3D Printing Terms (Terminology)

Every beginning is difficult. Especially when you start the new hobby of 3D printing and read the first tips from (supposed) experts, you quickly stumble upon statements such as: “ How much extraction does my E3D V6 need? “Or” What baud rate does my CH340 need on COM3? “. This is confusing – we know it ;-). Therefore you will find the most important terms in one place here. Detailed terms are linked.

Note: this lexicon will be added to. Are you missing an important term? Write it in the comments!

ABS (filament)

ABS stands for  acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and is, after PLA, the most popular filament material. The ABS filament rolls are mostly 1.75mm, but also 3.0mm in diameter.

ABS requires higher printing temperatures than PLA, for example. The hotbed should be at least 100 ° C, the nozzle at least 220 degrees.

ABS prints are harder and therefore more resistant. Abrasion and scratches are better avoided. ABS is therefore mainly used for moving components. However, ABS should not be used for 3D prints that could come into contact with food.

ABS is widely used in toys  .


Especially as a beginner, you may always confuse the axis names. What else was the Y-axis? On our picture you will find the corresponding axes noted.

3D Printing Terms (Terminology) 1
3D printer axes: X, Y, Z


Acetone is actually used as a cleaning agent, but it is used in the 3D printing community to smooth surfaces. After printing, the object is placed in an acetone steam bath for a short time (the acetone can be heated and ventilated) and the individual layers disappear. This procedure is especially recommended when using support structures.

Watch this YouTube video to learn more:

Care should always be taken when using it , as it has a low boiling point, forms explosive mixtures with the air and also emits toxic fumes. This is why the steam bath must be in a closed system (e.g. a pot).

Additive process

With this printing technique, the prints are created layer by layer . A filament in the form of a powder, a liquid or a polymer on a spool serves as the basic substance.

The opposite is the subtractive process.

Baud rate)

The BAUD rate indicates how many bits per second are sent to the 3D printer . Many 3D printers require the CH340 or CH341 driver, which occupies the COM3 port. In the system settings, in Windows the device manager, a BAUD rate of 115200 should be selected.

Important: most 3D printers need a BAUD rate of 115200 bits per second

The BAUD rate is of course only relevant if you do not print directly from the microSD card, but use Octoprint, for example.

Bowden (extruder)

With the Bowden extruder, the stepper motor for the filament feed of the hot end is located on the frame and feeds the filament over 10-30cm through a tube. Advantage: the weight of the printhead is reduced enormously and the printing speed can be increased. Disadvantage: Not all filament types can be printed and configuration is more difficult. More on this in our direct vs. Bowden extruder comparison .


CAD is the abbreviation for computer-aided design and, in the case of 3D printing, describes software that is able to create and modify three-dimensional objects. On the basis of the information, these are then sliced, for example for a 3D printer, and printed out. In addition to 3D printing, it serves as an important tool for numerous industries – from the automotive industry to textile design to cartoons.

COM (port)

A COM port is a serial interface that used to (!) Be used to connect peripheral devices such as a printer, scanner or mouse to a computer. Many of the 3D printer boards simulate a COM port and require a special driver for this. This is usually included on a microSD for Windows and Mac. The number of COM ports is numbered consecutively and the number of each connection is added afterwards – for example COM3.


CURA is slicing software that comes from Ultimaker. Further programs and all information about slicers can be found in the corresponding section.


DIY ( Do-it-Yourself ) is probably known as an abbreviation from the hobby world. In the 3D world, this means that the 3D printer is supplied as a kit, i.e. that it has to be set up completely independently . Depending on your previous knowledge, this can take up to 6 hours. There are also “semi-DIY” 3D printer kits. With these you often only have to screw brackets or the Z-axis onto the substructure.

However, DIY also stands for a whole way of building. Electronic components from other devices are often misused or reused in 3D printers in order to keep costs down.

The print quality of DIY printers is usually a little lower, but they offer a cost-effective entry point and a good overview of the structure and functionality of a 3D printer.

Dual extruder

The printhead of a 3D printer uses an extruder. Usually (over 90%) only one extruder is used, but if you want to print in two colors, for example, you need two extruders, i.e. a dual extruder. The dual extruder is basically nothing more than another extruder suspended in parallel, but of course it requires the appropriate configuration and, above all, a suitable board.

3D Printing Terms (Terminology) 2
The popular MK8 as a dual extruder – here from GEEETECH (known from Prusa i3 Clones)

It is true that you can also print in multiple colors with an extruder, but then you have to pause the printing process, which costs time and can lead to poor transitions or even incorrect prints.

By the way: you can also print two different materials. For example, a water-soluble support structure and the actual object made of PLA. The structure “dissolves” as if by magic.

