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3D Printing Glossary

Anyone interested in 3D printing will need to understand the technical terminology associated with this topic. The 3D Printing Glossary from Raise3D Academy defines a collection of technical terms related to the additive manufacturing field of 3D printing.


.3mf- 3D Manufacturing Format is an open-source file-type designed for additive manufacturing. Can include information that cannot be in STL files.

.amf- Additive Manufacturing File Format. Similar to STL, but can include more information such as colors and materials.

.ply- A polygon file format commonly used with 3D scanners.

.vrml– Virtual Reality Modeling Language is an older file format used to represent 3D graphics, replaced by X3D.

3D BioPrinting- The utilization of 3d printing technologies to fabricate biomedical objects as similar to the real thing as possible.

3D File- An electronic file created in CAD programs to represent a 3D object.

3D Model- A model of something made in three dimensions using CAD software.

3D Modeling- Making a 3D model in CAD software.

3D Modeling Program- A program used to make 3D models.

3D Positioning System- A system used to find the position and location of and object in 3D space.

3D Printer- A manufacturing machine used to create 3D objects one layer at a time. There are different types of 3D printers, each utilizing different technologies.

3D Printing 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that uses thin layers of filament to create a physical object from a three-dimensional model. Learn more about 3D printing here

3D Printing Pen- A handheld tool that uses FFF technologies to melt thermoplastics, allowing the user to “3D draw” with melted plastic that hardens quickly.

3D Scan- A 3D model made by a 3D Scanner of a real-world object.

3DPrinterOS- 3D printing cloud-based management.

45° Rule– The rule that an object with angled features designed greater than 45° will most likely need supports when printing. Bridging excluded.





ABS-Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is a thermoplastic printing filament commonly used in 3D Printing. ABS is stronger than PLA and more durable.

Acetone– Acetone is a liquid commonly used in 3D Printing for vapor baths. ABS is soluble in acetone, so if you put ABS prints in a container with acetone vapors, it will smooth all of the surfaces.

Additive Manufacturing– The process of manufacturing a 3D object by adding material together to create a final object. 3D printing is an additive manufacturing method.

Adhesion- An object’s ability to stick to a surface. Normally referring to bed Adhesion, this is how well a 3D print adheres to the printing surface on the print bed.

Alias- A product design software by Autodesk.

Amorphous- Without a clearly defined shape or form. Normally referring to Amorphous Metals that can be 3D printed.

Anisotropic- A material is anisotropic if it has different strengths in different directions. Wood is a common example. FDM 3d prints are anisotropic.

ASA-Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate. ASA is a strong thermoplastic that can be 3D printed. It is similar to ABS but has great weather resistance. This makes it great for any outdoor application for 3D printing.

Atomic Method– A technique used to unclog a clogged print nozzle of an FFDM 3d printer.

Autodesk Dreamcatcher- A 3D design software used to generate and optimize designs.


Bed- The bed of the printer is the print surface that a part is printed on.

Bed Leveling-Adjusting the bed of a 3D printer to make it as level as possible. This is an important step of 3D printing as it helps ensure a successful print.

Belt- The belts on a 3D printer takes the rotation of a stepper motor and converts it into linear motion for the print head. Belts are usually teethed and tight to ensure a precise motion transfer.

Binder Jetting- Binder Jetting is an additive manufacturing method where powdered substances are joined by a liquid binding agent. Binder Jetting can be done in lots of materials and colors.

Blender- A free 3D graphics software that can be used to create 3D models. It is open-source and is also used to make animations, visual effects, and motion graphics.

Blue Painters Tape- Used in FDM printing on the bed of a printer to improve adhesion. Often used in FDM 3D printing to improve bed adhesion. A cheap solution to help a part stick to the print bed.

Bottom/Top Thickness- A slicer program setting that is used to determine how much material will be laid down before the infill printing starts and how much material will be laid down after the infill printing is finished. See also Slicer.

Bowden Extruder A method of conveying thermoplastic filament used by some FDM-type 3d printers. On a printer with a Bowden extruder, the cold end is separated from the hot end and attached somewhere on the printer frame. See also Cold End and Hot End.

