The Ultimate 3D Printing Dictionary
From the beginners to expert level, in this 3D printing dictionary, we gathered all the terms you need to know. You can also help us expand it even further by leaving a comment.
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ABS Juice — It’s a mixture of acetone and ABS filament (which melts in it). Various ABS Juice recipes recommend different proportions of both with usually about 10 mm of plastic for 10 ml of acetone. Smear it over the worktable of your 3D printer, so your prints stick to it.
ABS Slurry — This is also a mix of acetone and ABS but with much higher concentration of the latter, so it’s much denser. Use it when 3D printing larger objects, so they stick to the worktable, but make it too thick and it will peel off the table like a normal plastic object.
Additive manufacturing — It refers to various fabrication processes used to manufacture 3D objects by adding layers of the material. It’s another name for 3D printing.
Artifact — It may refer to signs of printing left on the object, which can be corrected with proper settings. It’s also a term for an object or form printed on the worktable next to the actual object. It’s used as a transitional and cleaning artifact when using ZMorph’s dual-head extruder or DUAL PRO in order to clean the nozzle between filament changes.
Auto Leveling — Automatic detection of the exact height of all parts of the worktable in the Z axis. Variations in height may be compensated using firmware to control the Z axis motors.
Brim — A few layers of filament printed in a distance from the object itself to ensure proper filament flow before actual printing. It also may refer to additional rims around the first layers of the object, so it sticks to the table.
Build Envelope — The size and shape of the area within which a 3D printer can fabricate an object.
BuildTak — Plastic sheet that can be attached to your printing surface to improve its sticking capabilities. 3D printed objects stick to it firmly and are easy to remove afterward. Good alternative to ABS Juice and Kapton Tape.
CAD — Shorter for Computer Aided Design. The term includes both the software and the design process put into creating a digital model or a design that can be manufactured into a prototype or a final product.
Closed Loop System — In general it may refer to various feedback systems, usually found in servos. In 3D printing it’s a name of a guardian mechanism implemented into ZMorph. It uses encoders to analyze the printing process and correct any type of toolhead alignment errors that might occur.
CNC — It stands for Computerized Numerical Control, which means an automated machine tool process based on a series of commands encoded (usually) in a G-code file. The process doesn’t require manual control or force to operate but man supervision may be required for it to succeed.
Desktop 3D printer — It’s basically a 3D printer that fits on a desk and gives you the ability to manufacture items at home, in a garage or office. Thanks to the RepRap movement, they became more popular and affordable in the last 5–6 years with many companies like ZMorph, Zortrax, MakerBot and Ultimaker offering their own consumer-friendly, easy-to-use machines.
Digital fabrication — Name for the entire process of designing and manufacturing a 3D object with various CAD/CAM software and fabrication methods like 3D printing, CNC milling or laser cutting.
DXF — Created by Autodesk, this universal CAD data file format is one of the most commonly used in design, engineering and product development. DXF files can be imported into CAM software, like Voxelizer, and later transformed into G-codes.
Encoders — In 3D printing, it’s a device that gathers information about drive shafts positions and converts them into a data which can be analyzed to check whether the toolhead is in a correct position in reference to the work surface.
Extruder — Part of 3D printer, that is responsible for melting raw plastic material and forming it into continous profile (later used for creating 3D objects).
Extrusion / Retraction — Extrusion is feeding the filament into the extruder, while the retraction rapidly retracts a small amount of filament to prevent the toolhead from touching the print while moving. Retraction is also used when the material is being automatically changed in a dual toolhead. Options “Feed” & “Remove” under the same sub menu of a ZMorph machine are also for the same purpose.
Fab Lab — It’s a mini scale workshop or a laboratory offering various tools for digital fabrication. Fab Lab’s and their users can be a great source of knowledge and inspiration for 3D printing beginners, students and DIY enthusiasts.
FDM — Stands for Fused Deposition Modeling and refers to a process in which a heated material (thermoplastic) is deposited in layers or next to each other and joined. This term is trademarked by Stratasys Inc.
FFF — Fused Filament Fabrication. The term refers to the same process as FDM and was coined by the RepRap community.
Filament — Plastic material in a form of a string that you put into your printer. It can vary in type, consistency, color or properties. Depending on what type of the extruder you have, choose between 1,75 filament or 3.00 mm.
G-code — Standardized programming language used for control of automated machine tools. Machine tool moves according to these instructions through a toolpath. This file is the language that a 3D printer understands.
Heat bed — The heated bed platform on which models are 3D printed, although not every 3D printer bed is heated.
Homing — Refers to putting the extruder (toolhead) into a predefined home position — corner of printing the worktable in the cartesian machines like 3D printers.
Hybrid / Multitool 3D Printer — Term coined to distinguish the multipurpose machines from regular 3D printers. Hybrid machines are usually able to 3D print and CNC mill, while multitool devices like the latest ZMorph 2.0 SX can 3D print, CNC mill, laser engrave and extrude thick pastes.