There are even now 3D printers with three or more extruders!

The usual unit for printing speed is mm / s . Depending on the type of extruder (see Bowden vs. direct extruder ), speeds of 50-90mm / s are possible. The higher the printing speed, the faster, logically, the print object is finished. Nevertheless: the faster you print, the worse the printed image can be. Here it is important to find the best compromise between speed, layer height, acceleration and extruder type.

Straight lines can be printed very quickly, curves and edges take more time.

Epoxy resin

Liquid epoxy resin is used as a resin in stereolithography. Depending on its composition, it can have different properties. In general, it has a very high degree of hardness with low flexibility, excellent weather resistance and impact resistance. It is therefore also suitable, for example, for the construction of prototypes and components that are exposed to extremely high mechanical loads.

Many RC hobby pilots are certainly familiar with epoxy resin as an adhesive.


The extruder is one of the crucial components of any 3D printer. It originally referred to the nozzle from which the filament is ejected and applied in the different layers. The diameter essentially determines the fineness of the print. Today, extruders take on several tasks at once – they heat the filament, guide it to its destination and ensure that it is delivered precisely.

Feed rate

The feed rate is the speed of movement on all four axes. A high feed rate enables fast printing, but can affect the precision. For this reason, lower values ​​should be preferred if sufficient time is available.


The filament is the material from which a 3D print is made. It is usually a plastic polymer (PLA, ABS, PETG, etc.) that is melted at high temperatures (150-250 degrees). It is usually rolled up on a spool and fed to the extruder via a simple mechanism. The filament essentially determines the properties of the print.

Make sure that your filament is always stored dry and out of direct sunlight . Otherwise, the filament will become brittle and your 3D printing will fail.

There are currently attempts to print with granulate, but this does not look very promising at the moment.

Flow rate

The amount of filament dispensed that an extruder ejects is called the flow rate. It depends on various factors – for example the diameter of the nozzle, the speed of the feed and the temperature at which the filament is processed.

The flow rate can be adjusted in the slicer, but with most 3D printers also during printing. Subsequent adjustments are also possible via web interfaces such as Octoprint (if, for example, areas are filled in too little or too much).

FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling)

Almost all 3D printers for private use use the FDM process. In this case, the filament is unrolled from a spool, heated in the extruder and then applied precisely. A disadvantage is that the layer thickness can usually be seen even with the naked eye. Even a layer height of 0.06mm is recognizable!

FFM (Fused Filament Fabrication)

FFM is an alternative term to FDM, as this name is legally protected as a trademark of Stratasys Inc. From a technical point of view, however, it is the same process with identical materials. The name FFM is often used with DIY printers to prevent legal disputes from occurring.

G code

The G-code is almost exclusively generated automatically by slicers and contains control information for a 3D printer. The object specifications serve as a basis, but also, for example, the layer height, printing speeds or infill rate.

G-Code is a DIN standard that was originally developed for machines such as milling tools. In addition to the standard set, however, individual commands can also be transmitted that only certain machines can interpret.

G-Code can be opened and changed with a normal text editor, which is helpful, for example, for a failed print that you want to resume.

Heating bed / hotbed

The heating bed is the area on which the object is printed. In order to increase the adhesion or to enable printing with certain filaments at all (e.g. ABS or PETG), the bed must be heated.

Cheap 3D printers have a print bed, but this cannot be heated. The hotbed consumes a lot of electricity, so that it can be switched off (automatically) after a sufficient pressure height. It must be reached 40-120 degrees! Not every printer model can do this.

In the meantime, a pane of glass is often clamped onto the hotbed so that the underside of the print is also mirror-smooth. If a glass plate is used, it should be heated permanently. After the end of the pressure, this cools down and the workpiece “jumps” off.

Hot end

The hot end – often also written together as a hot end – is a fixed component of an extruder and stands for the area in which the filament is heated up to melting temperature. This includes the nozzle (or nozzle), the temperature sensor and the heating block (usually aluminum block and heating cartridge).

Depending on the material, the temperatures are usually between 150 ° and 250 ° Celsius.


HIPS is another plastic and the abbreviation for High Impact Polysterene . It is chemically similar to Styrofoam and has high impact resistance and temperature resistance. It is widely used for prints that come in contact with food.


In order to increase the stability and resilience of an object, cavities are usually also filled with filament, even if this cannot be seen from the outside. The more infill that is used, the heavier the print. Of course, the duration and material consumption also increase accordingly.

The amount of infill can be easily adjusted in all good slicers. Usual values ​​are in the range from 5 percent to 30 percent. Objects that are under high mechanical stress receive correspondingly more infill. In addition, you can usually choose the infill pattern – that is, the pattern with which the infill should be printed.