Bowden Tube- Bowden Tube – The part on some FDM-type 3d printers with a Bowden extruder setup. The Bowden tube is used to guide thermoplastic filament from the feeder assembly in the cold end to the hot end where it is heated and extruded.

Bridge- A 3d modeling term to describe a horizontal overhang placed between two vertical supports.

Brim- A brim is a layer or layers of extruded thermoplastic that is used to stabilize small parts or islands on a printed object. A brim helps these areas to adhere to the print bed. Unlike a raft, a brim is connected only to the perimeter of an island, not to the bottom.

Brittleness- A property of materials where it breaks without significant deformation. Chalk and ceramics are examples of brittle materials.

Build Plate- The area where a 3D print is printed upon.

Build Resolution- Typically refers to the layer height that a 3D print is printed at. Similar to the resolution on a television or computer monitor but in 3D the lower the build layer height the higher the part resolution.

Build Surface- The surface on which a printed object is produced. Often various types of build surfaces will be placed onto or attached to the printer bed to improve adhesion.

Build Time- The total time it takes for a 3D printer to complete a 3D print.

Build Volume- The maximum size of an object that a 3d printer can produce, measured in length times width times height.

BuildTak- Used in FDM printing on the bed of a printer to improve adhesion. More information on the use of Buildtak can be found here.



CAD- Short for Computer Assisted Design. CAD is the use of computer software to produce a digital design in either two or three-dimensional formats that can then be used to print a physical object. CAD was originally developed for use in architecture and engineering. However, there are now several user-friendly applications on the market that are either free or available at a low cost.

Cartesian Coordinates- A system of coordinates along three axes representing length, width, and height and expressed as x, y, and z. Cartesian coordinates are used by 3d printers to move through three dimensions while printing an object.

Casting– The process of pouring a liquid material (typically metal) into a hollow cavity to produce a solid part of a specific shape.

Chamfer- A 3d modeling term that describes the symmetrical, sloping surface at an edge or corner that is used to avoid violating the 45° rule.

CNC Machining– Computer numerically controlled machining – a subtractive method of manufacturing that involves a computerized machine removing material over a predetermined path to produce a final part.

Cold End– The part on an FDM-type 3d printer. The cold end grabs and pulls thermoplastic filament from the spool it is stored on and moves it into the hot end. A typical cold end consists of either a hobbed gear or a knurled wheel that is attached to a feeder motor. As the shaft of the motor spins, it rotates the hobbed gear or knurled wheel which grabs the filament and moves it toward the hot end.

Cold Method– Cold Method – See Atomic Method.

Copolymer- A type of plastic used in FDM printing. A copolymer is a material that is made up of several substances, each of which exists in long molecular chains. For example, ABS is a copolymer and consists of strands of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene molecules all bound together.

Cracking– A 3d printing defect. Cracking occurs when one layer of print material bonds inadequately with another layer. When this happens, as the object cools, a split or crack occurs between the two inadequately bonded layers. See also Splitting.

Creep– The tendency for materials to move or deform over time when subjected to a continuous load. Resins and polymers often experience this phenomenon.

Crystalline- Any solid in which the atoms and molecules are organized in a lattice pattern. Metals are crystalline solids. The opposite of amorphous.

Cupping- This occurs in the SLA process when a hollow section of a print sucks up resin during the peeling process (similar to an upside-down empty cup entering the water). This suction effect can cause a part with thin walls to fracture.

Curing- The process of hardening a 3d printing material to its final form. Commonly used term in SLA printing where light is used to harden liquid photopolymer resin. See also Hardening and SLA.




Desiccant- A hygroscopic substance used as a drying agent. Desiccants are often employed in FDM printing where many printing materials are hygroscopic. See also hydrolysis.

Desktop 3D PrinterThe main characteristic of a desktop 3D printer is its build volume. Build volume is an industrial term that refers to the size of a part that a 3D printer can produce. Desktop 3D printers generally have a smaller build volume and produce smaller 3D printed parts. Due to its smaller build volume, a desktop 3D printer is generally more affordable.

