3D Printing Glossary - 3D Printing Company | isodo3D

Glossary of Terms

3D Printing - 3D printing is a term that is commonly used to describe any process in which a solid tangible object is created from a computer model. It is often used interchangeably with additive manufacturing.

3D Sand Casting - A process where melds are created in sand by either fusing the granules together using SLS or by using a high grade resin. The melds are then filled with molten metal to produce solid metal objects.

3D Systems Corporation - One of the largest 3D printer manufacturers in the world, founded by Charles Hull who invented the first 3D printer back in 1984.


ABS - Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, a thermoplastic used as a 3D printer material. Often ABS is used as a short form, actually referring to filament made of ABS

Accuracy - Measurement of deviation from the CAD model.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) - Thermoplastic commonly used to make filament for use in 3D printers.

Additive Manufacturing - The process of creating 3-dimensional objects from computer models, where a product is created by a successive deposition of layers of material, bonded by inkjet to form a solid. Synonyms include: Generative Manufacture, e-Manufacture, Additive Layer Manufacturing, Freeform Fabrications,

Additive Metal Manufacturing (AMM) - Any 3D printing process which builds up metal objects in layers, but often refers to the process of binding or fusing powdered metal together.

Alumide - A mixture of aluminium and plastic powder which is used to produce objects with a metallic look and feel but at a much lower cost than pure metal.


Build Envelope - Measurement of the 3D printer’s boundary given by the X, Y and Z axes.

Bed - The build plate of the 3D printer on which parts are actually made.

Belt - Toothed gear belt. Usually fibre-reinforced to prevent stretching. Used to transfer movement from the motors to other parts of a machine.

Binder Jetting - Any inkjet style technology which jets a liquid onto a powdered material in order to bind it together and build up an object in layers.

Bio-Ink - A culture of live cells which are used as the material for a bio printer. This phrase was coined by Organovo, a bio printing company on the NYSE.

Bio printer - Any 3D printer which uses bio-ink in order to produce living tissues.

Breakaway Support Technology (BST) - Used by printers which add disposable supports to sloping, or overhanging parts. These supports then have to be manually removed by hand when the object is complete.


CAD - Computer Aided Design

CAM - Computer Aided Manufacturing

Carriage - The moving middle assembly on the x-axis of Mendel which holds the extruder. Often referred to as: x-carriage.

Copolymers - Copolymers are additives that are included in the polymer blends with the intention to add certain properties to the main polymer.

All polymers have principal properties that are desired, but bring others that are not. A good example is Styrene, which is clear, has great accuracy when moulded into a shape but is very brittle and ages bad under sunlight. In certain commercial varnishes Butadyene can be added to give it some flexibility and UV protectors to make it more durable. The difference between copolymers and fillers is that the first ones participate in the chemical chain reaction and are bonded to the main monomer.

Catalyst - Any substance which speeds up chemical reactions but without being consumed in the reaction itself.

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) - Machines which allow digital tools to be crafted automatically.

Concept Model - A physical model of a final product which demonstrates its form but which may lack details, texture and functionality.

Cube - Range of thermoplastic extrusion 3D printers produced by 3D Systems, first developed in January 2012.

Cubify - Website run by 3D Systems based around their Cube printers. Not only does it sell printers but it provides a 3D printing service, sells a range of objects and supports the Cube owning community.

Curing - The process of hardening a liquid or other material to produce its final form.


DLP® – Texas Instruments’ DLP® technology enables innovative optical solutions that disrupt existing end equipment and create new markets. The DLP chip, or Digital Micromirror Device (DMD), is an array of micromirrors that can be used for high speed, efficient, and reliable spatial light modulation.

DDP – Digital Dental Printer

DSP – Digital Shell Printer for the hearing aid industry.

Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM) - The production of final products or components using 3D printing technology.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) - Using a laser to selectively heat and fuse a vat of metal powder, in order to build up a 3D object in layers.

Directed Energy Deposition - Similar to DMLS except metal powder is deposited from a print head before fusing it together with a laser. This allows the repair of objects as well as their manufacture.

Digital Light Processing (DLP) Projection - The solidification of a photocurable polymer liquid using a DLP projector. This solidifies the liquid one layer at a time and can be used to produce very high resolution objects in a very short time.

