3D Printing Glossary

3D printing is an upcoming technology.  It uses lots of terminology which confuses readers. Here is our attempt to explain the terminologies in a concise manner. We continue to add new terminologies to this list as and when we come across. If you know of some words pertaining to 3D printing that we didn’t cover below, please do send us an e-mail at info(at)think3d(dot)in


3DP – 3D Printing


ABS – Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

AM – Additive Manufacturing

Accuracy – Measurement of derivation from CAD model

Additive Manufacturing – The process of creating three dimensional objects from computer models.

Additive Metal Manufacturing – A 3D printing process that makes metal objects in layers but is often referred to as the process used for binding powered metal together.

Alumide – It is a mixture of Aluminum and plastic powder that is used to produce objects that have a metallic look but at a price which is lower than the cost of pure metal.

Aureus – It is the perfect 3D printer for the small to medium jewelry company that is looking towards making customized jewelry with an unbeatable price to performance ratio.


Bed – The build plate of the 3D Printer on which parts are actually made

Belt – It is a non stretchy drive belt that is normally used for transferring rotational movements between the motor and other parts of the 3D printer.

Biopolymer – Biopolymers are materials made out of natural source. PLA is a Biopolymer

BPM – Ballistic Particle Manufacturing

Binder Jetting – Inkjet style technology which jets liquid onto the powdered material in order to bind it together and build up an object in layers

Bio-Ink – These are basically live cells that are cultured so that they can be used as materials in a bioprinter.

Bioprinter – A 3D printer that uses Bio-Ink in order to 3D print living tissues.

Biomimicry – It is the study of forms and processes found in nature with the idea to imitate them or take inspiration from them and apply them to design some new technology.

Breakaway Support Technology (BST) – They are basically supports that are giving during the printing process so that no slopping and overhanging of parts take place during the printing process.

Build Envelope – It is the measurement dimensions of a 3D printer which determines the maximum physical size of the object that is being printed.

Build- Platform – The part that supports the plate

Build Plate – The surface on which the 3D model is formed.


CAD / CAM – Computer-aided design / Computer-aided Manufacturing

CAE – Computer-aided engineering

CNC – Computer Numerical Control

Concept Model – A physical model that demonstrates the final product but lacks in details, texture and functionality.

Cube – It is a range of thermoplastic extrusion 3D printers which are produced by 3D Systems.

Cubify – It is a website that is run by 3D Systems. The website is principally made for Cube printers. The website not only sells printers but also provides 3D printing services and sells a wide range of objects and provides support to the people who own a Cube 3D printer.

Curing – The process of hardening a liquid or other material to produce it’s final form.


DDM – Direct Digital Manufacturing

Digital Dental Printer (DDP): It is an easy to maintain and user friendly 3D Dental printer that is used in the digital dental laboratory.

Directed Energy Deposition: It is a similar process at that of the DMLS but metal powder is deposited from a print head before fusing them together with a laser. This process is helpful in the process of manufacturing as well as repairing of objects.

Dual Extrusion: The ability to print in two colors at once. The 3D printer has two extrusions each feeding its spool of plastic filament and depositing on the build plate.

DLP – Digital Light Processing

DMD – Direct Metal Deposition

DMLS – Direct Metal Laser Sintering

Drop On Demand (DOD): It is a material extrusion process that is used to make molds and patterns for special casting material.


EBM – Electron Beam Melting

EDU: 3D printers that are designed specifically for clients in the field of education.

Endstop – The inital point / reference point from which the axis should start when starting a print or should reach to when the print is completed.

Enhanced Resolution Module (ERM): It is a module that doubles the resolution.

Extrude: The process by which the melted build material is pushed out in order to build a 3D object as it cools and solidifies.

Extruder – A group of parts which handles feeding and extruding of build material. Consists of two assemblies: a cold end to feed the thermoplastic and hot end that melts and extrudes the thermoplastic


FDM – Fused Deposition Modelling (Trademark of Stratasys)

FFF – Freeform Fabrication (or) Fused Filament Fabrication


G-code – The information sent from PC to CNC machines is in the form of G-code.

Granular Materials Binding – Binding together of powders in order to build up a 3D object in layers.


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

HIPS – High Impact Polystyrene, a thermoplastic used as a 3D printing material

Hot End – The heated nozzle portion of the extruder mechanism

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


i.materialise: It is an online service that allows its users to sell, upload and print 3D designs. It is owned by Materialise.

Infill: It is the interior structure of a 3D printed model. Instead of printing a solid 3D printed object which is actually waste of plastic and is also expensive than the hollow one. In the 3D print setting it is represented by percentage.


Kapton Tape – Heat-resistant polyimide adhesive tape. Used to secure the heating element to the extruder barrel.


Laser Cusing – It is a process by which a homogenous material structure is formed. A high powered laser is positioned very close to the bed of metal.

Low-Temperature Deposition Modeling (LDM) – A thermal extrusion technology that uses low temperatures. This has uses in human tissue engineering.

LENS – Laser Engineering Net-Shaping (Trademark of SNL, licensed to Optomec)

Layer Height: The thickness of a layer in the 3D printed object.

LOM – Laminated Object Manufacturing

Laser Powder Forming (LPF): It is a 3D printing process which can be used to repair or add volume to pre-existing metal objects, as well as manufacture new objects.

LS – Laser Sintering

Laywood 3D: It is a composition if wooden fibers mixed with a polymer used to print wooden objects.


