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The 3D Printing Spot Dictionary

The 3D Printing Spot Dictionary | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone


January 26, 2023

As 3Dprinting has grown in popularity so too has the language, that is why we have created this 3D printing dictionary to help you navigate the 3D world.

Imagine traveling to a foreign country and trying to communicate with the locals in their language.  3D printing is much the same, if you don’t know the language it is going to be hard to understand the subject.

We hope it helps.

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Table of Contents

3D kit

- is a DIY kit that has all the  parts of a 3D printer, allowing a person to assemble it themselves.

3D model

- is an object digitally created  with CAD software.

3D pen

- shaped like a regular pen, and  extrudes filament to create drawings or shapes.

3D printer

- a device, using additive  manufacturing, creates a 3D object by place a layer of material on top of the  previous layer.

3D Scan

- a process to capture the physical  properties of a 3D object to convert it into a digital model.


- a company that is committed to  bringing the world of 3D design to everyone by providing the tools, training  and education to learn 3D design in minutes.   Great for schools, parents and teachers.


- (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)  a thermoplastic polymer commonly used in FDM type 3D printing.  An original plastic used in industrial 3D  printing.  Has a higher glass transition  temperature, meaning a higher melting point.

ABS juice

- ABS filament dissolved in  acetone.  The mixture is applied to the  print bed to bond with the print thus avoiding warping.

ABS slurry

- similar to ABS Juice but a higher  density of ABS making it thicker.   Works to help stick larger objects to the print bed.  Also, used to bond separate objects  together, repair damaged objects, or smooth objects surfaces.


- is when the extruder changes  speed during a direction change.


- a chemical used to smooth ABS  printed objects post print.


- (Additive Manufacturing) – a form  of manufacturing that applies material a thin layer at a time to create an 3D  object.  Also known as 3D printing.


- is metal that are break resistant  yet light, flexible and strong.


- is a property of a 3D part that  is stronger in the x,y direction rather than the z direction.


- imperfections on a 3D printed  object caused by incorrect settings or faulty processes  


- is 3D printer part that controls  the tension on the filament as it passes through the extruder.

Auto leveling

- automatic adjusting of height  based on auto detection of all parts on the print bed.

Bed adhesion material

- is a tape or other adhesive  attached to the print bed to prevent warping or movement.


- is part of the pulley system  controlling movement of extruders.


- is short for benchmark.  It is a small boat design with geometry  such that it is used to test 3D printers

Binder jetting

- is a process that combines a  binder with powder to form layers upon layers to form a 3D object.


- is printing between to support  structures to bridge a gap, and provide a base to further print on.


- a layer of filament printed  around the base to help with adhesion and ensure proper filament flow.


- ceramic and chalk are examples of  brittle material that can easily break with no real deformation.

Build envelope

- the maximum volume a 3D printer  can print.  Determined by the size of  the build plate, and the x,y,z axis dimensions the extruder can reach.

Build plate (bed)

- a flat surface in with the 3D  printer extrudes the material to build an object.

Build resolution

- is the quality of the 3D print,  smaller movements higher resolution.

Build time

- total time required to complete a  3D print.


- thin plastic sheet that attaches  to the print bed to improve adhesion of the object.  Think of double-sided sticky tape.  It also allows for easy remove of the  object once printed.


- (Computer Aided Design) – is the  generic name for 2D and 3D modeling software.   There are a lot of CAD software applications to choose from.

Calibration cube

- is a small cube design used to  test settings and materials.


- (Computer Aided Manufacturing) –  is the application of software and technology to automate the manufacturing  process.


- (Computer Based Additive  Manufacture) – is a patented printing process designed to produce high  performance composite parts.

Center hole

- is the center hole on a spool of  filament.  Fits on the spool holder.


- (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic)  – is a material with more elasticity and strength, matching that of metal,  but lighter.


- (Continuous Liquid Interface  Process) – is a 3D printing process that creates smooth, solid shaped objects  of resin using photo polymerization.


- is when the extruder is blocked  from free flow of material.

Closed Loop System

- an ensemble of a physical device,  a control and a power driver.  Commands  are sent, then a sensor ensures the commands are carried out.  This process is called a closed loop.


