Glossary of 3D Printing Terms

Our glossary serves as a crucial resource for both beginners and seasoned professionals in the 3D printing industry. It provides clear, concise definitions and explanations of key terms and concepts. Spot something we’ve missed? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to both explain the term and update the glossary for future reference.

Index of Terms

3D Printer: A machine that creates physical objects by adding material layer by layer based on a digital 3D model.

3D Printing: The process of creating three-dimensional objects from a digital model by adding material layer by layer.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): A common thermoplastic filament used in FDM 3D printing known for its strength, durability, and high-temperature resistance.

Additive Manufacturing (AM): A process of building objects layer by layer from digital 3D models, often used interchangeably with 3D printing.

AM Workflow: The sequence of steps involved in the additive manufacturing process, including design, preparation, printing, post-processing, and finishing.

Binder Jetting: A 3D printing process where a liquid binding agent is selectively deposited onto a powder bed to bind particles together, forming a solid object layer by layer.

Build Plate: The platform on which a 3D printed object is built or formed during the FDM/FFF and SLA printing processes.

Build Volume: The maximum size of an object that can be 3D printed within the dimensions of a particular 3D printer.

CAD (Computer-Aided Design): The use of computer software to create 2D and 3D models of objects before they are manufactured.

DLP (Digital Light Processing): A 3D printing technology that uses light projection to cure photopolymer resin layer by layer to create objects.

DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering): A metal 3D printing process similar to SLS but specifically used for metal powders, where a laser fuses metal particles together to create solid objects.

FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling): An additive manufacturing process where thermoplastic filament is melted and extruded through a nozzle to create layers that form a 3D object.  Also referred to as FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) – Learn about our FDM printing capability

FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication): A term often used interchangeably with FDM, referring to the same process of melting and extruding thermoplastic filament to build objects layer by layer.- Learn about our FFF printing capability

Filament: The material used in FDM/FFF and other extrusion-based 3D printing processes, typically in the form of a spool of thermoplastic filament.

G-Code: A numerical control programming language used to control 3D printers and CNC machines, specifying the movements and operations required to produce a part.

Heated Bed: A feature on some 3D printers where the build plate is heated to prevent warping and improve adhesion between layers during printing.

Infill: The internal structure of a 3D printed object, typically designed to provide support and reduce material usage while maintaining structural integrity.

Layer Adhesion: The strength of the bond between successive layers of material in a 3D printed object, critical for its structural integrity.

Layer Height: The vertical distance between each layer of material deposited during the 3D printing process, affecting the resolution and surface finish of the final object. Read more in our article “Understanding 3D Printing Layer Heights”

Melt Pool: The area where material is melted and fused together during the 3D printing process, crucial for achieving strong bonds between layers.

MJF (Multi Jet Fusion): A 3D printing technology developed by HP that uses inkjet printing to selectively apply fusing and detailing agents onto a bed of nylon powder, enabling the rapid production of complex parts with high precision.  Read about our MJF capability

Nozzle: The part of an FDM/FFF 3D printer that extrudes melted filament onto the build plate, determining the thickness of each layer and the overall resolution of the print.

Overhang: A portion of a FDM/FFF 3D printed object that extends horizontally beyond the support structures beneath it, often requiring additional support or careful design considerations to print successfully.

Post-processing: The steps taken after 3D printing to clean, finish, and refine the printed object, which may include removing support structures, sanding, painting, or applying coatings or hardware such as threaded inserts.

Powder Bed Fusion: A category of 3D printing processes where powdered material is selectively fused together layer by layer to build objects, including technologies like SLS and MJF.

Resin: A liquid material that solidifies when exposed to light or heat, used in SLA, DLP, and other resin-based 3D printing processes.

Resolution: The level of detail and accuracy achievable in a 3D printed object, determined by factors such as layer height, nozzle size, and the precision of the 3D printer’s movements.

SLA (Stereolithography): A 3D printing process that uses a UV laser to cure layers of photopolymer resin, building up a solid object.

SLS (Selective Laser Sintering): A powder bed fusion 3D printing process that uses a high-power laser to selectively fuse powdered material, such as plastic or metal, into a solid object layer by layer.

STL (Standard Tessellation Language): A file format commonly used for 3D printing that represents a 3D model as a collection of triangles.

Support Structure: Auxiliary structures generated during the 3D printing process to support overhanging or complex features of the object being printed.  Commonly used in FDM/FFF and SLA printing but not required in powder bed fusion processes such as MJF and SLS

Thermoplastic: A type of polymer that becomes pliable or mouldable when heated and solidifies upon cooling, commonly used as filament in FDM and other extrusion-based 3D printing processes.

Toolpath: The specific route that a 3D printer’s nozzle or laser follows when depositing material or curing resin to create each layer of a printed object.

Vat Polymerisation: A category of 3D printing processes where liquid photopolymer resin is selectively cured layer by layer using light, including SLA and DLP technologies.

Discover 3D Print Manufacturing from Midlands 3D