3D printing glossary

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This page intends to explain in simple terms the technical lingo used in 3D printing.

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Terminology Definition
3D design program
A type of software used to visualize, design, and manipulate 3D products while providing a test environment for strength and dynamic analysis. Also known as a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program or 3D Modeling Software. Free examples for educators include Autodesk Inventor, Fusion360, SketchUp, Onshape, and Tinkercad.
3D file
See CAD and STL
3D model
A computer-based depiction of a three dimensional object, typically created using CAD software. A 3D model is necessary for 3D printing, but not all 3D models are suitable for printing.
3D modeler
A type of multimedia artist or animator who creates three-dimensional models or visuals of items using a variety of different computer software programs and tools. Also, a program used to manipulate 3D shapes to create objects for animation or production.
3D positioning system
A system used to find the position and location of an object in 3D space.
3D printer
A machine that produces a physical object from a 3D model through the concept of additive manufacturing, creating the object layer by layer. There are various technologies used to achieve this, the most common ones being Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Stereolithography (SLA).
3D printing
See additive manufacturing.
3D printing pen
A handheld tool that extrudes thermoplastic filament to allow users to create three dimensional objects by laying down layers of extruded print material. Much less precise than a 3D printer, because of this it cannot be used for serious manufacturing, it is mostly used to create artwork.
3D scan
A 3D model made by a 3D Scanner of a real-world object.
3D scanner
3D scanners allow you to model an object by scanning it with lasers; that is to say, to record all its features, and make a 3D drawing/model of it. This is to transmit the scanned data (the 3D model) to a 3D printer, and reproduce the object at will.
3D scanning
The process of constructing digital 3D models using data collected from real-world physical objects or environments. Can be done with dedicated 3D scanners or by using photogrammetry.
3D Manufacturing Format is an open-source file-type designed for additive manufacturing. Can include information that cannot be in STL files.
45° rule
A general rule used in 3D modeling that advises against designing objects that contain angles greater than 45°. For angles greater than 45° supports should be used. See also Bridge, Chamfer, Overhang and Support Materials.
4D printing
The process in which a 3D printed object transforms itself into another structure over some form of external input such as temperature, light or moisture. Also called self-assembled parts.
Material (such as crushed chilled cast iron, crushed steel grit, aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, flint, garnet, or crushed slag) used for cleaning or surface roughening.
abrasive blasting
Using pressurized air in a chamber to propel abrasive material against a (3D printed) object's surface, usually in order to achieve a smoother texture. See also Sandblaster.
acetonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
Thermoplastic that is one of the most commonly used material for filament-based 3D printing. Often used for its superior chemical resistance, heat resistance and toughness compared to PLA. Less strong, less rigid and more difficult to print than PLA, also requiring a higher nozzle temperature. Commonly found in many plastic household objects. Non-biodegradable. Recyclable.
Accuracy refers to how close the overall dimensions a 3D print will be when compared to the original model file. It's a combination of factors including layer height, shrinkage and polishing.
A chemical solvent used in 3P printing as a vapor bath to create a smooth surface on objects made with ABS. Acetone must be handled carefully in a well-ventilated environment well away from any flame sources.
acis file
A 3D file format used by the ACIS geometry kernel, one of the most popular commercial kernels used in CAD systems. Considered a neutral file format, it is a boundary representation of the geometry. It uses the .SAT (ASCII) and .SAB (Binary) file extensions.
additive manufacturing (AM)
Additive manufacturing refers to any manufacturing method where material is deposited layer by layer to create a fully-realized design (eg. 3D printing). This is in contrast to the more common subtractive manufacturing, which uses a large block of material and removes the unwanted parts (eg. sculpting, CNC carving)
An object’s ability to stick to a surface. In 3D printing: How well a 3D print adheres to the printing surface on the print bed.
A thermoplastic made for a matte surface which is somewhat porous and shiny. Alumide is no more or less durable than polyamide. In fact, their physical properties are very similar.
Additive Manufacturing File Format. Similar to STL, but can include more information such as colors and materials.
The opposite of crystalline, an amorphous solid has particles that are not arranged in any organized lattice pattern. In simpler terms, this means that amorphous solids are more “free-flowing.” Most plastics used in 3D printing are amorphous.
A material that has varying physical properties (eg. strength) when measured from different directions. 3D printed parts are anisotropic because they are weaker along the Z axis where layers connect. The opposite of isotropic.
acrylonitrile styrene acrylate (ASA)
Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate. ASA is a strong thermoplastic that can be 3D printed. It is similar to ABS but has great UV and weather resistance. This makes it great for any outdoor application for 3D printing.
atomic method
A technique used to unclog a clogged print nozzle of an FFF 3D printer.
A reference line for movement. A 3 axis machine can move in X (left to right), Y (front to back), and Z (up and down).
axis binding
A problem associated with the X-, Y-, or Z-axis on a printer, in which the axis is unable to move freely or perform a given movement.
bead blasting
A form of abrasive blasting where small spherical particles are propelled through a nozzle with compressed air to smooth a rough surface. Gentler than grit blasting because the particles are smooth and softer.
See: build platform
bed leveling
The act of calibrating the level of the print bed to make it lay 'flat' compared to the nozzle. Improper bed levelling is one of the most common causes for failed FDM prints. Some printers may have automatic bed leveling features, while others require the user to do it manually.
The belts on a 3D printer takes the rotation of a stepper motor and converts it into linear motion for the print head along the X and Y axes. Belts are usually reinforced, teethed and tight to ensure a precise motion transfer.
binder jetting
Binder Jetting is an additive manufacturing method where powdered substances are joined by a coloured liquid binding agent, with the ability to create multi-coloured parts.
Biopolymer has different meanings and is classified by Enders. Biopolymer can be made out of renewable, natural sources or petrol based, Biopolymer can be the polymers out of natural monomers (ex. PLA, bioFila) or Biopolymer can standard polymers but out of a natural source (ex. Polyamid. out or natural oils).
An additive manufacturing system that produces parts which contain living tissue or tissue-like structures. Bioprinters can use a variety of additive manufacturing processes and sometimes include simple actuated syringes that deposit biomaterials with a range of viscosities on polymers.
A free 3D graphics software that can be used to create 3D models. It is open-source and is also used to make animations, visual effects, and motion graphics.
blue painter’s tape
Typically used by painters, this tape is often used to aid the adhesion of printed parts to the build plate in FFF 3D printing. The special property of blue painter’s tape is that it does not leave a residue on the surface to which it has been stuck to.
bottom/top thickness
A slicer program setting that is used to determine how much material will be laid down before the infill printing starts and how much material will be laid down after the infill printing is finished. See also Slicer.
boundary representation geometry
Boundary representation geometry (B-Rep) is a method for representing shapes that defines the limits of the shapes. Solids are represented as a collection of connected 3D surfaces that sit on the boundary between solid and non-solid. B-Rep geometry also usually includes 3D curves that define the edges of surfaces and points that define vertices.
bounding box
A cuboid shape that completely contains a 3D model, indicating the build volume it will require.
bowden extruder
An extruder assembly that uses a tube to feed the filament from the motor to heated areas.
bowden tube
The part on some FDM-type 3D printers with a Bowden extruder setup. The Bowden tube is used to guide thermoplastic filament from the feeder assembly in the cold end to the hot end where it is heated and extruded.
ballistic particle manufacturing (BPM)
A type of material jetting additive manufacturing where melted polymer or wax is jetted from an inkjet nozzle onto the build layer. Outdated.
breakaway support material
A type of support material that is rigid and separates from the build material by applying a gentle force through a manual process.