- (Computerized Numerical Control)  – motion-controlled manufacturing using g-code.  Some dispute whether 3D printing is  CNC.  They both operate using g-code  and motion control to produce objects.   The difference is CNC removes material from a block, “Subtractive”  manufacturing.  3D printing adds  material, “Additive” manufacturing.


- is the brains of 3D printers and  controls accuracy, detail, and functionality.


- is the tendency of a 3D printed  object to deform due to continual stress or pressure.


- is a solid that the molecules are  formed in a lattice pattern.


- is the result of resin being  sucked up into a hollow section during 3D printing.


- is the hardening of resin or  photopolymer by a UV light.


- is caused when printed layers  separate because of poor bonding.

Desktop 3D printer

- a 3D printer that is small enough  to sit on your desktop giving it practical application at home.


- is a substance that helps  filament remain dry by absorbing humidity.

Digital fabrication

- is a design and manufacturing  workflow process.  Digital data directs  the manufacture of objects by communication through g-code to a 3D printer or  CNC milling machine.


- is a mixture of citrus oils and  helps dissolve 3D support structures.


- (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) –  a form of 3D printing, that uses a laser to sinter (make solid) a metal  powder into layered cross sections one at a time, ultimately forming a 3D  object.

Drive gear

- is a gear that pushes filament  into the hot end by gripping it.

Dual extruder

- are two extruders on a single  printer, used to print multi-color.


- is the ability of an object to  change shape, yet retain its strength.   Like a wire.


- (Drawing Interchange Format) – is  a CAD data file format that can be shared between different CAD  software.  It was created by Autodesk,  and can also be converted into an STL file.


- (Electronic Beam Melting) – is a  3D printing technology that uses an electronic beam, instead of a C02 laser,  along with conductive metal instead of thermoplastic polymer.

Empty spool weight

- is the weight of an empty  filament spool.  Knowing this weight  helps determine amount of filament used.


- is a sensing device that ensures  3D printing components are in the correct position relative to the work  surface.


- is the component of a 3D printer  that ejects the material (filament or other) forming the layers of an  object.  In the case of filament, it  would heat up and liquify the filament to allow it to flow.

Extrusion / Retraction

- extrusion is the process of  feeding filament into the extruder.   Retraction is the process of retracting filament preventing it from  touching a print while moving.


- (Fused Deposition Modeling) - is  a trade name of FFF, but that are the same form of 3D printing.  See below.


- (Fused Filament Fabrication) - or  called Filament Freeform Fabrication.   This is a form of 3D printing that uses a continuous flow of thermoplastic  filament to form an object.


- is the thermoplastic material  used in the FDM/FFF form of 3D printing.   It comes in long thin strands, have many types with different  properties and generally come in 1.75 mm or 2.85 mm thickness.

Flexible Filament

- TPU is a common flexible filament  and is not as rigid as ABS or PLA filament.


- is a computer language used to  tell machines how to do something like print.   It is the language of 3D printers.


- is when vibrations in the printer  bed cause ripple lines in the printed object.


- (Glow in The Dark) – a type of  filament that glows in the dark.


- is the shine on printed objects.


- is a single layer of graphite  (carbon atoms) arrange in a honey-comb latticework.  It is stronger than steel and most  flexible.  Anticipated it will change  the world of 3D printing.


- (Heated Build Plate) – is a build  plate that is heated to help adhesion and keep the object from moving.


- (High-Density Polyethylene) – is  a type of plastic filament material, often used in place of ABS due to  lighter color and stronger.

Heat bed

- is the platform on which the  printed object is built.  Not all  platforms are heated.  A heat bed  improves the quality of the print by controlling the cooling of the object,  improving the objects adhesion to the bed, and minimizing warping.

Heat break

- is the area just before the hot  end, and keeps the filament cool and from melting before entering the hot  end.

Heater block

- is the component that keeps the  temperature constant while extruding.


- (High Impact Polystyrene) – is a  solution that can dissolve support structures leaving no marks.  


- a 3D object that has no  infill.  Quicker to print, but not as  strong.