Drop On Demand (DOD) - A material extrusion process used to make sacrificial melds or patterns made from a special casting material.


Electron Beam Melting (EBM) - The use of an electron beam to selectively melt and fuse together metal powder to create an object layer by layer.

Extrude - The process of pushing out a melted build material (usually plastic), in order to build up a 3D object as it cools and solidifies.

Extruder - The part of a 3D printer which consists of a cold end to pull in the build material and a hot end to melt and extrude the build material.


Filler - Fillers are solid materials that are added to polymers (or cements) and that do not interact chemically with it. They remain inert but do add special desired mechanical features to the compound. These can range from density alteration (make the compound heavier or lighter) additional strength (fibres...), resistance to abrasion and improved thermal properties (sands...) or simply thinning the compound to reduce material cost (talc).

Functional Prototype - Representation of a final object to test out its form, fit and function, but without necessarily using the final materials, colours or texture.

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) - Both the term and its acronym are trademarks of Stratasys. The equivalent term fused filament fabrication is often used instead as it has no legal constraints unlike the trademarked versions.

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) - The process of building up an object by depositing a material on top of or next to other material in order to join the two, usually by using heat or adhesion.

Filament - This can refer to the wire made from build material (commonly 1.75mm or 3mm in diameter) which enters the cold end of the extruder, or the heated wire (commonly less than 1mm in diameter) which exits the hot end of the extruder.

Frog - Sometimes referred to as squashed frog and is the part of a printer which the printing plate connects to. The term originates from the RepRap Sells Mendel part that looked like a squashed frog.


G-Code - The format of information which some 3D printers use to control them and which is sent from a computer to the printer.

Granular Materials Binding - The binding together of powders in order to build up a 3D object in layers. Binding can be in many forms, such as binder jetting, sintering or melting.


Hardening - The process by which the model hardens to its final form.

Heated Bed - Type of build plate used in many 3D printers which keep the base of the build object warm to prevent the object from cooling unevenly and warping as a result.

Hot End - Nozzle part of an extruder which heats the build material and extrudes it to build up the final object.




Kapton Tape - Polimide adhesive tape which is heat resistant and is often used on the surface of a heated bed to build the object on.


Laminated Object Manufacture (LOM) - The process of building up an object by binding together laser cut sheets of plastic, foil or paper in order to build up an object.

Laser Engineered Net Shaping (LENS) - Directed energy deposition technology invented and trademarked by Optomec.

LaserCUSING - The use of high powered lasers positioned very close to a bed of metal powder in order to fuse it together to form a homogeneous material structure.

Laywood-3D - Composition of wooden fibres mixed with a polymer binder used to 3D print wooden objects.

Layer Height - The thickness of a particular layer in a 3D printed model.

Low-Temperature Deposition Modelling (LDM) - A thermal extrusion technology that uses low temperatures. This has particular uses, for example in human tissue engineering.


Material Extrusion - Any technology which extrudes a material in order to build up an object. Examples would be thermoplastics which are heated first using an element, or even cheese which is extruded though a syringe. All are forms of material extrusion.

Material Jetting - Any technology which builds up an object by jetting a photopolymer though a print head before solidifying it using a UV light.

Mesh - The surface area of a 3D model in digital form. In curved shapes this is typically represented by a series of flat triangles. The smaller the triangles the finer the printed results will be.

Monomer - Molecule which can form larger polymer molecules by forming multiple bonds with other monomer molecules.

Multiphase Jet Solidification (MJS) - Ceramic or metal powder is mixed with a binder and extruded to build up an object in layers. The binder is then removed by heat or by chemicals before the object is densified by heating it in a kiln.


Nichrome - Alloy made up of nickel and chromium, often use to make the heating element in the hot end of an extruder, or in a heated bed.


Otoflash – A light polymerization chamber for the hardening/curing of light curing resins for jewellery, dental and otoplastic applications.

Oligomer - 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. A free analogy would be that monomers are to oligomers what a water molecule is to a snowflake. In commercial resins, oligomers are mixed with their monomer components so as to achieve a polymer of desired properties, due to their ability to spatially organize the polymerization process.

Organovo - A pioneering bio printing company who are working on creating human tissues and transplantable human organs.

Overhang - A part of a 3D model where there is no support below it. Parts that jut out at an angle of over 45 degrees are generally considered overhangs.