3D Printing Terms (Terminology) 3
Recommended infill patterns from Cura

There are different patterns depending on the slicer. We recommend classic diamond or honeycomb patterns. These are very stable and enable high printing speeds.

3D Printing Terms (Terminology) 4
More infill paterns at Cura

Don’t worry: the slicer decides independently when and how thick the infill should be printed into the cavities, depending on the set wall thickness.


Lasers are used in various areas. In addition to measuring using a 3D scanner , they are used, for example, to harden resins in stereolithography. Very advanced printers also use powerful lasers to cut materials.

For example, we have extensively tested the NEJE DK-8-KZ laser engraving machine . This is similar in structure to a 3D printer, but the height axis is missing.

Layerheight (layer thickness / layer thickness)

The layer thickness is the height of each level of the applied material. Depending on the manufacturing process, it varies between approximately 0.05 millimeters for stereolithography and 0.15 to 0.3 millimeters for fused deposition modeling with filaments. A low layer thickness increases the printing time, as this means that more layers have to be applied. Depending on the nozzle, a corresponding multiple must be selected.


This chemical is a terpene, which is found in large quantities in citrus fruit oil, for example. It is used for dissolving support structures made of HIPS.

LOM (Laminated Object Manufacturing)

Unlike most 3D printing processes, the LOM mostly uses paper as a material , although it is suitable for many materials. Different layers are cut out precisely with sharp knives or a laser and glued together . LOM is primarily used in the manufacture of prototypes or models and only rarely in production.


This abbreviation stands for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association . He created a standardization for stepper motors that are often used in 3D printers.


Nozzle is the English term for the nozzle through which the liquid filament is applied. Their diameter determines the fineness and the level of detail of an object. Nozzles usually have a diameter between 0.3 and 1.5 millimeters. Depending on the nozzle size, the filament diameter (3mm or 1.75mm) should be selected.


Nylon has a high flexibility and is therefore suitable for printing elastic objects . However, because of its melting temperature and other properties, such as strong contraction when cooled, it is difficult to process as a filament. For these reasons, printing with cheap 3D printers is not or only moderately supported.

Multi-colored printing

A multicolored print can only be realized by using different filaments . Some 3D printers have several extruders for this , which not only allow different colors but also filament types to be used. Otherwise, multi-stage printing is necessary in which the filament is exchanged for each process step. However, this is very time consuming and requires human intervention. In addition, the G-code must be provided with appropriate pause commands.


Metal as a material

Metal is (still?) Rarely used as a material in 3D printing due to its properties. Individual printers were developed as part of research projects at universities. However, up to now they have only played a very minor role in the free market and are simply too expensive and time-consuming for private use.

Metal as a frame for the 3D printer

Many cheap 3D printers from China “only” have an acrylic frame or housing. This has a negative effect on the printed image, as it is too light and flexible. The jerky movements of the extruder are transmitted as vibrations. There are often upgrade kits or more expensive models often use aluminum profiles.

OBJ files

OBJ is a file format for 3D printing, but also for computer games, for example. In addition to information about the surface, it also stores other details such as color. OBJ files can easily be converted to STL files using Blender, for example.

Open source

Similar to software, construction plans licensed according to open source can be freely changed, used and commercially exploited. In the DIY sector in particular, there are also numerous projects that are available free of charge to programs for controlling printers or editing models.

Note: especially many successful projects change their business model after the first profits and close themselves off from duplication by changing the license model, to the displeasure of the maker community.

PLA (filament)

PLA (Polyactide Acid) is by far the easiest filament to process. The reason: it is hardly flexible and becomes liquid at low printing temperatures of 170 degrees . In addition, no hotbed is required – there is no annoying warping effect!

This is also the reason why all handy 3D printing pens use PLA. Although higher-priced 3D pens also manage ABS, the result doesn’t look so good.

Further advantages of PLA at a glance:

  • low delay
  • color stable, even with prolonged UV exposure
  • biodegradable
  • Can be flexibly formed from 60 degrees
  • relatively odorless

The biggest disadvantage is the resilience. PLA wears out quickly, both at elevated temperatures and under greater force. PLA is recommended as the standard material for most 3D printer bundles and included. We always recommend PLA as a filament, especially for beginners .


Photopolymers are the crucial component of solutions used in stereolithography. These are liquids that harden when exposed to light. Using a laser, it is possible to create objects in a pool filled with resins.

PVA (polyvinyl alcohol)

Of all the support materials, PVA is by far the safest and most comfortable. It is polyvinyl alcohol, which is harmless to health and very soluble in water . After printing, objects with a support structure made of PVA only need to be placed in a water bath until it has completely dissolved. This video shows a nice insight:


Remember: you will of course need a 3D printer with a dual extruder.