In FFF printing a bridge is created when filament is stretched across two points of support with nothing for support in-between. Bridges are typically limited to a length of 5 millimeters before they need to be reinforced by another support structure underneath.
A platform adhesion option whose function is to reduce shrinkage of bottom print layers or better adhere a low surface area object by providing a larger base platform. Unlike a raft, a brim is connected only to the perimeter of an island, not to the bottom.
The property of a material that makes it break or fall apart instead of deforming. Brittle materials are typically rigid and inflexible.
brown part
In sintering, a part that is made of chemically bound and compressed powdered material is called a green part. A brown part is created when a green part has been heated and/or chemically treated to remove the binder that previously held the powder together. The brown part is then further heated to fully sinter the part.
build area
The area on a build plate, the top level of a vat, or the top layer of powder where parts can be safely built.
build chamber
The enclosed volume within an additive manufacturing system where the part is constructed.
build coordinate system
The coordinate system the defines the orientation and build volume in an additive manufacturing system. May be aligned with or defined relative to the machine coordinate system.
build cycle
A single run of the build process in an additive manufacturing system from start to part removal.
build direction
The direction on a part perpendicular to the layers.
build envelope
See build volume
build height
The maximum dimension of the part perpendicular to the build plane. The build height determines the number of layers.
build plate
See Build platform
build platform
The surface where the printer deposits the materials used for printing. Also known as Bed or Print Bed.
build surface
The surface on which a printed object is produced. Can be the build plate itself, or a separate surface that attaches to the build plate. Different materials are used for surfaces to aid printing, adhesion, ease of separation etc.
build tank
See Resin vat.
build time
The total time it takes for a 3D printer to complete a print. Most slicer software will provide an estimated build time once the parameters have been set.
build tray
A type of build surface.
build volume
The maximum available space for printing in a 3D printer. Usually noted as height x width x height. In 3D printers with a circular build plate noted as diameter x height.
A brand of FFF 3D printing surface that aids bed adhesion. See also Build Surface
computer aided design (CAD)
The process of digitally designing 2D and 3D models. see also CAM
computer aided engineering (CAE)
Using CAD and CAM to design, simulate and analyze products; and plan their manufacturing process.
computer aided manufacturing (CAM)
Technology that translates a 3D model created by CAD to a set of commands for automated manufacturing, either additive or subtractive.
Elements of a design that extend unsupported over the base footprint of a 3D print design.
The moving part that holds the nozzle and hot end of the of the extruder.
cartesian coordinates
A coordinate system based on length, width and height, named the X, Y, and Z axes respectively. A position in the coordinate system is typically represented as a numerical offset in each direction in respect to an established Origin point. Most 3D printers use the Cartesian coordinate system.
The process of pouring a liquid material (typically metal) into a hollow cavity to produce a solid part of a specific shape.
A substance that alters (usually increases) the rate at which a reaction occurs.
3D modeling strategy that avoids overhangs beyond 45 degrees by adding flat surface support/transition under protruding parts or flattening sharp corners. See also Fillet.
chord height
When using faceted geometry, the maximum distance from the planar surface of the facet to the actual curved surface defined in the CAD geometry is the chord height. It is a measure of the precision of the faceted representation.
The amount of negative space between two shells (aka parts) within a 3D model file. Eg. when designing a 3mm peg to fit inside a 3mm hole, the peg will not fit unless it is made slightly smaller than 3mm, or the hole is made slightly bigger.
computer numerical control (CNC)
Technology that allows for the computer-automation of manufacturing equipment such as mills, lathes, drills, and 3D printers. The term CNC is also often used to refer to subtractive manufacturing equipment itself that utilizes the technology (eg. a CNC router might be referred to as just "CNC")
cold end
The part of an FDM printer that grabs and pulls thermoplastic filament from the spool it is stored on and moves it into the hot end.
cold method
See Atomic Method
composite filament
A type of 3D printing filament that combines two different materials, typically for aesthetic purposes. Common composite filaments have a matrix made with PLA in which solid particles of wood, metals, carbon fiber, or ceramics are embedded. Composite filaments are valued for their superior visual appeal but are a little more brittle and can be abrasive towards standard brass nozzles.
A 3D scanning process that registers the coordinates of every point of the surface it touches, therefore deducting from multiple samples the surface properties.
The process of cooling down the hot end. Cooldown occurs automatically after a print is finished, or can be done manually after changing filament to to prevent filament baking and clogs. Can be controlled using the Control Screen or turning off the 3D printer.
cooling fan
Fans installed on a printer to help keep its electrical components cool, or to cool down the filament which has just been extruded through the nozzle. Cooling down of the filament helps it develop strength quickly, which is useful when building overhangs or bridges.
coordinate measuring machine (CMM)
A device for measuring the physical geometrical characteristics of an object. Measurements are defined by a probe attached to the third moving axis of this machine. Probes may be mechanical, optical, laser, or white light, amongst others.
A material that is made up of several substances, each of which exists in long molecular chains. For example, ABS is a copolymer and consists of strands of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene molecules all bound together.
copolyester (CPE)
The class of plastics that PET and PETG belong to.
See splitting.
The tendency for materials to move or deform over time when subjected to a continuous load. Resins and polymers often experience this phenomena.
Any solid in which the atoms and molecules are organized in a lattice pattern. Metals are crystalline solids. The opposite of amorphous.
Occurs during SLA process when a hollow part is being printed without air holes. The hollow inside acts as a vacuum that can tear through the the wall of a print to equalize the pressure with the outside.
A popular brand of 3D printer slicing software.
cure temperature
The temperature at which a temperature cured polymer resin cross-links to form a hard material.
A process through which a liquid photopolymer resin is hardened using UV (or close to UV) light. See also post-curing.
Cyanoacrylates are a family of strong fast-acting adhesives that, in addition to industrial, medical, and household uses, can be used as a binder for powder-based 3D printing methods.
direct digital manufacturing (DDM)
The production of final products or components using 3D printing technology.
A device that is used to remove binding material from a part. Heat or chemicals are usually used.
Once a cast metal design has been cast using lost wax methods, the cooled metal object must be removed from its sprues, the manufacturing support structures used as passage ways to inject the casting mold with molten metal.
When the layers of a 3D printed part separate from one another.
delta 3D printer
A type of 3D printer that has a triangular frame, a print head suspended on three arms, and a circular print bed. Instead of positions based on the Cartesian coordinate system, the position of the print head in a Delta 3D printer is defined by the angle of each of the suspension arms. Delta 3D printers are fast but have limited build volume.
Density refers to the material composition of a 3D printed part and how tightly packed the material elements are after printing. See also sparsity.