Direct Drive Extruder A method of conveying thermoplastic filament used by some FDM-type 3d printers. On a printer with a direct drive extruder, the cold end is placed on top of the hot end. See also Cold End and Hot End.

DLP– Short for Digital Light Processing. A form of 3d printing where a light source is used to cure photopolymer resin to produce a printed object.

Dual Extrusion A FDM-type 3d printer with two extruders. Each extruder can print with a different filament material. Useful for building soluble support structures and producing multicolored objects.

Ductility- A material is said to be ductile if it can be deformed without losing toughness. A wire is an example of a ductile material. The opposite of brittle.


Elongation– Pulling or stretching a material. An important term in plastics to understand how a material will deform under load

Enclosure- A part on a 3d printer that protects the user from moving parts and high-temperature objects. Is also used to increase or stabilize the ambient air temperature around the print to stop warping or cracking of the print, caused by cooling too fast.

End Part- A component that is intended to be used directly in a functional capacity.

End Stops- A part on a 3d printer. End stops are switches mounted on each of a printer’s axes. The switch is tripped when a particular axis moves to its end. End stops enable a 3d printer to find its starting point when beginning to print.

Extrude- The process of forcing out a thin layer of melted thermoplastic onto a build surface to build up a printed object.

Extruder– See Bowden Extruder and Direct Drive Extruder.

Extruder Motor- A motor in the cold end that uses a hobbed gear or knurled wheel to move thermoplastic filament from a storage spool to the hot end for extrusion.



Fan- See Heat Sink Fan and Layer Cooling Fan.

FDM- Short for Fused Deposition Modeling. A 3d printing process where melted thermoplastic is deposited in successive layers to produce a  finished object using a digital model.

Feeder– See Cold End.

FFF- Short for Fused Filament Fabrication. An alternative name for FDM.

FFM– Short for Fused Filament Manufacturing. An alternative name for FDM.

Filament The printing material used by FDM-type 3d printers. The filament is usually a thermoplastic that is fed by a cold end to the hot end as a solid. In the hot end, it is heated to printing temperature and extruded out through the print nozzle. Filament comes in different diameters and usually sold in spools. There is a wide variety of filament materials available, as well as a wide variety of quality. In general, a high-quality filament will produce better results that a less expensive filament that may be of poorer quality.

Filament Drive Gear- A part on an FDM-type 3d printer. The filament drive gear grabs that printing filament and moves it off of the storage spool and to the hot end of the printer for extrusion.

Fill Density– A slicer program setting that is a measure of how much material will be printed inside the outer shell of the object in question. Infill density is used to conserve filament while printing and speed up printing times. More information on slicer program settings can be found here. See also Slicer.

Fixture- A frame used to hold components or parts in a fixed position used in the assembly or manufacturing process. It can also be known as “jigs and fixtures”. To learn more about jigs and fixtures click here

Flexural Strength- The stress (in MPa) at failure in bending.

Frame- A part of a 3d printer. The frame is the chassis or outer case of a 3d printer. The frame is usually made of acrylic plastic, aluminum, or stainless steel. A solid frame reduces printer vibration which increases printer accuracy and results in more precise end objects.



G-Code– A programming language that controls the actions of a 3d printer – things like motion, speed, rotation, and depth. Commonly, this code is generated by a slicer program. See also Slicer.

Glass Transition Temperature- The temperature region where a material transition from hard, glassy material to a soft, rubbery material.

Glue Stick– Used in FDM printing on the bed of a printer to improve adhesion. More information on the use of a glue stick can be found here.


Hairspray- Used in FDM printing on the bed of a printer to improve adhesion. Not recommended due to mess and inconsistencies.

Hardening– See Curing.

Heat Creep- Heat creep is a problem that occurs in FDM-type 3d printers when higher temperatures extend back and upwards from the hot end. This causes the “melt area” to extend father back as well, softening and melting the print material well before the nozzle end of the extruder. The softened thermoplastic increases the amount of pressure needed for extrusion. Eventually, the extruder motor can’t keep up and the nozzle gets clogged.

Heat Sink Fan- A part of an FDM-type 3d printer. A heat sink fan helps to dissipate the heat from the heat sink in the hot end.