Parametric - Parametric 3D models are very flexible and can by resized and skewed in all directions.

PEEK - Polyether Ether Ketone. A high temperature thermoplastic used as a thermal barrier in the extruder.

Photopolymers - Plastic resins which change their properties when exposed to light. Liquid photopolymers which harden when exposed to UV light are used in the process of stereolithography.

Photopolymerization - Generic name for processes which use light to solidify photopolymers. Such technologies include stereolithography, material jetting, DLP projection and two-photon polymerization.

Plastic Jet Printing (PJP) - Another name for thermoplastic extrusion or fused deposition modelling which is a term used by 3D Systems.

PolyJet Matrix - A technology which mixes polymers together during the creation of an object allowing up to 14 different materials to be used while 3D printing a single object.

Polylactic Acid (PLA) - Biodegradable thermoplastic which is often made from corn starch or sugar cane and is a commonly used build material in 3D printers.

Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) - Build material which is soluble in water, so is best suited as a removable support material.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE/Teflon) - A low friction thermoplastic which is used in extruders and other areas where friction needs to be minimised.

Powder Bed Fusion - Generic term for any process which selectively adheres powder together in order to build up a 3D object. Covers such technologies as SLM, SLS, SHS, DMLS and LaserCUSING.



Raft - A disposable base which is printed first onto the build surface, with the object being built on top. Provides more adhesion to the build surface and reduces warping.

Rapid Prototyping (RP) - Any process which uses computer controlled machinery to create a prototype of an object.


Sacrificial Moulds - A disposable single use mould used in processes such as sand casting.

Selective Heat Sintering (SHS) - Created by a company called BluePrint and similar to selective laser sintering. However, it uses a thermal print head instead of a laser to selectively fuse together layers of powder together.

Selective Laser Melting (SLM) - A technology similar to SLS, but which uses a high powered laser too selectively and completely melt together powdered metal.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) - A powder bed technology which uses a laser to selectively fuse/sinter together powder to build up a 3D object in layers.

Sintering - Heating up powdered material in order to fuse the granules together by slightly melting the outside of the granules.

SketchUp - 3D CAD design software originally owned by Google but sold to Trimble Navigation in 2012. Available in both free and paid versions.

SolidWorks - Leading 3D CAD design software owned by Dassault Systems.

Soluble Support Technology (SST) - Similar to breakaway support technology, used to support hangover or sloping parts of a 3D model during printing. SST however uses a soluble material so it can be dissolved away rather than having to break it away by hand.

Stepper Motor - Electric motors which rotate in discrete and precise increments, often used to control printer heads.

Stereolithography - A type of photopolymerization which used a UV laser to solidify a photopolymer liquid in order to build up an object in layers.

STL - File format used by stereolithography CAD software originally developed by 3D Systems in 1987 and still used by most 3D printers today. What it actually stands for is debatable, but it’s most likely to be either Stereo Lithographic or Standard Tessellation Language.

Support Structure - See Breakaway Support Technology and Soluble Support Technology.


Thermoplastic - Any plastic which can be transitioned to a molten form by heading and then which solidifies again when it cools. Common types are ABS and PLA.

Thermoplastic Extrusion - The process of extruding melted plastic though a print head nozzle in order to build op an object in layers.

Thick Sheet - Rigid flat sheet which is used as a build surface and can be made from a variety of materials.

Tissue Engineering - The modification or creation of living matter and which may be achieved by using a bio printer.

Two-Photon Polymerization (2PP) - A revolutionary technology which uses a femtosecond pulsed laser to selectively solidify a special photopolymer that solidifies when hit by two protons. Allows X and Y axis resolutions of down to 100 nanometres, making it the highest resolution 3D printing technology currently known.



Vat Polymerization - Generic name covering any technology which uses the solidification of a photopolymer in order to build up objects in layers. Includes technologies such as stereolithography, digital light processing and two-photon polymerization.

Viscosity - Another name for the resistance of flow of a fluid and often used with reference to extruded thermoplastic material.


Wire and Ark Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) - Based on fused deposition modelling of metals, this is the experimental use of arc welding equipment, which is modified to melt thin titanium wire in order to build up a 3D object.


X, Y, Z axes - 3-dimensional coordinate system. Z axis represents what would typically be considered "vertical".



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