A hygroscopic substance used as a drying agent. Desiccants are often employed in FDM printing where many printing materials are hygroscopic. See also hydrolysis.
desktop 3D printer
A 3D printer that is generally more affordable and has a smaller build volume than its industrial counterparts.
digital material
The material in a part that is created by mixing multiple base materials as each layer of the part is created.
digital sculpting
The manipulation of CAD geometry by pushing, pulling, or cutting surfaces in a way that replicates the manual sculpting of material in the real world.
direct metal laser sintering (DMLS)
Also direct laser sintering (DLS). An additive manufacturing technique that uses a laser as the power source to sinter powdered material (typically metal), aiming the laser automatically at points in space defined by a 3D model, binding the material together to create a solid structure.
direct metal laser melting (DMLM)
See direct metal laser sintering
direct drive extruder
An FDM 3D printer configuration where the cold end and hot end are integrated into the print head. This simple construction makes troubleshooting easier and makes deformation of the filament less probable. However, it also makes the print head quite heavy and prevents it from moving around quickly.
direct metal deposition (DMD)
A form of directed energy deposition where a laser is used to melt metal powder that is ejected at high velocity from a heated nozzle. The nozzle traces a path and deposits the melted metal on the current build layer.
direct metal printing (DMP)
Proprietary printing method that traces the pattern of each cross section of the 3D design onto a bed of metal powder.
directed energy deposition (DED)
An additive manufacturing process where metal powder is jetted or wire is extruded from a CNC controlled three or five axis nozzle. The solid material is then melted by an energy source, usually a laser or electron beam, such that the liquid metal deposits onto the previous layers (or build plate) and then cools to a solid.
distortion compensation
A mathematical process where the distance from the as-built geometry to the CAD defined geometry is subtracted from the build geometry to create a new part definition that, when built, will more closely represent the desired dimensions.
digital light processing (DLP)
3D printing process similar to SLA. A UV-light is projected onto microscopic mirrors that either reflect the light or disperse it inside the projector. The hundreds or thousands of microscopic mirrors make up a grid similar to pixels, that determine where the UV-resin is cured. Since the whole 2D layer is projected all at once, this method is faster than SLA.
digital light synthesis (DLS)
Proprietary technology similar to DLP, but the printer's movement on the Z axis is continuous to allow for faster printing times. Formerly known as CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production) and CDLP (Continuous Digital Light Projection).
drive gear
A part on a FDM-type 3D printer. The filament drive gear grabs that printing filament and moves it off of the storage spool and to the hot end of the printer for extrusion.
drop on demand (DOD)
Proprietary 3D printing technology whereby droplets of a wax-like material are deposited onto a build plate to create 3D models.
dual extrusion
A FDM-type 3D printer with two extruders. Each extruder can print with a different filament material. Useful for building soluble support structures and producing multicolored objects.
A material is said to be ductile if it can be deformed without losing toughness. A wire is an example of a ductile material. The opposite of brittle.
electron beam melting (EBM)
A type of additive manufacturing for metal parts. The raw material (metal powder or wire) is placed under a vacuum and fused together from heating by an electron beam. This technique is distinct from selective laser sintering as the raw material fuses having completely melted.
In 3D modeling software, an edge is a line segment connecting two vertices, often serving as a boundary or connection between two faces or surfaces of an object or mesh.
electron beam
A focused energy source consisting of a tight stream of high-energy electrons. In additive manufacturing, it is used to melt powder or wire metal, often used as an alternative to using a laser.
elephant’s foot
A common error in FDM 3D printing characterized by a flared base layer. This is a distortion typically caused by a print bed that is set too hot. This makes the base layer too soft to support the weight of the rest of the print.
Pulling or stretching a material. An important term in plastics to understand how a material will deform under load
A part on a 3D printer that protects the user from moving parts and high temperature objects. Is also used to increase or stabilize the ambient air temperature around the print to stop warping or cracking of the print, caused from cooling too fast.
end part
The object created after all post-processing and finishing is completed.
end stop
A electronic switch that most commonly is used for detecting an axis maximum (or minimum movement). A machine homes (homing) by moving to the end stop, telling the stepper motors how many steps they can move away from that point.
A type of resin.
electrostatic discharge materials (ESD)
Plastic materials that reduce static electricity.
external dimensions
the external dimensions of a 3D printer.
The process of forcing a print material through a nozzle.
The assembly that handles feeding and extruding filament during a print. The extruder has two parts: the stepper motor and feeding system that pushes the material into the printer (cold end), and a hot end that heats and extrudes the material through a nozzle onto the build surface. See Direct Drive Extruder and Bowden Extruder.
extruder motor
A motor in the cold end that uses a hobbed gear or knurled wheel to move thermoplastic filament from a storage spool to the hot end for extrusion.
extruder release lever
The trigger lever that applies pressure to the extruder gear, which forces filament to flow into the Bowden tube of the extruder to the hot end.
extrusion multiplier
A percentage value associated with the flow rate of plastic extrusion. The flow rate can be manipulated by adjusting this multiplier.
Fabrication Laboratory. A type of Makerspace
In solid geometry, a face is a flat planar surface that forms part of the boundary of a solid object. 3D design meshes are typically built from triangular faces, but can also be built with other types of polygons.
See Heat Sink Fan and Layer Cooling Fan.
fused deposition modelling (FDM)
A type of material extrusion additive manufacturing where a continuous filament of thermoplastic material is fed into a heated extruder and deposited on the current build layer. Trademarked, the generic term is Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).
feed region
For powder bed fusion additive manufacturing systems, the region of a system where the powder is stored and from which material is moved to create the current build layer before fusing.
See Cold End.
Bulk raw material used in an additive manufacturing system. May be liquid, powder, filament, sheets, etc.
Also FEP Sheet and FEP film – A transparent Teflon-film that allows UV-light to pass through into a resin tank of a SLA/DLP 3D Printer. The Film/sheets are anti-stick so the resin 3D Printed model won’t stick.
Typically a thermoplastic formed into a continuous wire and wound onto a spool so it is compatible with a 3D printer’s extrusion system. see also ABS, PLA, TPU
filament diameter
The size designation of a roll of filament. Usually 1.75mm or 3mm/2.85mm
fill density
See infill.
Fillers are solid materials that are added to polymers that do not interact chemically with it, but add special desired mechanical features to the compound such as weight, strength etc.
A technique in 3D modeling to round edges of rectilinear objects to create user-friendly surface edges for products or to avoid 45 degree overhangs.
Micro software integrated into the machine. Manages the 3D printer's various native functions.
A frame used to hold components or parts in a fixed position used in the assembly or manufacturing process. Also called Jig.
flexural strength
The stress (in MPa) at failure in bending.
The casing or outer chassis of a 3D printer, usually made of acrylic plastic, aluminum or stainless steel. A solid frame reduces printer vibration which increases printer accuracy and results in more precise end objects.
free wall
Also known as an unsupported wall, a free wall is one connected to other walls on less than two sides.
fused filament fabrication (FFF)
A non-trademarked term for filament-based 3D printing, equivalent to the trademarked Fused Deposition Modeling.