Heated Build Chamber- A part of an FDM-type 3d printer. An enclosed compartment around the build plate that eliminates drafts and temperature variations to reduce or prevent material warping.

Heated Print Bed– A part on an FDM-type 3d printer.  A heated print bed keeps the build surface warm, promoting greater adhesion and decreasing incidents of warping.

Heated Build Chamber- A part of an FDM-type 3d printer. An enclosed compartment around the build plate that eliminates drafts and temperature variations to reduce or prevent material warping.

Heated Print Bed- A part on an FDM-type 3d printer.  A heated print bed keeps the build surface warm, promoting greater adhesion and decreasing incidents of warping.

HIPS- Short for high impact polystyrene. High impact polystyrene is a 3d printing filament that is strong, durable, non-toxic, and recyclable. It combines the hardness of polystyrene with the elasticity of rubber to produce a high impact thermoplastic that is tough and strong without being brittle. In 3D printing, HIPS makes an excellent soluble support material. HIPS is soluble in Limonene, an easily obtainable solvent that is derived from the skin of lemons.

Hobbed Gear- See Filament Drive Gear.

Hollow- A 3D print that is not solid and also does not contain any infill. Hollow models are much faster and cheaper to print but have very low strength.

Hot End- A part on an FDM-type 3d printer. The hot end heats the thermoplastic printing filament to the melting temperature and extrudes the melted material onto the build surface. A typical hot end consists of a heating block that produces the heat necessary to melt the print filament, a thermistor that controls the temperature of the heating block, and a print nozzle through which the melted filament is extruded. A heat sink is also typically used to radiate excess heat away from the print end.

Hydrolysis- The chemical breakdown of a hygroscopic material due to exposure to water.

Hygroscopic- The ability of a material to absorb water. Many thermoplastic printing materials exhibit a hygroscopic tendency to one extent or another and need to be insulated from exposure to atmospheric moisture.


ideaMaker- A 3D slicing software from Raise3D that can prepare STL, OBJ, and 3MF files within 2 clicks. ideaMaker has defined settings that provide limitless customization for all users.

Industrial 3D Printer An industrial 3D printer is designed to be a high-quality machine with mechanical as well as hardware and software features in place to ensure a high success rate and high print quality.

Infill- See Fill Density.

Injection Molding- The process of injecting plastic in a melted liquid form into a die. The plastic fills the empty cavities of the die and cools until it has solidified. The solid plastic part is then ejected from the die and the process is repeated.

Islands– Occur in SLA printing and refer to cross-sectional areas of a model that are not connected.

Isotropic – A material that has the same physical properties in all directions. Glass and metal are common examples of isotropic materials. The opposite of anisotropic.



Jig- A frame used to hold components or parts in a fixed position used in the assembly or manufacturing process. It can also be known as “jigs and fixtures”. To learn more about how to create 3D printed jibs and fixtures, click here 


Kapton Tape- Used in FDM printing on the bed of a printer to improve adhesion. More information on the use of Kapton Tape can be found here.

Knurled Wheel- See Filament Drive Gear.


Layer- In 3d printing, a layer is any one of the individual thin sections of print material that make up a printed object. Before printing, a slicer program takes the STL file generated by the CAD software and slices the digital object into multiple horizontal sections or layers.

Layer Cooling Fan– A part of an FDM-type 3d printer. A layer cooling fan cools off the printing material as soon as it is deposited on the build surface.

Layer Height- A slicer program setting. Layer height is the setting that establishes the height of each layer of filament in your print. In some sense, layer height in 3d printing is akin to resolution in photography or videography. When you choose a thicker layer height, your object will have less fine detail and the layers will be more visible. When you choose a thinner layer height, a higher level of detail is possible and your layers will tend to blend into one another. However, keep in mind that the thinner you make the layer height the more time it will take to print the object in question since there will be more layers to print.  See also Slicer.



Melting Point- The temperature a solid melts or turns into a liquid.

MEM– Short for Melted and Extruded Modeling. Another name for FDM printing.

Metal Powder– The material used for metal printing.