Makerware: Free software designed by MakerBot that prepares the 3D digital model for printing and sends the file to the printer for printing.

Material Extrusion – Any technology which extrudes a material to build up an object. Examples would be thermoplastics which are heated first using an element.

Mesh: The surface area of a 3D digital model. This is typically represented by a series of triangles. The smaller the triangles the finer the print.

Material Jetting: Any technology that build an object by jetting photopolymer through a print head before solidifying it with a UV light.

Multiphase Jet Solidification (MJS) – Ceramic or metal powder is mixed with binder and extruded to build 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.

Mini Multi Lens: It is a 3D printer that has a choice of interchangeable lens.

Monomer: It is a molecule that can form larger polymer molecule by forming bonds with other monomer molecule.


NEMA – Meant to refer a specific size of stepper motor

Nichrome – An alloy of nickel and chromium. Nichrome wire is used as a heating element in many extruder barrels and some heated bed designs.

Nozzle: The part of the extruder that deposits the melted plastic material.

Nylon – Nylon or polyamide is an engineering grade thermal plastic used in extruder based and laser sintering systems.


OBJ – Short form for Object File. It is an alternative to STL format

Objet: An Israeli company that invented and made PolyJet Matrix for commercial use and later merged with Stratasys.

Organovo: It is one of the well known bioprinting companies in the world that is working on creating human tissues and transplantable human organs.

Otoflash: It is a light polymzed chamber for hardening of light curing resins typically in the case of jewelry, dental and otoplastic applications.

Overhang: A part of the 3D model where there is no support below it. The parts of the printer that juts out at an angel of 45 degrees.


Parametric: they are basically 3D models that are very flexible and can be resized in all directions.

Pattern: The master version of an object that is used for making molds.

Powder Bed Fusion: It is a process by which selectively adheres powder together in order to build a 3D object.

Photopolymer: They are plastic resins that change their properties when they are exposed to sunlight.

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

PolyJet: PolyJet 3D printing technology is a powerful additive manufacturing method patented by Stratasys.

PolyJet Matrix: It’s a technology that mixes polymers together during the creation of an object.

Plastic Jet Printing (PJP) – Another name for thermoplastic extrusion or fused deposition modeling which is a term used by 3D systems.

PLA – Polylactic Acid

PTFE – A slippery thermoplastic often used as a barrel in the extruder to minimize friction with the filament

PVA – Polyvinyl Alcohol


Raft – A technique used to prevent warping. Raft is rarely used with heated build surfaces

RE – Reverse Engineering

REPRAP – Replicating Rapid Prototyper

Resolution: The minimum feature size that can be expected to be produced from the printer.

RM – Rapid Manufacturing

RP – Rapid Prototyping

RT – Rapid Tooling


SDL – Selective Deposition Lamination

Selective Heat Sintering (SHS): It is a process which is similar to the selective laser sintering process which was created by a company named BluePrint. It uses a thermal print head instead of a laser head.

Selective Laser Sintering: It is an additive manufacturing process that fuses photosensitive powder materials layer by layer with the help of a laser to form soild objects.

SGC – Solid Ground Curing

Shapeways: An online company that provides 3D printing services and allows users to share their design online.

SketchUp: A CAD design software which is available in both free and paid versions.

SL – Stereolithography

SLA – Stereolithography Apparatus (Registered Trademark of 3D Systems)

SLM – Selective Laser Melting

SLS – Selective Laser Sintering (Registered Trademark of 3D Systems)

SM – Subtractive Manufacturing

STL / .stl – Stereo Lithograpic

Solid Works: It is a leading 3D CAD design software which is owned by Dassault Systems.

Soluble Support Technology (SST): It is used to support hangover or sloping of the parts of a 3D model during the printing process.

Stepper Motor – Motors which operate in discrete increments of rotation.

Standard Tessellation Language (STL): It is a file format that is used by the CAD software and was originally developed by 3D Systems.

Stereolithography (SLA): It is an additive manufacturing process which applies photopolymers by an ultraviolet laser to form a solid object.

Stratasys: Leading 3D printing company which manufactures high end 3D printers for industrial and commercial purposes.

Subtractive Manufacturing: A manufacturing process which is based on controlled material removal through cutting or drilling.

Support Material – Printed Material that acts as support to allow overhangs, arches etc to be printed.


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

Thermoplastic Extrusion: The process of squirting melted plastic through a print head nozzle so that an object can be built.

Thick Sheet: A rigid flat sheet which is used as a build surface and can be made form an array of materials.

Thingiverse: A popular website that allows users to upload and share their printable 3D designs.

Tissue Engineering – The modification or creation of living matter and which may be achieved by using a bioprinter

Two-Photon Polymerization (2PP): A technology that uses femtosecond pulsed laser to selectively solidify a special photopolymer that solidifies when hit by two protons.


ULTRA Family: These are large 3D printers which have a large volume.


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

Viscosity: It is another name given to the resistance of flow of a fluid and is often used in case of extruded thermoplastic material.

Voxel: Volumetric pixels


WPC – Wood/Polymer Composite

Wire and Ark Additive Manufacturing (WAAM): It is based on the Fused Deposition Modeling of metals and is the experimental use of arc welding equipment.

Xx, Yy, Zz

X, Y, Z axes: It is the three dimensional coordinate system used with the x and y whereas the z axis is the equivalent of the conventional vertical.

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