The standard programming language for machines that use CNC, including 3D printers. A G-code is an algorithm that lists out commands for the machine to follow. It is a highly rudimentary programming language with no variables or logic functions. G-code is generated automatically by CAM/ slicing software, but can also be written manually for special functions.
The part of the extruder assembly and X-axis motor that moves up and down on the Z-axis of a 3D printer.
gel dispensing 3D printing (GDP)
A 3D printing technology that utilizes movement similar to what is used in FDM systems, while working with a UV sensitive material that hardness when exposed to UV light.
glass transition temperature
The temperature at which a rigid solid material starts to become soft and semi-rigid. The glass transition temperature is not equivalent to melting temperature in most cases.
glue stick
Used in FDM printing on the bed of a printer to improve adhesion.
granular materials binding
A term for both powder bed fusion and binder jetting additive manufacturing processes.
green part
In sintering, a part that is made of powdered material that has been compressed and held together with a binding material. A green part is delicate. It is heated and/or chemically treated to remove the binding material, producing a brown part.
grit blast
A form of abrasive blasting where small angular particles are propelled through a nozzle with compressed air to smooth a rough surface. More aggressive than bead blasting because of the use of hard material with angular shapes.
guide tube
A tube that guides filament inside the 3D Printer. Mostly used for Bowden extrusion systems, (See Bowden tube) but also to guide filament from a spool before entering a direct drive extruder.
See Makerspace.
Used in FDM printing on the bed of a printer to improve adhesion. Preferred by some because it applies a thin coating and remains stable even at high temperatures, however the application process can be difficult and untidy.
hardened nozzle
A nozzle that’s hardened to allow more abrasive filaments before the exit hole’s diameter is worn out.
See Curing.
heat affected zone
In laser powder bed fusion, the volume of material that is adjacent to the area which is melting when the energy beam, usually a laser or electron beam, moves across the top of the build powder. The heating can cause material property changes and will contain thermal stresses.
heat break
The separation between hot parts and cold parts in the Hot End. Usually consists of a thermal tube or gap between metals. Can also be a PEEK isolator. For many PLA-specific 3D printers, this break is made with a PTFE-tube inside the thermal tube.
heat creep
Heat creep is a problem that occurs in FDM 3D printers when higher temperatures extend back inside the extruder from the hot end. This causes the “melt area” to extend father back than wanted, softening and melting the print material well before it gets to the nozzle. The softened thermoplastic increases the amount of pressure needed for extrusion. Eventually the motor will fail to extrude, and the nozzle gets clogged.
heat deflection
A material property of a thermoplastic that is used to understand the impact of temperature on the flexibility of the material. In additive manufacturing, once a part cools to below the heat deflection temperature it is safe to handle.
heat sink
A part of the hot end that prevents heat creep. A heat sink is a piece of conductive material located just before the heating element which draws heat away from the filament. A heat sink fan helps to disperse away this excess heat.
heated bed
A build platform that is heated to avoid uneven cooling of parts as they are being built. Aids adhesion and prevents warping. The temperature can usually be set by the user.
heated build chamber
An enclosed compartment around the build plate that eliminates drafts and temperature variations to reduce or prevent material warping.
heater block
The metal part that’s central in a hot end. This part connects the nozzle, Thermal tube, thermocouple and heater cartridge together.
heater cartridge
This is the resistor that produce heat into the heater block, transferring to the nozzle and thermal tube.
high impact polystyrene (HIPS)
High Impact Polystyrene, a filament similar to ABS. It dissolves in limonene, and thus can be used for soluble supports.
hobbed gear
See Drive Gear.
A 3D print that is not solid and also does not contain any infill. Hollow models are much faster and cheaper to print but have very low strength.
hot end
A part on an FDM 3D printer. The hot end heats the thermoplastic filament to the melting temperature and extrudes the material onto the build surface. A typical hot end consists of a heating block that produces the heat necessary to melt the print filament, a thermistor that controls the temperature of the heating block, and a print nozzle through which the melted filament is extruded. A heat sink is also typically used to radiate excess heat away from the print end.
The chemical breakdown of a hygroscopic material due to exposure to water.
The ability of a material to absorb water. Many thermoplastic printing materials exhibit a hygroscopic tendency to one extent or another and need to be insulated from exposure to atmospheric moisture.
A component of the extruder assembly that sits opposite the extruder drive gear. The idler provides a surface against which the filament will be held, allowing the drive gear to “grab” the filament. Idlers are typically made of PTFE to reduce friction.
Old but still widely used CAD file format. For a newer CAD file format see STEP.
The density of the fill structure that will be printed inside a semi-hollow outer shell. 100% infill means a completely solid part, but this is not common in 3D printing. Different infill patters are used to create a balance of coverage, strength, weight, printing time and cost. Also called Fill density
injection molding
Injecting plastic in melted liquid form into a die. The plastic fills the empty cavities of the die and cools until it has solidified. The solid plastic part is then ejected from the die and the process is repeated again. Not an additive manufacturing process.
A liquid deposition process that propels (jets) very small droplets of material from a print head onto a surface. Many small jets are arranged on the printhead to deposit larger amounts of material at the same time and can be turned on and off to create a pattern. When multiple heads with different materials in each are used together, colors can be created, or materials can be mixed.
investment casting
See lost-wax casting.
Occur in SLA printing and refer to cross sectional areas of a model that are not connected.
A material that has the same physical properties in all directions. Glass and metal are common examples of isotropic materials. The opposite of anisotropic.
See fixture.
kapton tape
Heat-resistant polyimide adhesive tape. Used to secure the heating element to the extruder barrel or to aid the adhesion of a printed part to a heated bed. Similarly to Blue painter's tape, it does not leave residue on the surface it was stuck on.
knurled wheel
See Filament Drive Gear.
laminated object manufacturing (LOM)
A proprietary rapid prototyping system in which layers of adhesive-coated paper, plastic, or metal laminates are successively glued together, and cut to shape with a knife or laser cutter.
laser cusing
See Laser Powder Bed Fusion.
laser cutting
A subtractive manufacturing technique in which a powerful laser is guided by a computer on the surface of a flat object, tracing and cutting out a shape. Can be used on wood, plastic, cardboard etc.
laser engineered net shaping (LENS)
A type of direct energy deposition additive manufacturing where a powder is directed into a high-energy laser beam and melted before it is deposited on the build layer. Also called laser powder forming.
laser engraving
Similar to Laser Cutting, this technique uses a powerful laser guided by a computer, tracing out a pattern to burn (engrave) it onto the surface of a (flat) object withough cutting it. The result is a decorated piece of material.
laser melting (LM)
See Metal Powder Bed Fusion
laser metal deposition (LMD)
A 3D printing process which casts and fuses metal with a laser beam.
laser metal fusion (LMF)
See Metal Powder Bed Fusion
laser phaseshift
A system that conceptually works similarly to Laser pulse. In addition to pulsing the laser, it also modulates the power of the laser beam, and the scanner compares the phase of the laser being sent out and then returned to the sensor.
laser powder bed fusion (LPBF)
See: Metal Powder Bed Fusion
laser powder forming (LPF)
See Laser Engineered Net Fusion
laser pulse
A 3D scanning technology that casts a laser and calculates the time of flight to deduce the distance from samples of the surface.
laser triangulation
A process that casts a laser and calculates the deviation of the beam, therefore deducing the surface properties.