Metal Printing- The process of 3D printing in metal. Objects are created from thin layers of powdered material by selectively sintering or melting it using a high power laser. There is a large range of metal printing technologies.

Micron– A measurement of distance regularly used to describe 3D printing layer height. 1000th of a millimeter. A human hair is approximately 17 microns thick.

Motherboard- A part on an FDM-type 3d printer. The motherboard is the brain of an FDM-type 3d printer. It takes the commands given by the GCode and turns them into physical movements. The motherboard contains all of the circuitry needed to operate the printer’s motors and sensors.



Nozzle- The part of a 3D printer where the build material is extruded from.

Nozzle Diameter– The diameter of the material that is extruded out of the nozzle. This plays an important role in FDM where shells and walls should be a multiple of nozzle diameter.

Nylon- Nylon is a thermoplastic printing filament used in FDM-type 3d printers. It offers excellent strength and durability while, at the same time, it is exceedingly versatile. It can be printed very thin to allow for flexibility and not lose its strength and ability to stand up to wear and tear. It also has a low friction coefficient with a correspondingly high melting temperature. This makes it an excellent choice for prototypes and moving parts of all kinds. Nylon has a printing temperature of 255C to 275C.

Nylon Powder- A common build material used in the SLS printing process.



OBJ– Short for Object File. A 3d file format used by CAD programs as an alternative to STL files when information about color or material is important.

Offset- In 3D printing offset refers to layers that are not printed directly inline with one another and are instead shifted to the side. This is often a printer calibration issue and will impact the quality of a print.

Overhang- Any part of a 3d model that lacks support below it. Parts that protrude at angles greater than 45° are generally considered overhangs. See also Support Materials and Support Structures.




Painters Tape- See Blue Painter’s Tape.

PC– Short for Polycarbonate. See Polycarbonate.

PEI– Short for polyetherimide. Used in FDM printing on the bed of a printer to improve adhesion. More information on the use of PEI can be found here.

Perimeter- A slicer program setting. Perimeter refers to the thickness of the walls or shell of a printed object. The greater the number of perimeters, the thicker the shell of the object will be.

PETG- Short for Polyethylene Terephthalateglycol. PETG is a thermoplastic printing filament used in FDM-type 3d printers. An object printed with PETG will be very strong but, at the same time, it will have a bit of flex to it. You may be able to bend it, but it will be very hard to break it. PETG is transparent and has a printing temperature of around 220C-235C. It has no odor when printing and produces a result that has a marvelous finish. Also, PETG is a great material to print with because it shrinks very little when cooling, so objects printed with PETG will experience very little warping.

Photopolymer- A material used in 3d printing that hardens when exposed to certain types of light. Photopolymers are used in Digital Light Processing (DLP) and Stereolithography (SLA).

Pillowing– A 3d printing defect. Pillowing occurs on the top surface of an object. It looks like there are gaps in the surface layer, along with little bumps or pillows. In general, pillowing is caused by a top layer that is too thin and/or improper cooling of that layer. Under certain circumstances, insufficient infill can also contribute to the problem.

PLA- Short for Polylactic Acid. PLA, or Polylactic Acid, is a biodegradable, environmentally friendly thermoplastic that is manufactured out of natural substances, usually corn or sugarcane. You’ve probably already encountered PLA in your home since it is used to make everything from garbage bags to disposable cutlery and plates. PLA prints at relatively lower temperatures than other printing materials (180C – 210C). Even though it is biodegradable, it remains a strong and durable material, albeit brittle, capable of being used in a wide variety of projects. PLA is available in a wide variety of colors and is not readily soluble.

PMMA– Short for Polymethyl Methacrylate. PMMA is a thermoplastic printing filament used in FDM-type 3d printers. PMMA is known commercially as acrylic and is marketed under various brand names, such as Plexiglas, Lucite, and Perspex. Widely used as an alternative to glass in applications where more strength and durability are needed, PMMA has significantly higher impact strength than glass.

Polycarbonate- Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic printing filament used in FDM-type 3d printers. It is an extremely strong, lightweight, and transparent thermoplastic. Marketed under the trade name Lexan, it is used to make products as varied as CDs and DVDs, bulletproof glass, riot gear, sunglass lenses, scuba masks, electronic display screens, phone and computer cases, and much more.