- is the process a 3D printer goes  through to bring the extruder into a starting position.  This process occurs before every print.

Hot end

- is the component that melts  filament before it passes through the nozzle.

Hybrid / Multitool 3D Printer

- a hybrid 3D printer can 3D print  and CNC mill.  A multitool 3D printer  can 3D print, CNC mill, laser engrave and extrude paste.  


- is the component that pushes the  filament to the drive gear and into the hotend.


- is the filling inside an empty 3D  object.  In more technical terms it is  a repetitive pattern of material that takes ups space.  Like a honeycomb pattern inside a beehive.  It adds weight and strength to the  object.  Infill can be anywhere from 0%  (hollow) to 100% (solid)


- are cross sectional areas that  are not connected.


- are vibrations when the printer  head changes directions.

Kapton Tape

- is a quality tape that is heat  resistant which is perfect to stick to a heat bed to help with adhesion of  the object during printing.

Layer height

- is the height, usually in  microns, of each 3D layer.


- (Laminated Object Manufacturing)  – a form of 3D printing in which layers of plastic or paper are fused,  laminated together with heat and pressure then cut to shape by laser.

Melt zone

- is the area the filament begins  to melt, part of the hotend.


- is the structural build of a 3D  model.  It is defined by polygon shapes  each with x,y,z axis measurements.

Metal fill

- are filaments that have metal  contents.


- (Multi Jet Fusion) – is an  industrial form of 3D printing, producing functional nylon prototypes.  It belongs to the powder bed fusion family,  and unlike SLS which uses a laser to scan and scinter (solidify), MJF  diffuses an ink fusing agent on the powder allowing absorption by an infrared  light.  


- is the rate at which a 3D printer  will extrude and affects the quality of the print.


- also considered the tip of the  extruder and is made of brass or stainless steel. It controls the flow of the  material.  

Nozzle Diameter

- is the material diameter being  extruded from the nozzle.

Nylon powder

- is a generic term for a family of  synthetic polymers.  It is considered a  thermoplastic.

OBJ file

- is a file format used in 3D  printing or 3D graphics programs.   Similar to a STL file format.


- is a layer that is not lined up  evening on the previous layer.


- fits into the family of raft,  brim or skirt.  It is the first layer  or outer edge of the object and helps with adhesion and warping.


- any part of the 3D object that  hangs over the previous layer and has not support.  The greater the overhang the more difficult  it is to print.


- (Polyamide) – is a nylon polymer  material.  It comes in a filament or  powder.


- (Polycarbonate) – is a material  with strength, durability, and heat resistance.


- (Polyether Ether Ketone) – is a  semi-crystalline thermoplastic responsive to high heat with good mechanical  properties.


- (Polyetherimide) – is an  amorphous thermoplastic, produced in sheets and rod shapes.  PEI has a high mechanical strength.


- is a small bead form of material  rather than strands of filament.

Personal Fabrication

- a process where a personal  computer, digital data and personal 3D printer is all that is needed to  produce a 3D object.  Similar to  digital fabrication.


- (Polyethylene Terephthalate) – a  thermoplastic polymer and very common.


- (Polytetrafluoroethylene) – is  Teflon.


- is a polymer, when exposed to  light, changes from liquid to hardened.


- (Plastic Jet Printing) – is a  form of 3D printing using heat and pressure.   Only thermoplastics are used.

PLA – (Polylactic Acid)

- is a vegetable based  thermoplastic material.  A popular  material in 3D printing as it can be produced very economically.

Polar 3D printer

- is a type of 3D printer that uses  a single arm that moves up and down, while the printer bed rotates.


- is a technology that produces  accurate and smooth objects.


- is a molecular structure of  similar units like synthetics and plastics.

Post processing

- is anything done to a 3D object,  after printing, that improves the appearance.


- is a dry solid compound made up  of very small particles.


- a group of defined parameters  that influence the generation of g-code, improving the quality of 3D prints.

Print head

- is the assembly of components,  including the extruder, and nozzle that extrude the material from a 3D  printer.

Print speed

- is measured in mm/s and relates  to the movement of the print head around the build plate.