Interwoven inner support structure with great strength to weight ratio. Instead of 3D printing a solid block of material, engineers can use overlapping, interlocking patterns that are partially hollow to keep down the weight, cost and manufacturing time of an object. See also Infill.
The main building element of additive manufacturing, each layer of a 3D printed object corresponds to a single slice of the reference 3D model. Each layer is completed before the nozzle moves up or the print bed moves down to give way for the building of the next layer.
layer cooling fan
A part of some FDM 3D printers. A layer cooling fan cools off the printing material as soon as it is deposited on the build surface.
layer count
The number of layers in a given build. This value is often used to display the progress of a build, and it can be the dominant factor in determining the build time of a given part.
layer height
Usually adjusted by the user, it is a setting in 3D printing that defines the size of extruded plastic lines in the Z-direction. A lower layer height translates to a smoother, higher quality print. A higher layer height translates into a faster print. Material extrusion 3D printers typically print layers between 0.1mm and 0.3mm high.
layer thickness
See Layer height.
lcd display
A digital display found in many household products like a television. In 3D printing it usually refers to the direct interface a 3D printer has. In MSLA, the LCD screen acts as the mask between the projector and the resin vat.
low-temperature deposition modeling (LDM)
A form of material extrusion additive manufacturing that does not heat the material for extrusion. Chemical reactions or light are used to solidify the deposited layers. Usually used in tissue printing.
liquid deposition modeling (LDM)
Material extrusion of non-plastic liquids such as clay or chocolate.
limit switch
Mechanical switch that indicates where the “home” or “zero” position is on each print axis. see also Endstop
A liquid hydrocarbon derived from oils extracted from citrus fruit peels. In 3D printing, limonene is typically used as a solvent to dissolve support structures made from HIPS filament.
linear bearings
Mostly used on round rods, making up the X or Y axis. The linear bearing is made to be quiet and have smooth motion, to allow precise movements of the print head.
liquid binder
In 3D printing, liquid binder is used for manufacturing fused powder materials either temporarily as a part of the printing process, or as part of the final product to fuse the material layers together.
An embossed photo on hard material that reveals its details when viewed against the light. Variations in thickness interact with the light to show the representation of the photo to which the lithophane has been referenced to.
loose shells
In 3D design software it is possible to have shells represented in the software that do not translate to solid objects when conveyed to a 3D printer for production. There are 3D printing software tools available to detect and remove loose shells so that a design can be successfully printed.
lost-wax casting
The process by which a duplicate metal sculpture (often silver, gold, brass or bronze) is cast from an original sculpture, such as a 3D model printed in wax.
A collaborative work space for "making" (realizing projects), learning and sharing knowledge about tools, techniques and processes. These spaces usually have a variety of equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering irons, woodworking tools, sewing machines etc.
In 3D printing, a model is called manifold if it is geometrically sound, with no self-intersecting faces, naked edges, or holes in its mesh. See also Watertight.
material jetting (MJ)
A process in which materials are selectively jetted onto the build platform and cured by either ultraviolet light or heat to form a 3D object layer by layer.
melt pool
In laser powder bed fusion, the volume of material that is melting when the energy beam, usually a laser or electron beam, moves across the top of the build powder. The size of the melt pool determines many characteristics of the material once it solidifies.
melting point
The temperature at which a solid material turns into liquid.
Melted and Extruded Modeling. See FDM.
A collection of polygons (faces) attached by edges and vertices that makes up a surface area in CAD.
metal powder bed fusion
A type of powder bed fusion additive manufacturing where a laser is used to melt material on the top layer of a powder bed. Also called laser powder bed Fusion or direct laser melting.
metal powder
The material used for metal printing.
metal printing
The process of 3D printing in metal. Objects are created from thin layers of powdered material by selectively sintering or melting it using a high power laser. There are a large range of metal printing technologies.
micron (µm)
Another term for micrometer, a unit of distance often used in 3D printing. 1 micron (1µ) = 0.001 millimetre.
minimal layer time
The least amount of time required of the printer to maintain action on any layer of a printed object for the filament to sufficiently cool before fusing a layer on top if it.
mirror galvanometer
A system of mirrors that change their angle when receiving an electric current. Often used to direct lasers in SLA, DLP and SLS 3D printers.
multi jet fusion (MJF)
3D printing process that is a hybrid of powder bed fusion and binder jetting. Multiple inkjet print heads deposit material that either reflects or absorbs heat on the top layer of a powder bed. Then heat from a lamp is used to fuse the material where the absorbing chemicals were deposited. It is faster than selective laser sintering and creates stronger parts than binder jetting because the powder is fused and not bonded.
multijet printing (MJP)
A 3D printing technology that extrudes two liquid components from a printing head and then clears and solidifies it with UV light.
multi-jet solidifaction (MJS)
A type of material extrusion additive manufacturing where the extruded material consists of metal or ceramic powder with a binder. It is used to create metal or ceramic parts in multiple steps, or phases. After the part is built, the binding material is removed with chemicals or heat, and a green part is created that can then be sintered.
A hollow container used to give shape to molten or hot liquid material, so that when it cools and hardens it takes the shape of the cavity. See also Cast.
A molecule that, under the correct conditions, can link together with others to form larger molecules called polymers. A monomer must be capable of forming two or more bonds to other monomers.
Also known as the mainboard or controller board, a 3D printer’s motherboard contains all the controllers that are essential for the printer’s operations. This is where commands from the G-code are executed and data from the sensors are received for closed-loop feedback.
Masked SLA, A UV-light source passes through a LCD with pixels that produce a mask, that results to curing of the UV-sensitive resin only on 'unmasked' parts of a layer.
multipart/ multishell
3D model files that have multiple disconnected and distinct manifold objects.
native file
Refers to a file format that can only be read by a proprietary software. Some general softwares can decode the most popular native files. Opposite of neutral file.
near net shape
Refers to a part that is manufactured to dimensions that are close to or larger than the desired final dimensions. Further post-processing is used to achieve the required dimensions.
Usually meant to refer to a specific size of stepper motor.
Packing multiple parts into the build volume of a machine to create the fastest and most efficient build or fitting as many parts as possible in the smallest build volume possible. Parts are often placed inside the cavities of other parts. Especially used in SLS printing
neutral file
Refers to a file format that can be read by any general software tool. Opposite of native file.
An alloy of nickel and chromium. Nichrome wire is used as a heating element in many extruder barrels and some heated bed designs. Simpler and less messy enamel resistors are often used for the same purpose.
A 3D model has non-manifold geometry if its mesh includes self-intersecting faces, naked edges, or holes. Non-manifold geometry requires repair in mesh modeling or slicing software before it can be printed. See also Manifold and Watertight.