Polyjet- Similar to inkjet printing, but instead of jetting drops of ink onto paper, jets droplets of liquid photopolymer (in layers) onto a build tray and cures them instantly using UV light. The results are fully cured objects that can be handled and used immediately.

Polymer– A type of plastic used in FDM printing. A polymer is a material that is made up of multiple long molecular chains of a single substance. For example, PVC or polyvinyl chloride consists of a bunch of vinyl chloride molecules.

Post Processing- Any act of improving the appearance or material properties of a 3d print after it has been printed. This covers a large range of processes in 3D printing that vary by technology (support removal, UV curing, heat treating, sanding, tumbling, polishing, painting, etc).

Power Supply- A part on an FDM-type 3d printer. The power supply takes the 240V AC electricity from the wall and converts it to low voltage DC power for your printer to use.

Print Bed- See Bed.

Print Head- A part on an FDM-type 3d printer. The print nozzle is attached to the bottom of the hot end and is where the melted thermoplastic printing material is extruded. In general, a smaller diameter nozzle will produce finer details in the finished object, albeit at a slower print speed and a greater risk of clogging.

Print Resolution- An indication of printing quality. Horizontal resolution refers to the movements made by the print head along the x and y axes. The smaller the movements, the higher level of printing detail the printer produces.

Print Speed- A slicer program setting. Print speed is how fast the print head travels while extruding filament. Therefore, optimal speed depends on the object you are printing and the filament material that you are using to fabricate the object. In general, simple objects with less detail can be printed faster without complication.

Printing Temperature– The optimal temperature for a thermoplastic printing material to be at for effective extrusion. The printing temperature differs from material to material.

Printing Volume- See Build Volume.

Prototype- An early part or model of a design built before production to test form, function, aesthetics, and interaction usually at a low cost. Prototypes are typically items to learn from to improve a design.

PVA- a water-soluble filament which works pretty well with PLA.
To learn more about filaments click here
To learn more about how to 3D print using PVA click here



Raft- A raft is a layer or layers of extruded thermoplastic that is used to stabilize a printed object. A raft helps an object to adhere to the print bed. Unlike a brim, a raft is connected to the perimeter and bottom of an object.

Rapid Prototyping– The process of creating physical prototypes directly from digital data.

RepRap– Short for Replication Rapid Prototyper. A project started in Britain in 2005 to produce a 3d printer capable of printing another 3d printer. Also the brand of the printers produced through the project.

Resin- A solid or highly viscous substance that is typically converted into a polymer. SLA uses resin exposed to UV light (a laser) to build a part layer by layer.

Retraction- A slicer program setting. This setting is used to pull the filament slightly back into the print head during times when the head is traveling from one print point on an object to another.




Shell- The outer wall of a designed object.

Shell Thickness- A slicer program setting. Shell thickness refers to the number of layers that the outer wall will have before infill printing will begin. The higher the setting is for shell thickness, the thicker the outer walls of your object will be.

Sintering- The process of fusing particles to form a solid mass of material using heat or pressure without melting it.

Skirt- A line that is initially printed around the print (but not connected to the print) to clean the nozzle head.

SLA- Short for Stereolithography, 3d printing technology. SLA focuses a UV laser onto a tank of photopolymer resin. The light cures or hardens the top layer of the resin, building the object from the top down.

Slice- A horizontal layer of a digital object produced by a slicer program. Each slice contains coordinates for printing locations on the build surface, as well as for instructions as to layer height, shell thickness, and more.

Slicer- A slicer is a piece of 3d printing software that takes a digitized 3d model and converts it into printing instructions that your printer can then use to turn the model into a physical object. In essence, the slicer takes the CAD model and “cuts” it into layers.

SLS- Short for Selective Laser Sintering, 3d printing technology. SLS uses powdered polymer material to build a 3d object through the use of a laser. The laser sinters or binds the powder together one layer at a time from the top down.

Soluble Materials- Any thermoplastic printing material that is soluble, or dissolvable, when immersed in another substance. PVA and HIPS are both popular soluble printing materials.

