3D Printing Glossary


When looking for the best 3D printer, you will most likely come across some rather unfamiliar terms. Here we explain the most important of them.

  • ABS: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, known as ABS, is a thermoplastic that is often used as a material, or ‘filament’, for FDM 3D printers. This material is quite stable, but unfortunately not always easy to get to grips with (and when it melts it emits not entirely harmless fumes).
  • Heated print bed This is a building plate that can be heated, so that the extruded plastic does not cool down as quickly and material distortion and undesirable warpage can be avoided. A heated print bed is practically indispensable when working with ABS or PETG filaments. With PLA it is not necessary.
  • Bowden: With this technology, the motor is not located near the hotend, but usually on the frame of the printer or on the housing of the x-axis. With the help of the so-called Bowden cable and the corresponding mechanics, it is possible that the wire rope can move freely within the narrow hoses. The Bowden extruder guides the filament through a PTFE hose directly to the hotend.
  • Direct Drive: With the other common type of extruder, the direct drive extruder, the motor and the associated conveyor mechanism are mounted directly on the hot end, ie there is hardly any distance between the filament and the melting zone on the hot end.
  • Double extrusion : Some 3D printers are equipped with two extruders / hotends, which means that different colors or materials can be used on one and the same printed object. It is of course a nice option to do a decorative two-color print, but the real benefit of double extrusion is the ability to combine different materials such as dissolvable support structures to be able to print geometric objects that would otherwise not be possible.
  • Extruder: Some use it to refer to the entire system of parts that melt the filament and transport it to the print head. The term extruder can also refer specifically to the motor and the associated parts that transport the filament and feed it into the hotend. Depending on how the extruder is arranged, this can affect the printer and its performance. There are two common technologies: Bowden extruders and direct drive extruders
  • FDM: Fused deposition modeling or FDM, is a 3D printing process in which heated and liquid thermoplastic is extruded through a computer-controlled printer nozzle and a component is produced layer by layer. Since the term FDM is protected by copyright, the open source community has invented the alternative term “fused filament fabrication” (FFF), but it means the same thing.
  • Filament: Filament is the starting material with which 3D printed objects are produced using melt layering (FDM). Filament is usually made of a thermoplastic (like ABS or PLA) that is fed into the printhead as a hard material, then heated and melted, and finally extruded through the pusher nozzle. Filament is usually rolled on a spool with a diameter between 1.75 mm and 3 mm.
  • G-Code: The G-Code contains the information that explains to your 3D printer how it materializes the model, i.e. how it prints it layer by layer. Usually this is generated almost exclusively by the software and not written by hand. G-codes contain information about speed, motion sequence, rotation, wall thickness and other critical elements of the printing process.
  • Hot end: This is the heated nozzle through which the melted plastic filament is extruded on an FDM / FFF printer.
  • Micron : a thousandth of a millimeter. Usually used to indicate accuracy, resolution, or surface finish.
  • MSLA: The term “Masked” Stereolithography Process (MSLA) was coined by Structo and popularized by Prusa Research. It refers to a resin printing technology that uses UV LEDs that illuminate the resin through a masked LCD screen to cure it. The entire layer is “masked” on the LCD screen, blocking the UV light for the areas that do not need to be cured.
  • Open Source: The term refers to a project, usually software or hardware, that is accessible to everyone free of charge and that can be changed and passed on as required. 3D printing probably offers users a wide range of possibilities for changes, improvements and participation in new things in exchange with others. Open source licenses regulate the fair and correct handling of open source projects and define the terms and conditions to ensure the free use of the projects and possible derivatives.
  • PLA: Polylactide, PLA for short, is a biodegradable plastic that is used as a filament for FDM / FFF printers. This material is easier to work with than ABS because PLA doesn’t warp as easily when it cools and doesn’t emit toxic fumes when it melts. However, it is also more fragile and less stable than ABS.
  • Resin: Material that is used for SLA, DLP and MSLA (LCD) 3D printers in the desktop area. The resin consists of a chemical mixture including a photoinitiator and cures with UV light – usually with a wavelength of around 405 nm for desktop 3D printing. Resin is extremely hazardous to health and dirt is difficult to remove. Therefore care and attention are required when working with resin. It is not pleasant and the waste must be disposed of in accordance with the prescribed laws. The prints are great though.
  • RepRap: A project launched in 2005 by Dr. Adrian Bowyer, a professor of mechanical engineering at Bath University. RepRap was developed with the aim of producing a self-replicating fast prototype: an inexpensive machine capable of producing its own spare parts or new machines. The vast majority of desktop 3D printers as we know them today are based on the RepRap project. There is a fascinating alternative RepRap wiki page if you want to dive deeper into the topic.
  • SLA: Stereolithography is a 3D printing technology that uses the process of resinization to create objects. Components are produced in layers using the stereolithographic apparatus, or SLA for short. It is the task of a laser to produce the component layer by layer from a container with light-curing material.
  • Slicer: In 3D printing, an object is produced layer by layer. With slicer software, a 3D model is prepared for 3D printing, i.e. it is divided into a number of layers and a printing sequence is determined. After successful optimization with a slicer software, you will receive the G-Code, which contains information about the process, speed, printing temperature and other details of the printing process. Slicer software comes in both proprietary and open source programs, and they are a crucial tool for successful 3D printing.
  • SLS: Selective Laser Sintering, or SLS, is a 3D printing technology that is mainly used for metal. SLS is a powder bed fusion 3D printing technique in which the granulate from successive layers of powder is selectively melted or sintered together using a laser.
  • STL : STL is the most common file format for 3D printing. The STL file format represents a 3D object by describing the surface using a series of triangles (triangulation). Oddly enough, the meaning of the acronym STL has been lost over time. Backronymes like “Standard Tessellation Language” and “Standard Triangle Language” are posited as the answer.want t

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