A machine part in FDM printing with a small hole, from which melted filament is pushed ("extruded") out of to build a 3D object.
nozzle diameter
The diameter of the opening of the nozzle in an FDM 3D printer. The stock nozzles of most 3D printers have a diameter of 0.4 mm. See also Layer height.
nozzle priming
A feature to extrude fresh filament before your actual mode. Usually part of the skirt/brim, but also a separate tower that’s mostly used when you have more than one extruder, to make sure the extruders get new fresh filament (if any oozed off) when starting working.
nanoparticle jetting (NPJ)
produces parts by jetting thousands of droplets of ceramic nanoparticles from inkjet nozzles in ultra-thin layers.
Non-Uniform Rational B-Spines, are used in computer graphics and 3D modeling to generate and represent curves and surfaces. NURBS surfaces are defined by functions of two parameters that map to three-dimensional space. NURBS are the most common way in which geometry is defined in CAD.
Nylon is an engineering grade thermal plastic used in FDM and SLS printing that offers excellent strength and durability. Different chemical compositions are available.
Object File, an alternative to the STL file format. OBJ (.obj) files store object exterior pattern and color.
In 3D printing offset refers to layers that are not printed directly inline with one another and are instead shifted to the side. This is often a printer calibration issue and will impact the quality of a print.
Oligomers are big molecules composed of monomer bricks, joined together in more or less branched fashion, so as to provide polymerization seeds for the final polymer.
When a polygon is created, unless otherwise set up, it has only one side
ooze shield
A technique that can be used to counteract oozing when using two materials though dual extrusion. The ooze shield is a single layer “shield” outside of the model to catch any oozed filament dripping from the nozzles, so they don’t stick to the main print.
The phenomenon where unwanted filament extrudes slowly out of a nozzle. This is often caused by expanding moisture inside the filament or just the filament itself pouring out when being molten.
The position of a 3D model in three-dimensional space. Orientation can affect the quality and final appearance of a 3D print because it affects the order in which the layers are fused.
The reference point in the build volume where the build coordinate system is centered. It is defined by the additive manufacturing systems software and can be moved in most systems.
Refers to material properties that differ in each orthogonal direction. See also Isotropic and Anisotropic
See Shell.
In SLA printing, curing a part for longer than is necessary. This results in more brittleness and a yellow discoloration. Usually a mistake, but can be used to achieved a certain effect.
Any feature in a design that does not have support structured reinforcing it underneath. See also 45 degree rule.
Arranging multiple parts into the build volume of a machine. Especially important for SLS.
polyaryletherketone (PAEK)
A chemical group under which PEEK (see PEEK) and PEI (see PEI) are classified under. PAEK polymers are known for being exceptionally strong and stable under high-temperature conditions. They also do not emit toxic fumes when heated.
In CAD, a parametric model is one that can easily be resized and or distorted by changing the settings (parameters) of the object.
A single physical object. In additive manufacturing, a part is the object being created.
part consolidation
A design process where previously separately built parts are combined into one. Often made possible by additive manufacturing, eliminating the need for welding or fastening.
pattern fringe triangulation
3D scanning technique that projects a series of linear patterns onto an object. Then, by examining the edges of each line in the pattern, it calculates the distance from the scanner to the object’s surface.
A PCB, or printed circuit board, is the board commonly used to support and connect electronic components, in which there are copper conductors, etched into a non-conductive material, as designed in a PCB CAD program.
polyether ether ketone (PEEK)
A high-performance specialty filament for FDM 3D printing. PEEK prints at very high temperatures (up to 400 C). It is one of the most strong, thermally and chemically stable 3D printing filaments available today.
polyether imide (PEI)
A high-performance filament material used in FDM printing. PEI is characterized by very high tensile strength, thermal stability, and chemical stability. See also PEEK.
A continuous line forming the boundary of a closed geometric figure. In 3D printing the perimeter refers to the thickness of the walls or shell of a printed object. The greater the number of perimeters, the thicker the shell of the object will be.
polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
A polymer used as filament in FDM.
Glycol-enhanced polyethylene terephthalate, a 3D printing filament that has a combination of the properties of PLA and ABS. PETG is a durable and thermally stable material that is more resistant to warping and does not emit toxic fumes.
3D scanning technique that uses multiple photographies of an object to construct 3D shape and texture. Photogrammetry software is available for most smart phones.
A material that changes properties when exposed to light, particularly in the frequency of ultraviolet (see UV light) or visible light. In the context of 3D printing, photopolymer resins are used as raw material for Stereolithography (see SLA).
A 3D printing error most commonly exhibited by holes or uneven surfaces (pillows) on the top-most layer of a 3D print. Pillowing is caused by the warping of the top layer and can be addressed by increasing the infill or cooling down the top layer rapidly.
Polylactic acid, one of the most popular filaments used in FDM 3D printing. PLA is particularly popular for beginners as it is very easy to handle, does not warp, and prints at relatively low temperatures. It is also derived from plant matter, making it sustainable and 100% biodegradable in its base form.
plasterbased 3D printing (PP)
A 3D process that uses inkjet heads similar to those on regular home (2D) Printers and can 3D Print Plaster in full color.
plastic jet printing (PJP)
Another name for FDM.
A thin coating of metal applied around the exterior of an object.
A polygon file format commonly used with 3D scanners.
polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
PMMA is a thermoplastic printing filament used in FDM-type 3D printers. PMMA is known commercially as acrylic or Plexiglas, widely used as an alternative to glass with higher impact resistance.
polar 3D printer
A type of 3D printer that uses a Polar coordinate system (see Cartesian coordinate system). Polar 3D printers are quite rare and are characterized by a rotating build platform and a print head that moves up and down. They are very power-efficient but are still too specialized for mainstream 3D printing use.
A surface finishing technique that uses abrasives to create a smooth surfaces on finished products.
polyamide (PA)
See Nylon.
polycarbonate (PC)
Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic printing filament used in FDM-type 3D printers. It is an extremely strong, lightweight and transparent thermoplastic.
A flat subset of a plane bounded by a finite number of edges. Many 3D model files are a mesh of polygons connected at their edges.
photopolymer jetting/ polyjet (PJ)
Short for ‘polymer jetting,’ PolyJet printers have a set of nozzles that precisely deliver drops of photopolymer resin on a build plate which are almost instantly cured by an array of UV lights. PolyJet printers are usually used for 3D printing projects that require a very high level of detail.
A material whose molecular structure is composed of multiple repeating units (monomers). Natural polymeric materials include amber, wool, silk and natural rubber while synthetic polymers include resin, nylon, polystyrene and silicon. Plastic polymers are used in 3D printing.
Any act of improving the appearance or material properties of a 3D print after it has been printed. This covers a large range of processes in 3D printing that vary by technology (support removal, UV curing, heat treating, sanding, tumbling, polishing, painting etc).
Plastic material used in SLS methods.
Preparing a 3D model for 3D printing. Involves hollowing, adding airholes, repairing, slicing, orienting, adding supports, packing, nesting and many other possible settings being defined.