Solvent Method-  A method of unclogging the clogged print nozzle of an FDM-type 3d printer. More information on the solvent method can be seen here.

Splitting- See Cracking.

Stepping Motor– Unlike regular DC motors, which rotate continuously when given power, stepper motors rotate in increments. This gives them precise control over their position. Most FDM-type 3d printers use NEMA 17 type motors with 200 increments (steps) per revolution.

STL A 3d file format used by CAD programs.

Strain– Measure of the deformation of the material relative to its original shape measured in mm/mm (or a dimensionless ratio).

Stress- The internal forces that particles of a material exert on each other measured in Pascals.

Stringing- A 3d printing defect. Stringing is usually caused by the print nozzle oozing print material as it moves from one place to another. The oozed material cools and hardens into thin “strings” – hence the name.

Subtractive Manufacturing- The opposite of additive manufacturing. The process of creating a three-dimensional object from a 3d model by removing materials, usually one layer at a time. Machining is an example of subtractive manufacturing.

Support Materials- Printing materials used to support overhangs on a designed object. Support materials are usually soluble to facilitate easy removal after printing.

Support Structures- A layer or layers of extruded thermoplastic that is used to support overhangs on a designed object. Support structures are usually removed after printing is completed.

Surface Finish- In 3D printing, this refers to the roughness of the surface of a 3D printed part. Generally qualitative.



Tank (resin)- The area where resin sits before being cured in the SLA process.

Temperature Differential- The difference in temperature between 2 points. In 3D printing reducing the temperature differential between 2 nearby points reduces the likelihood of warping or deformation.

Tensile Strength (ultimate)- The stress (usually in MPa) at which a material will fracture or break when subjected to a tensile load.

Tensile Strength (yield)- The stress (usually in MPa) at which a material will shift from elastic deformation (returning to its original shape) to plastic deformation (permanent deformation) when subjected to a tensile load.

Thermistor- Also known as a thermally sensitive resistor. A  part on an FDM-type 3d printer. A thermistor is an element with an electrical resistance that changes in response to temperature. Used to regulate the temperature of the heat block in the hot end of a printer.

Thermoplastic– A substance, usually a plastic, that can melt and harden at precise temperatures.

TPU- Short for Thermoplastic Polyurethane. TPU is a thermoplastic printing filament used in FDM-type 3d printers. It is an extremely flexible and durable extrusion printing material. Its flexibility and elasticity make it an excellent choice for belts, springs, and phone cases. TPU is also very resistant to abrasion, as well as grease, oil, and a wide variety of solvents. This makes it an excellent choice for industrial applications as well. TPU has a printing temperature of 210C to 230C.



Under Extrusion- a problem experienced by FDM-type 3d printers. Under extrusion occurs when your printer is unable to supply the correct amount of material needed to correctly print a layer. You can learn more about under extrusion and how to correct it here.

User Interface- part on some FDM-type 3d printers. Some FDM-type printers have an LCD screen so they can be controlled directly without hooking them up to a computer.

UV Light- For 3D printing, this refers to the type of light that is used to cure (harden) photopolymers in SLA and Polyjet 3D printing.




Wall Thickness– Generally associated with minimum wall thickness – the thinnest dimension a wall can be printed at such that it can support the model. Varies by technology. Different from shell thickness.

Warping- A 3d printing defect. Warping occurs when an object is cooling after printing. Cooling causes contraction and this contraction causes stress along the object’s lateral surfaces. The quicker the cooling occurs, the greater the stress on the object.

Water Method- A method of applying Kapton Tape to the build plate of an FDM-type 3d printer to improve adhesion. You can find out more about the Water Method here.



X-Axis– A part of the Cartesian coordinate system used by FDM-type 3d printers to move through three dimensions while printing an object. The x-axis represents left to right horizontal movement.



Y-Axis– A part of the Cartesian coordinate system used by FDM-type 3d printers to move through three dimensions while printing an object. The y-axis represents front to back horizontal movement.


Z-Axis- A part of the Cartesian coordinate system used by FDM-type 3d printers to move through three dimensions while printing an object. The z-axis represents top to bottom vertical movement.