Infill — It’s the inner filling inside the object. There are a lot of settings that can be changed here. Infill can be made using the same material or a different one when the two-material extruder is mounted. Then, the infill can be placed by same or different nozzles which can have different temperatures, one can also be used for support.
Kapton Tape — Heat-resistant adhesive tape that can be used to stick objects to the worktable during 3D printing. In electronics, it’s used for protection of sensitive elements.
Mesh — Collection of vertices, edges, and surfaces that define the shape of an object in solid modeling and 3D computer graphics. The surfaces usually are represented with triangles, quadrilaterals or other simple polygons.
Nozzle — The end piece on the extruder made of brass or stainless steel. The melted plastic flows out of it.
Outline — An outer layer on the edges of the model. Models can be printed only on outlines without inner infill too. The number of outlines can be adjusted in any slicing software.
Overhang — Part of a 3D printed objects that hangs over the worktable or previous layers of filament, which makes it more difficult to fabricate. Overhangs may be small and print well but often they require support, especially when they have a high angle of declination, so the filament doesn’t spill to the surface.
PEEK — Polyether ether ketone, a high temperature thermoplastic used for certain parts of FDM 3D printer extruders.
PEI — Polyetherimide, an amorphous high temperature thermoplastic. Thin sheets are used to cover worktables of FDM 3D printers.
Personal fabrication — Fabrication process in which a person is able to manufacture an object or a working prototype from a digital file using only one machine, even when it requires different methods of fabrication. When someone else (person or outsourcing company) and other machines are involved in the process, then it should be called just digital fabrication.
Power raft — Type of raft generated by ZMorph’s Voxelizer software. It works as an extra security by providing additional layers underneath the model in order to help it stick to the worktable.
Preset — In a slicing software, it’s your selected and / or saved printing settings for a given object.
PTFE — Polytetraflouroethylene, a high temperature flouropolymer used for certain parts of FDM 3D printer extruders. Popular name is Teflon, which is also the name given in the original DuPont’s patent.
Raft — A thick few layers of plastic designed to smooth out a potentially uneven build surface that should be easily removable after the print is completed. May be generated either using slicing software or CAD software.
Rapid prototyping — Process of preparing CAD files and 3D printing a prototype of a part or an entire object. Other methods of digital fabrication can be used in the process too.
RepRap — DIY community and movement founded in 2005 by Dr. Adrian Bowyer. It’s based on an idea of making a self-replicating, open source, low-cost 3D printing machine. Since then, RepRap project gathered up thousands of participants from all over the world who continue to upgrade and modify the technology.
Scanner — A device that scans an object and creates a 3D model of it, just like the camera produces a 2D image.
SL — Stereolithography, which is an additive manufacturing process based on a UV laser cutting objects in a photo-reactive resin. Used mostly in bigger, industrial 3D printers.
SLA — Stereolithography Apparatus, an additive manufacturing machine using the SL process for 3D printing.
Slice — Another name of a single layer of a 3D printed object. The thickness of a slice depends on a value set in the slicing software.
Slicer — Common name for a computer software used for preparing models for 3D printing. Programs like Voxelizer slice the models into horizontal layers that are later 3D printed one after another based on G-code files.
SLS — Selective Laser Sintering, which is an additive manufacturing process which utilizes a laser to sinter layers of powders. Used mostly in bigger, industrial 3D printers. SLM and DMLS are other laser-based methods of digital fabrication.
STL — File format initially used for Stereolithography files only, now widely used with all kinds of 3D printing software. STL files include the pure geometry of 3D models without a color or texture. They can be later transformed into G-codes in slicing software.
Subtractive manufacturing — Also known as machining. It refers to various fabrication methods in which part of a material is being cut, milled or engraved in order to create a final shape or a desired object.
Support — Structure for objects with a big overhang or angle, so they can be printed correctly. Can be either removed mechanically or dissolved after the print is ready.
Texture Map — A 2D color image which is used to specify the RGB color of each polygon of a 3D model.
Thermistor — It’s the part inside the metal block just above the nozzle. It serves as a temperature feedback mechanism — be careful not to damage it when changing the nozzle!
Toolhead — The “head” that is mounted on your ZMorph machine. Single and dual heads are used for 3D printing. When a CNC mill is mounted you are most likely to mill either 2D or 3D.
Voxel — Three-dimensional pixels set in a specific set of coordinates. It’s widely used in 3D graphics and also in 3D printing. ZMorph’s proprietary Voxelizer software uses voxels to generate and modify 3D models instead of using vectors.
Weeding — Removal of sacrificial material such as supports, rafts, powder or paper cubes from a 3D printed object.
Help us expand this 3D printing dictionary
To write this 3D printing dictionary we used our own professional knowledge and several various sources with 3D Printing for Beginners being one of the most helpful.
Didn’t find a term you were looking for? Help us expand this 3D printing dictionary in the comment section. Feel free to leave your questions as well as your own definitions.