A preparatory coating put on parts before painting. Priming ensures better adhesion of paint to the surface, increases paint durability, and provides additional protection for the material being painted.
print bed
See Build platform.
print head
Another name for the Hot End, or a collective term for the Hot end and Cold end.
print speed
Print speed is how fast the print head travels while extruding filament. Faster speeds might result in more inaccuracies.
print volume
See Build volume
printing temperature
The temperature of the hot end at which the filament is melted and extruded. Different materials require different printing temperatures.
An early part or model of a design built before production to test form, function, aesthetics and interaction - usually at a low cost. Prototypes are typically items to learn from to improve a design.
power supply unit (PSU)
The unit that connects to your wall/outlet and delivers power to the 3D printer. Usually this is 12V or 24V DC, and connects to the Motherboard, heater cartridge and heated bed
polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)
A slippery thermoplastic often used as a barrel in the extruder to minimize friction with the filament. Can also act as a Heat Break. Also called Teflon.
polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)
is a soft and biodegradable 3D printable polymer that is highly sensitive to moisture. When exposed to water, PVA will dissolve, which makes it very useful for printing soluble supports.
A slicer feature that places an entire layer of material onto the build plate underneath the base layer of a model. Its purpose is to prevent warping of the main model, and improve bed adhesion on unheated beds. (See Heated bed.) Especially effective with small parts, but can consume a significant amount of filament. See also Skirt and Brim.
rapid prototyping
The process of creating scale models of physical parts that mimic the properties of an intended end product. 3D printing is generally used for rapid prototyping because of the quick turnaround between CAD and finished part, which can then inform of any adjustments that need to be made. Sometimes used interchangably with Additive Manufacturing.
rapid tooling
Manufacturing tooling such as jigs, fixtures, molds, and patterns that is created with an additive manufacturing process.
RepRap (Replicating Rapid Prototyper) is an open source project with the goal of creating low-cost 3D printers that can manufacture a significant fraction of its own parts.
residual stress
The stress present in an object in the absence of any external load or force.
The form of raw material used in SLA-based 3D printing. At its raw form, the photopolymer resin is in a highly viscous liquid form which solidifies rapidly when exposed to UV light.
resin vat/ resin tank
The area where resin sits before being cured in the SLA process.
In 3D printers, resolution refers to the smallest size of features that it can reproduce. A smaller number represents a better quality of print. The resolution of a 3D printer in the Z-axis may vary from its resolution in the X and Y axes. The size of the nozzle and movement of stepper motors also play a role in determining a 3D printer’s resolution. The resolution of a 3D printer cannot be as clearly defined as eg. a television set's.
A slicer program setting. The motor is used to pull the filament slightly back into the print head during times when the head is traveling from one print point to another to prevent stringing and oozing.
reverse engineering
Creating a CAD file based on information (or a scan) of a real-world object.
ruby nozzle
A nozzle with a ruby mounted at the exit hole, that is extremely hard and will not wear close to the rate of a traditional nozzle.
scale model
A representation or copy of an object that is larger or smaller than the actual size of the object being represented.
scan pattern
The path a laser or electron beam traces.
SD card
A small memory card that can hold any kind of computer file, often used in everyday portable devices. Also used to transfer G-Code or other native files to 3D printers.
The point at which two layers of 3D-printed material connect.
selective deposition lamination (SDL)
See Laminated Object Manufacturing.
selective heat sintering (SHS)
A type of additive manufacturing process that works by using a thermal printhead to apply heat to layers of powdered thermoplastic. When a layer is finished, the powder bed moves down, and an automated roller adds a new layer of material which is sintered to form the next cross-section of the model.
selective laser melting (SLM)
An additive manufacturing process that uses a high-power laser beam, to create three-dimensional metal parts by fusing fine metal powders together layer by layer.
See: Hardening.
solid ground curing (SGC)
A type of vat polymerization.
sheet lamination
See Laminated Object Manufacturing
The exterior walls of a 3D model/print.
shell thickness
Refers to the number of layers that the outer wall of a print will have before the infill will begins. The higher the setting is for shell thickness, the thicker the outer walls of your object will be.
The process of fusing particles together to form a solid mass of material using heat or pressure without melting it.
A line that is initially printed around the print (but not connected to the print) to clean the nozzle head.
stereolithography (SLA)
3D printing technology that uses a photopolymer resin as a raw material that hardens almost instantly upon exposure to UV light. The UV light hits the build plate at patterns determined by the slicer software to build the 3D model layer by layer. Generally more precise than the more common FDM.
A horizontal layer of a digital object produced by a slicer program. Each slice contains coordinates for printing locations on the build surface, as well as instructions as to layer height, shell thickness and more.
CAM software that takes a (CAD) 3D model and converts it into instructions (G-code) that a 3D printer can follow layer by layer (slices). The print parameters and any added features (eg. supports) are also defined in this software.
The action of changing a model file (STL, OBJ, etc.) into G-code file.
Selective Laser Sintering, is a 3D printing technology that uses a high-powered laser beam to fuse powdered raw materials together layer by layer. The material most commonly used is plastic, but can also be metal, ceramics, or glass. SLS is favored by some manufacturers because the powder bed acts as a support regardless of where the next layer is printed. This allows for very intricate (mechanical) structures to be printed.
soft pull
A process for removal of blockage inside a clogged nozzle. It is done by heating a filament inside a nozzle to its glass transition temperature inside the nozzle and pulling it out once it has cooled down. A soft pull can be done regularly as part of nozzle maintenance.
solid geometry
See Watertight.
soluble materials
Any thermoplastic printing material that that can be dissolved when immersed in another substance. Used in 3D printing to create supports that would otherwise be difficult to removal, for instance inside of a hollow part. PVA and HIPS both popular soluble support materials.
solvent method
A method of unclogging a print nozzle of an FDM printer. The nozzle is placed in a bath that can dissolve the filament clogging the nozzle.
Sparsity refers to the negative space between a 3D model and its bounding box, in terms of the material volume used to manufacture the part. See also density.
See delamination.
A cylindrical holder of filament wire used by most manufacturers.
spool holder
A 3D printer part or accessory that holds the filament spool in place still allowing it to rotate, unwinding filament in an orderly fashion.
Thin printed 'wires' that keep two or more parts together during printing.
stair steps
The stair-like inaccuracy that arises when printing a curved surface in layers.
CAD format. Designed to be an improvement over IGES, it can hold more information than its predecessor.
stepper motor
A type of motor in which rotation is not continuous, but is divided into discrete and equally spaced “steps.” This allows for precise control of its speed of rotation and positioning. Stepper motors are found in moving parts of an FDM printer.
Short for stereo lithographic. A CAD file format that most slicers can translate into instructions for 3D printing. STL files describe only the surface geometry of a three-dimensional object through triangulated 'faces' without any representation of color or texture. See also OBJ.
Measure of the deformation of the material relative to its original shape measured in mm/mm (or a dimensionless ratio).
The internal forces that particles of a material exert on each other measured in Pascals.