Print temperature

- is the melting point of material  before it is extruded.

Print volume

- is the maxim print dimensions of  a 3D printer.


- is an early sample of a digital  object.


- (Polytetrafluoroethylene) – is a  common material used in tubes that guide filament toward the extruder.  You might know it as Teflon.


- (Polyvinyl Acetate) – is a  biodegradable, soft polymer sensitive to water


- a horizontal layer of filament  which the 3D object is printed on rather than directly on the build  platform.  Helps with adhesion and  warping.

Rapid Prototyping

- is a term describing the process  of quickly fabricating an actual sample of a physical part.  It is done through 3D modeling using a CAD  program then printing it using a 3D printer.


- is a machine that can duplicate  or replicate itself by printing its own parts.  

Resin printing

- is a form of 3D printing that  converts resin into a polymer by exposing it to UV light.


- is the process of withdrawing  filament, to avoid clogging during nonprinting periods.


- is a device that, through contact  or noncontact, gathers the physical properties of an object to create a  digital model.  


- is the structure of filament,  which is important to prevent jams.


- is the outer perimeter walls of a  3D print.


- fuse or solidify a powder with  heat.


- is an initial layer of material  laid down around, but apart from the base of the 3D print.  To ensure nozzle is clean.

SLA (or SL)

- (Stereolithography) – is a form  of 3D printing that uses a photopolymer like liquid resin.  Layers are formed by curing the resin with  focused light or UV light.


- is a single layer of a 3D printed  object, thickness may vary based on settings.


- is a computer software that  converts a 3D model into slices readable (g-code) by a 3D printer.


- (Selective Laser Sintering) – is  a form of 3D printing that uses a powder material (nylon) then uses a laser  to sinter (harden or bind) a layer at a time.


- (Subtractive Manufacturing) – is  the traditional form of manufacturing which removes or subtracts material from  an existing block to produce an object.


- is a component that holds  filament.

Spool winder

- is a machine that assists in the  winding of filament to the spool.


- (Stereolithography) – is a  standard file format for CAD software.   3D models are saved as STL file types.


- is a measurement of the stress or  deformation compared to the original measurement.


- is the amount of force an object  can endure without breaking.


- is left over material as a  printer head moves to a new location.


- are printed parts used to support  other parts of a 3D object as it is printing, like overhangs or angles.  Supports must be removed once printing is  finished.

Surface finish

- is the quality of the texture on  the surface, roughness vs smoothness.


- is the area that stores the resin  before being cured.

Temperature differential

- is the difference, between 2  points, in temperature.  Helps in reducing  warping.

Texture Map

- defines the texture (color,  gloss, reflective and texture) of a digital image. Texture mapping is  applying the texture map to the digital image.  It makes a digital image look realistic and  helps define shapes.


- is a temperature resister just  above the nozzle and provides feedback to the controller about maintaining  proper temperature.


- is a plastic material that  becomes pliable as heat is applied and then hardens as it cools.

Tool head

- is a tool or framework that holds  the printing head (the extruder).  The  head could be a single extruder, multi extruder, cnc head.


- (Terephthalic Acid)


- (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) – is  an elastic polymer, a flexible filament typically used on FDM 3D printers.


- a part that cannot be reproduced  by a 3D printer.  Common terminology  with RepRap.


- is the equivalent to a pixel in  photography, and represents volume in a 3-dimensional area.

Wall thickness

- is the minimum thickness required  to support a model.


- is the term used to describe a  print that cools to quickly and curves up on the edges.


- is the removal of excess material  from a 3D print such as supports, rafts, brims, etc.

Wood fill

- is a type of filament containing  an amount of wood.


- is the horizontal left to right  movement.


- is the horizontal front to back  movement.


- is the vertical up and down  movement.

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The 3D Printing Spot Dictionary


William Stone

William Stone

William has spent 20 plus years in the custom manufacturing industry as a COO, CEO and Owner of various custom product businesses. His experience has exposed him to all types of manufacturing from die cast, die struck, injection molding, CNC machining, laser etching, engraving and of course 3D printing.

Learn more about William Stone

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