Rapid prototyping

Rapid prototyping is used for the rapid production of models or prototypes from digital design data. For a number of years, 3D printing has been the preferred tool for this. Examples are for example:

  • Buildings for architects
  • Furniture designs / interiors
  • Modelling


The RepRap is an open source licensed 3D printer designed by the British engineer Adrian Bowyer. In addition to the open source license, its specialty is its ability to manufacture all of the plastic parts required for construction itself. As a result, the RepRap – an abbreviation for Peplicating Rapid Prototyper – is theoretically able to reproduce. The most famous models are:

The Prusa i3 in particular is often used as the basis for China 3D printers. The Anet A8 , but also the Anet A6, is a Prusa i3 clone.


The retraction value indicates by how much the 3D printer should retract the filament during movement (without pressure), ie when covering the distances between the printing surfaces. If the filament was not pulled back, it would continue to push through the nozzle and thin threads would be created between the 3D-printed layers – the so-called “stringing”.

The retraction factor is very important, especially with Bowden extruders, as the filament between the nozzle and stepper builds up considerably more pressure than with a direct extruder. Therefore, a great deal of attention should be paid to the configuration here.

You can clearly see how the stepper guides the filament to the nozzle, but rotates in the other direction to pull the filament back during the movement.


Stereolithography (SLA): In stereo lithography, the object is hardened by means of a laser beam in a liquid in which resins react to light. The selection of different polymers enables different material properties. Because of the high acquisition and operating costs, stereolithography is (still!) Used almost exclusively commercially. However, companies like Formlabs enter the end-user market after lengthy legal disputes (due to patents).

This technology may prevail over additive printing techniques. We are excited!

Slicer / slicer

With so-called slicing, a digital 3D model is broken down or “cut” into individual horizontal layers. Depending on the printer configuration, the slicer software creates the individual layers and prints them at the desired speed. These individual layers are saved as machine code GCODE by the slicer software and are then read in by the 3D printer. The currently most popular slicer programs are:

  • Cura (is often included on the microSD cards of China 3D printers – from Ultimaker)
  • Repeater
  • Simplify3D
  • Slic3r
  • ( Octoprint )

Heated debates regularly break out about the aforementioned slicers as to which is the best. We always recommend Cura for beginners, if you want to think outside the box later and possibly discover one or the other new configuration option, Simplify3D or Slic3r is a good tip. Octoprint, as a web service, can also slice STL files and export them as GCODE or print them directly.


Both abbreviations denote a similar process – Selective Laser Melting or Selective Laser-Sintering. The procedure is similar to stereolithography. However, with SLS a powdery material is melted by a laser and modeled layer by layer to form the finished object.

STL files

STL is a file format that was originally developed for stereolithography and has since become the standard in 3D printing . It contains all the necessary spatial information. For this purpose, the Standard Tesselation Language (STL) divides objects into large polygons, the coordinates of which indicate the areas to be printed.

All major 3D printing platforms, such as Thingiverse.com, offer the STL download. Each slicer can import at least STL files and slice them to GCODE. As an STL alternative, OBJ files are becoming increasingly popular because they also contain color values.

Support / support structures

With 3D printing, certain shapes such as overhangs can only be realized if they are held by a support structure before they cool down, otherwise the printer would print in the air. Typical examples of overhangs are:

  • In humans: noses, chins, arms or ears
  • For objects: right angles (doors, windows, etc.)

The support can either be made of the same material as the object or, in the case of printers with dual extruders, of easily removable plastics such as PVA. This has the advantage that the structures do not have to be broken out, which can lead to damage in the case of poorly configured printers. In addition, the removal of complex prints (skulls) is often not possible. The better the printer is configured, the fewer support structures are required!


The viscosity or viscosity of the filament is decisive for an optimal result. If the heated filament is too thin, it can run. If it is too tough, the layers can be seen more clearly and under certain circumstances the nozzle can clog. The viscosity is influenced by the temperature, feed rate, flow rate and pressure speed.

Warp effect

The warp effect or warping is caused by different tensions in the interior of the printing material , which among other things cause uneven cooling. This deforms the component and leads to bulges or distortions on the object. Most of the time , the print object comes off the heatbed at the corners .

The warp effect occurs particularly frequently with ABS and HIPS filaments . Some measures to avoid this are a heating bed (with correspondingly high temperatures with ABS or HIPS, for example), reducing the infill or coating the heating bed with an adhesive substance.

The right temperature difference between hotend and hotbed , the right level and the right surface are also important. The rougher (e.g. masking tape) the hotbed is, the better the object will adhere. If you print on glass, adhesive spray, for example, can help. Another option is to use enough brim to increase adhesion.

Are you missing an important term? Then tell us about it in the comments!

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