A problem in FDM printing manifested by the formation of very thin “strings” of filament. This is a common sign of over-extrusion but can also be caused by molten filament oozing out of the nozzle while it is traveling.
structured light
A 3D scanning technology that casts a structured light (typically a grid) and calcultes the deformation of the grid on the surface, therefore deducting its properties.
subtractive manufacturing (SM)
Manufacturing method opposite to additive manufacturing that progressively removes material (usually) from a solid block to create a desired shape. Common types are CNC routing and laser cutting. Subtractive manufacturing results in stronger parts compared to AM, but also generates more waste.
Structures added to a 3D model that are printed to prop up overhangs that would otherwise start printing mid-air or break the 45 degree rule. Supports are usually removed as part of the post-processing.
supported wire
A wire feature within a model that is supported on both of its ends; for example, in a 3D model of a ladder, the rungs would be considered supported wires.
surface angle
The angle of a surface on a part relative to the build plane.
surface finish
A measure of the roughness of the surface of a part.
Short for scalable vector graphics. 2D file format with lossless scaling up or down.
temperature differential
The difference in temperature between two points. In 3D printing reducing the temperature differential between 2 nearby points reduces the likelihood of warping or deformation.
tensile strength
A property of a material that shows how much stress (MPa) it can withstand. Tensile strength can be sub-divided into yield stress and ultimate tensile strength.
tension arm
Arm that presses the filament into the gear of the extruder motor. see also Extruder Lever
texture map
A texture map is an image applied (mapped) to the surface of a shape or polygon. Texture maps are used in full color printing to convey accurate color information to the surface of a print.
thermal stress
The internal stress generated in a material as it changes in dimension as a reaction to changes in temperature. The accumulation of thermal stress in 3D prints as they cool down is what causes warping.
thermal tube
A tube (often threaded) where you connect the Heater Block and Heat break to the rest of the Print head assembly. This often includes a PTFE-tube inside.
Also known as a thermally sensitive resistor. A part on a FDM-type 3D printer. A thermistor is an element with an electrical resistance that changes in response to temperature. Used to regulate the temperature of the heat block in the hot end of a printer.
The temperature sensor in an FDM Printer, reading a specific resistance depending on the temperature. This translates to a temperature in either Hot end or Build Plate.
A plastic that melts and solidifies at precise temperatures.
thermoplastic elastomer (TPE)
A flexible thermoplastic material that feels and acts much like flexible rubber.
thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)
A 3D printing material with high elasticity, durability, transparency, and resistance to oil, grease and abrasion.
thermoset plastic
A polymer material that irreversibly hardens through curing. Many additive manufacturing processes utilize thermoset plastics to convert a soft or liquid material into a rigid solid.
timing pulley
Connects a stepper motor or axle to a belt, driving movements in an FDM machine.
A part's tolerance is how much it will deviate from its intended dimensions laid out in a 3D model. A tighter tolerance indicates consistently higher dimensional accuracy.
The computer-controlled movement of a tool in a manufacturing process.
Parts that are used in manufacturing processes to hold, support, or mold the parts being made.
topological optimization
A shape optimization process that modifies the topology of a part to achieve a certain goal (eg. decrease weight). Topological optimization often creates complex geometries that can only be produced through additive manufacturing.
The shape of an object. Specifically, how the various surfaces of an object are connected and arranged regardless of the size of a given surface.
When a print head moves while not extruding or depositing material.
ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE)
Thermoplastic that fishing lines are made out of. Some RepRaps use this fishing line as a low-cost alternative to toothed belts.
Commercial name for PEI.
ultraviolet light (UV)
Light with a frequency higher than that of visible light, thus invisible to the human eye. Commonly used in SLA printing to cure photopolymer resins.
A common problem in FDM printing where not enough filament is being extruded. This can result in missing layers, overly thin layers, or holes in a print. There are many possible reasons for under-extrusion including sub-optimal printing temperature, filament stripping, or a clogged hot end nozzle.
unsupported wire
A feature which has a length that is greater than five times its width. An unsupported wire is connected to walls on less than two sides, and can be less structurally sound than a supported wire.
user interface
A screen that allows for the direct control of a machine, usually through a screen and buttons or a touch screen.
ultimate tensile strength (UTS)
The stress (MPa) at which a material will fracture. See also Tensile strength.
UV map
The 3D modeling process of projecting a 2D image to a 3D model's surface for texture mapping, which is required for 3D printing in full color. UV texturing allows polygons that make up a 3D object to be painted with color (and other surface attributes) from an ordinary 2D image.
vapor bath/ vapor smoothing
See Acetone.
vase mode/ single outline corkscrew
A special printing mode where only one outline/shell is used and a spiral is slowly generated instead of individual layers. Used for faster printing of vases and structures without flat tops/solid structures.
In computer graphics, a vertex is a data structure that describes the position of a point in 2D or 3D space, at multiple points on a surface.
A property of a fluid described as its resistance to flow, its 'thickness'. In FDM 3D printing, viscosity plays a role in ensuring the consistent flow of molten filament through the nozzle and onto the build plate.
A part for a 3D printing project or a RepRap that isn’t 3D printable.
Similar to a pixel, but instead of a 2D plane, it is defined in a 3D space.
virtual reality modeling language (VRML)
An older file format used to represent 3D graphics, replaced by X3D.
wall thickness/ minimum wall thickness
The thinnest dimension a wall can be printed at such that it can support the model. Different from shell thickness.
See Shell.
One of the most common problems encountered in 3D printing, warping is the result of thermal stress accumulation which causes deformation of the material. Aside from causing dimensional inaccuracy, warping can also result in poor bed adhesion. Some 3D printing materials are more prone to warping than others.
A common problem in FDM printing that leads to deformation and poor bed adhesion. Warping occurs when filament cools after being printed, and shrinks in the process.
water method
A method of applying Kapton Tape to the build plate of an FDM-type 3D printer to improve adhesion.
A model is watertight if its polygon mesh is free of holes and cracks, so that all edges of each polygon in the mesh are matched to other edges in a manifold way. It is the mesh that is watertight, not the design overall, so for example a properly-meshed model of a colander strainer could be a watertight 3D model, while a poorly-meshed 3D model of a coffee mug could fail to be watertight.
Usually refers to a wax-like material that can be 3D printed and used in lost-wax casting.
wear-resistant nozzle
Typically made of either stainless steel or hardened steel, this is a nozzle type preferably used when printing with an abrasive filament. The drawback of these materials is that they have poorer thermal conductivity compared to the stock brass nozzle.
wire frame
A visual presentation of a 3D or physical object used in 3D computer graphics. See also STL.
A feature within a 3D model which has a length that is greater than five times its width.
X, Y, Z axis
See Cartesian coordinates.
yield stress
The stress (MPa) under which the material undergoes plastic deformation. See also Tensile strength.
The process that a printer uses to lift the hot end upward prior to retraction and moving.
laser additive manufacturing (LAM) Laser melting a powdered material (eg. metal) in a specific pattern. Similar to SLM, but instead of a full layer of powder being deposited at once, the material is jetted by the printhead only where it's needed as it goes along.
sacrificial tower A tower-like structure added to FFF prints. After each layer of the desired print, the hot end moves to the tower, and deposites some material. This gives layers more time to cool down.
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