Useful 3D Printer Terms

Feel free to read definitions for these terms you will see throughout this course to familiarize yourself with them:

3D File-A 3D (three-dimensional) file is an electronic file representing a three-dimensional object. It is created via 3D modelling, which is the process of developing a mathematical representation of any 3D surface of an object via Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. It is also called a 3D model. A 3D model represents a physical body using a collection of points in 3D space, connected by various geometric entities such as triangles, lines, curved surfaces, etc. 

3D Modeling- Process of developing a mathematical representation of any three-dimensional surface of an object via CAD software.

3D Printer- a machine allowing the creation of a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many thin layers of a material in succession.

ABS- (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)-a petroleum-based thermoplastic used to make filament for FDM-type 3D printers.Being petroleum-based, ABS is non biodegradable, but it can be recycled. ABS is very strong, is soluble in Acetone and can easily be post-processed.

CAD-Short for Computer Aided Design. Refers to the use of computer systems to assist in the creation, modification or optimization of a design.CNC-Short for Computer Numerical Control. Refers to an automatically controlled machine tool by a computer software or program, as opposed to manually controlled by an operator.

Extrude-The act of placing the build material on the build platform, normally by heating thermoplastic to a liquid state and pushing it through a small nozzle.

Extruder-A group of parts which handles feeding and extruding of the build material. Consists of two assemblies: a cold end to pull and feed the thermoplastic from the spool, and a hot end that melts and extrudes the thermoplastic.

FDM-Short for Fused Deposition Modeling. The term fused deposition modeling and its abbreviation to FDM are trademarked by Stratasys Inc. The equivalent term fused filament fabrication (FFF), was coined by the members of the RepRap project to provide a phrase that would be legally unconstrained in its use.

FFF-Short for Fused Filament Fabrication. A process whereby a filament of one material (plastic, wax, metal, etc.) is deposited on top of or alongside the same (or similar) material making a joint (by heat or adhesion).

G-Code-A widely programming language used to tell computerized machine tools what to make and how to make it. G-code defines where the machine needs to move, how fast and what path to follow.

GX file is a Geometry Expressions Document. Geometry Expressions is a computer application that can automatically generate algebraic expressions from geometric figures.

Heated Print Bed-A printbed with an integrated heating mechanism. The print bed is heated up in order to prevent the base of a 3D printed part from cooling and shrinking too quickly (process called warping).

Hot End-The parts of the extruder that get hot enough to melt plastic, or potentially other materials. Hot end parts are made from materials that can stand up to ~240 °C heat. 

Infill-The interior structure of a 3D printed model. To avoid wasting plastic, 3D prints are typically printed with an inner mesh structure rather than a solid interior. The infill is typically expressed as a percentage (ex. 20% infill).

Nozzle-The part of the hot end that deposits the melted plastic material. 

Overhang-Part of a 3D model without any support below it. Parts that protrude at an angle of over 45 degrees are generally considered overhangs.

PLA(Polylactic Acid)A biodegradable thermoplastic polymer made from plant starch, used as a 3D printer material. Often PLA is used as a short form, actually referring to filament made of PLA.

Print Bed-The surface of the 3D printer on which the 3D printed part is formed. Also known as ‘build platform’, ‘bed’ or ‘build plate’.

Raft-A technique used to prevent warping. A flat layer of support material is printed below the actual 3D part. As the raft is larger than the part it has better adhesion. Once the 3D print is finished, the raft supports are discarded.

Shell-Also known as outline or outer perimeter, the shell represents the outer wall of a 3D print.

Slice-A single layer of a 3D printed model. Slices vary in thickness depending on the settings used in the Slicer.

STL-Short for Stereolithography. A commonly used file format in 3D printing describing the surface geometry of a 3D object without any representation of color or texture.

Support material-3D models that have large overhangs or gaps between parts require support material to be printed (as it would be impossible to print into thin air). The support material is removed once the 3D print has finished in order to reveal the final print.