Top 20+ Basic 3D Printing Terms

3d printing terms

Have you ever felt completely lost when reading a post about 3D printing with certain 3D printing terms? Well! Trust me, you aren’t alone! When I first got into 3D Printing, I would turn to the Facebook Groups for help. Sometimes, they would give me solutions, but it’s just that I have no clue what they are talking about. Man! Was it frustrating. I’d spend hours searching for those 3D printing terms online.


But I figured one shouldn’t waste time in searching for it. So here I am with a glossary of 20+ of the basic 3D Printing Terms you need to know.

Table of Contents

Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is the technical term for 3D printing. As the name suggests, it is the process of stacking layers of materials consecutively to form a 3D object.

Simply put, Bed Adhesion is the how well the printed material sticks to the print bed. This is crucial because, if it doesn’t stick properly, then some sections of the initial layers starts to rise from the bed that could result in warped layers that could potentially ruin the prints. There are ways to tackle this issue, one of which is to activate brims or rafts (we’ll learn about these later in the article).

3d printing terms
3d printing terms

Bed Leveling

Bed leveling could be considered as one of the most frustrating task when it comes to FDM 3D Printing, but it is also one of the most important aspects in order to get a successful 3D print. It basically means that, the 3D Printer’s nozzle is equidistant from the build plate at all points.

The most common methods of bed leveling is by manually adjusting the knobs under the bed. I recommend watching the Bed Leveling tutorial by Michael from Teaching Tech.

Bridging

Bridging is the 3D printing terms used to determine the ability of your 3D Printer to extrude plastic between two raised points without any support structures below them. The process sounds quite simple, the plastic is extruded from the nozzle as it moves to the next point instantly solidifying it with the help of the layer cooling fan.

Build Plate/Platform

Build platform is where the actual magic happens. This is the horizontal platform where the prints stick to while printing. There are various types of build plates available like glass, textured magnetic flexible build plates and more.

3d printing terms

Bowden Extruder and Direct Drive Extruder

Bowden Extruder setup is one of the setups majorly seen in FDM printers. This setup consists of a Bowden tube, usually made of PTFE material, which serves as the path for the filament from the extruder setup to the hot-end. The other extruder setup in an FDM printer is the Direct Drive where the extruder and the hot-end are attached.

3d printing terms

Direct Drive Extruder                                                                                    Bowden Extruder

Elephant's foot

This issue is associated with FDM printers wherein the initial layers are squished too much causing them to be wider than expected. Mostly this could be the result of the nozzle trying to stick the print to the print bed.

3d printing terms

Endstop

Also known as Limit switches, Endstops act as a reference to the 3 dimensional space within which the printer operates. When all the 3 endstops are activated, it is considered as the (0, 0, 0) reference point in a cartesian space.

Although there are different types of Endstops available on an FDM 3D Printer, mechanical endstops are the most common.

3d printing terms
3d printing terms

Extruder

One part that is common to any type of FDM/FFF 3D Printer out there is the extruder. This setup is responsible for pushing the right amount of filament through the nozzle and retracting it when necessary. It generally consists of 3 major parts:

Extruder Motor

Extruder motor is a stepper motor that has a gear attached to its shaft and accompanied by a roller pushes/retracts the filament towards the hot-end.

3d printing terms

Hot-end

The hot-end assembly includes a heated chamber through which the filament passes through and melts.

3d printing terms

Nozzle

Nozzle is a mechanical component that determines the resolution of the printed parts. The smaller the inner diameter of the nozzle, smaller are the layer lines.

3d printing terms
3d printing terms

FFF Profiles

FFF profiles provide pre-configured settings for your FDM printer. Chuck from CHEP has a good collection of FFF profiles for Cura and PrusaSlicer.

Gantry

Gantry in 3D Printing refers to the physical structure that supports the printer head along the XY axis as it moves around to print the model.

3d printing terms

G-Code

3D Printers cannot print if you just upload the 3D Model directly. It needs a set of commands (known as the G-Code) that instructs the printer to move the print head, the print bed and the extruder in certain directions so the extruded filament can take the shape of the print model.

3d printing terms

This 3D printing terms is quite interesting and worth exploring more about. It so rarely happens that a model is 3D printed completely solid or completely hollow. In most cases, the inside of the model is filled partially with the printing filament. 2 main aspects of Infills that affect certain mechanical properties of the model such as strength and flexibility are the Infill pattern and Infill density:

Infill Pattern

Infill pattern signifies the shape and the structure of the infill. Different slicing software have a different set of infill patterns.

