 3D print head relative to the print bed.

18.  CAD

The CAD is short for Computer aided design. This is the software solution that allows designers and engineers to create digital models in 2D and 3D for use in communicating the design specifications for any user.

19.  G-code

G-codes are basically instruction languages for 3D printers. The G-code dictates specific commands like the motion, rotation, depth and speed of the tools in fabricating the part. It also relays information to sensors and switches that are important to the operation of the 3D printer.

20.  Functional prototype

A functional prototype is the final product representation, developed to a state where it is fit to be evaluated for certain end uses. It is the closest prototype before the development of the end product but may not be made from the same material intended for use in the final product.

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Our engineers are available to help with a free quote and design evaluation. Depending on the nature of your project, you will typically receive your quote in a number of hours as well as several suggestions on how to optimize your end part.

FirstPart also provides stringent quality control evaluations and super-efficient logistics that guarantees that you receive your 3D printed objects, free from warping and printing defects, produced to specifications as desired, quick, intact and most importantly, affordably.