3d printing terms

Infill density

Density refers to how much of the interior of the model is filled. It ranges from 0% (hollow) to 100% (solid). Usually, 20% infill is used to balance the print time and the amount of material used.

3d printing terms

As you should know by now (if not, what are you even doing here. Just kidding), 3D printing is the deposition of materials layer by layer to form 3 Dimensional objects. Hence, layer height is the height of each layer that ultimately forms the 3D object. As your layer height increases, the resolution of the print decreases.

3d printing terms

Overhang

In FDM 3D printing, each subsequent layer is supported by the previous layer. But in some cases, when the previous layer is not wide enough to support the next layer, that is called an over hang. So basically, when the filament is extruded in thin air, that is called an overhang. This is where the support structures come in. These structures supports the over hangs and make them printable.

3d printing terms

Post-processing

A 3D printed object is never perfect, it still has the layer lines (even though in some cases it is not noticeable). There are a lot of processes that the model goes through like sanding, priming and painting to give it the perfect and appealing look.

3d printing terms
3d printing terms

Retraction is the parameter where the filament is retracted into the nozzle when the print head travels in between prints. This helps avoid the filament from oozing onto the prints and ruining its appearance. Each printer has to be configured with different retraction settings in order to get the desired finish.

Retraction settings can be configured in your slicer by varying the retraction speed and distance. Retraction speed manages the speed at which the filament is pulled into the hotend and the retraction distance manages the length of the filament that needs to be pulled into the nozzle before moving.

3d printing terms

The outer perimeter or the outer walls of the 3D print is called the shell. Shell thickness can affect the strength of the 3D print. Increasing the thickness increases the strength of the model. These settings can be changed in the Slicer settings.

3d printing terms

I think everyone in the 3D printing world would agree with me if I said that the quality of the first layer can make or break a print. If these first few layers do not adhere to the bed properly, it may curl up and ruin the structure of the entire print. The 3D printable bed adhesions are are brims and rafts and skirts (to some extent).

Skirts

3D printing skirts is nothing but just an outline of your first layer that is detached from the actual print. Although a 3D printed skirt does not help with adhesion, it can help determine if the bed is level and how the filament is flowing.

3d slicer

Brims

Brims are basically skirts that extend and connect to the printed model. Brims are usually 1 layer in height and offer better adhesion while balancing the amount of material used and the print time.

3d slicer

Rafts

Raft is sacrificial platform on top of which the model is printed. Rafts greatly improves the bed adhesion due to the large surface area, but it also consumes the most material and print time.

3d slicer

As we saw earlier, an FDM 3D Printer requires instructions in the form of G-Code in order to function. So, a slicing software is used in order to convert your 3D model into G-Code. There are many different slicers that you can use, but the most popular ones are Ultimaker Cura, PrusaSlicer and Simplify3D.

3d printing terms

STL

STL (short for stereolithography) is a file format that is generally used to store 3D models. Vast majority of the 3D models available on the Internet is in the form of STL or OBJ (another format to store 3D models) as the slicers are able to work with them.

3d printing terms

When the 3D printer’s print head moves from one point to the next, the filament may sometimes ooze out of the nozzle which then cools down and sticks to the model. This could result in your 3D printed part covered in plastic that looks similar to a spiderweb (sometimes it looks like a spider had been living there for quite sometime).

This can be avoided by configuring the retraction settings and managing the hot end temperatures.

3d printing terms

Supports

Support structures, as mentioned before, help in making overhangs printable. Most of the slicers comes equipped with various Support settings to make the prints efficient, use less materials and optimize the print time.

3d printing terms

Warping

This is one of the common 3D printing terms you will see out there. The initial layers of the prints rises off from the print bed due to the changes in temperatures between layers casing the base to warp. A few of the usual solutions to this include activating a brim/raft, controlling the ambient temperature to avoid fluctuations, or using adhesives like glue or hairspray on the print bed.

3d printing terms

I know that some of the 3D printing terms can be a little technical, but trust me, you will get the hang of it as you print. Make sure to check out the Top 10 Basic 3D Slicer Settings you need to familiarize

If you have further questions about any 3D printing terms, Click here and book a meeting with me, I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

Now that you are familiar with the basic 3D printing terms, here’s a Beginner’s Guide to 3D Printing, hope it’ll be helpfl in your journey.