18 Common 3D Printing Terms (Glossary) And Their Meanings

3D printing is a growing trend among professionals and creative minds since the start of the last decade.

The first commercially available 3D printer was introduced to the market in that year. We have come a long ways since then and this technology continues to evolve every year.

To join this wonderful journey and watch your visions become a reality, you must first understand the basics of the process. We have compiled a list of the most commonly used terms in 3D printing, along with brief explanations.

3D Printing Terms You Should Know

1. Filament

A. What does it mean?

Filament is the main material that your 3D printer takes in, and then converts into the desired shape or structure. This is the thread that you use to 3D print.

The most commonly used filaments are thermoplastic like ABS, PEGT PLA. They are usually available in spools of wires of 1.75mm to 3mm width.

B. B.

To form layers, you will need to place the filament in your 3D printer. The structure or shape you program will be formed by the accumulation of all these layers.

2. Slicing

A. What does it mean

3D printing involves the division of an image or shape into multiple layers. This is how your 3D model is converted into an instruction file that the printer can understand.

Slicing is basically the translation of a 3D object model’s language into the 3D printer’s language.

B. B.

After slicing the image, your 3D printer is ready to start printing the shape or structure. Simply lay each slice on top of the others.

Slicer is the software that performs this function. Without this function, the printer wouldn’t be able to understand what the 3D file is trying convey.

3. Extruder

A. What does it mean?

An extruder refers to the entire assembly that is responsible for feeding the filaments onto the print bed and ejecting them.

An extruder typically has a motor, an idler, and a filament drive mechanism. There are three types of extruders: Direct, Bowden, and Dual.

B. B.

It has two parts, the hot and cold ends. The first part melts filaments and ejects them through a nozzle in very thin layers.

Each thread of filament is pulled out of the spool and fed through the cold end into the printer. The extruder acts as an intermediary between the bed and the spool.

You may encounter some issues when working with extruders. We discussed the most. common issues of 3D print machines.

4. Post-Processing

A. What does it mean

The post-processing phase of 3D printer glossary is all that you need to do after the main printing job has been completed.

It often involves finishing and refining tasks such as removing excess material, removing support structure, washing, polishing, and painting.

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B. B.

Post-processing is important to ensure the highest quality of the final product. This is what creative perfectionists and professionals do to enhance the quality their printed structures.

It can make the object look more appealing by filling in gaps, removing excess material and changing colors.

5. Layer Height

A. What does it mean

3D printing produces objects by laying multiple layers according to the instructions. Layer height refers to the height or thickness of each extruded layers.

They are very short and measured at microns, as these layers should not be seen by the naked eye.

B. Applications

Because it indirectly determines the timeframe, layer height is essential for any 3D printing job. Higher layer heights will require more layers to extrude, which can increase the time it takes to complete the job.

Also, a higher layer height means that the task can be completed quickly with fewer layers.

6. G-code

A. What does it mean

G-code is the language your 3D printer understands. After your 3D file is processed by a slicer it is converted to a gcode so that the printer can begin its job.

The sliced file contains all the translated commands that your printer will follow to produce the structure or shape that you have requested.

B. B.

This code is crucial for 3D printing, as it breaks down any barriers between your 3D object and the printer.

Because of g-code, your machine doesn’t have to struggle with the software programming. It has specific instructions for moving geometrically, which makes it easier for the printer.

7. CAD

A. What does it mean

CAD is short for Computer-Aided Design – the most widely used software system in 3D printing. It can be used to create the 3D model from your computer.

After preparing the design according to your requirements, CAD will save the electronic file in any format that you choose. The most common choices in this case are STL and OBJ.

B. B.

It has a wide range of functions that allow you to modify even the smallest details and analyze the parameters. It is ideal for professionals who need to finish a large number of 3D printing jobs within a short time.


A. What does it mean

FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication, Filament Freeform Fabrication), and FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), are similar printing processes. Both use continuous filaments to create the 3D structure. Multiple layers are deposited.

B. B.

The key difference between the two processes lies in their target user groups. FFF is for hobbyists and enthusiasts who do not 3D print professionally. FDM is for industrialists who need high-quality prototypes.

9. STL

A. What does it mean?

Stereo Lithography stands for Stereo Lithography, which is a file type that is available in CAD software. This is the most popular format for saving 3D designs.

Each file contains specific instructions for geometric movements using ASCII and binary codes. It does not include other attributes, such as texture and color.

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B. B.

It is one of the oldest file types, and has been around since 1987. STL is the preferred file format for rapid prototyping, and it is used by many 3D printing professionals and brands. This format is compatible with a wide variety of software systems.

10. OBJ

A. What does it mean?

This file format is used in 3D printing, but it is more advanced than STL. These files can store information about surface movements as well as information regarding the color and texture for your desired 3D shape.

B. B.

The popular 3D designing software CAD can open OBJ files. They are usually open-source, which allows 3D printer teams to share the file. Its ability to support instructions regarding appearance features is what made it popular.

11. Resolution

A. What does it mean

Resolution refers to the area or size of a product in 3D printing glossary. It is represented here by the axes XY or Z.

The first part deals with 2D dimensions like length and width. For 3D you also need the third factor – height.

B. Applications

3D printing is all about resolution. Your product’s size will be determined by its specifications or value.

The XY dimension indicates the thickness of each layer in your product. Z is the height. This resolution is usually measured in microns or millimeters.

12. Overhang

A. What does it mean

Overhangs refer to the parts of a 3D printed structure which lean forward without any support. This can vary in degree from very little to quite large.

It is best to limit the amount of overhang that you have on a structure. This can cause it to droop and ruin its design.

B. B.

It is used for creating artistic or innovative structures with unusual shapes.

3D printers are capable of handling overhangs lower than 4 degrees. You can extend it up 45 degrees maximum, then you will need support structures.

13. Shell

A. What does it mean?

Shell is the outer wall of a 3D-printed structure. You can adjust its thickness using the settings in your slicer software.

You will need to modify other settings like temperature, printing speed, layer height, etc. so that the intended structure prints correctly.

B. B.

Shells can be used to refine the final product after processing, as many of its layers may have to be removed. Shells can be used to add thickness to your printed structure. They can also be used to strengthen a product.

14. SLA

A. What does it mean

SLA is the shortened form of Stereo Lithography – the first-ever technology of 3D printing. It uses photosensitive resins instead filaments and follows an additive manufacturing process.

For curing each layer, laser beams of ultraviolet radiations are used. SLA was first. introduced and patented in 1986.

B. B.

This is one of most cost-effective 3D printing methods. It produces a smooth finish and high level of accuracy in the final product. Through the selective curing and cure of resins, UV lasers create each layer in SLA.

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15. SLS

A. What does it mean?

SLS, or Selective Laser Sintering, is another method of 3D printing. It follows additive manufacturing principles and uses lasers to create the structure. SLS and SLA are different in that SLS uses powder as the printing material, while SLA uses resin.

B. B.

This technology is mainly used to produce component parts in low volumes and rapid prototyping. SLS offers greater efficiency and makes it easier to create complex geometric shapes. It is one of the newest 3D printing technologies that can be commercialized quickly on larger scales.

16. Glass Transition Temperature

A. What does it mean

Glass transition temperature or “Tg” represents the lowest temperature where the printing material can start warping.

The temperature at which the polymer of your material reaches this temperature will cause it to become harder and more brittle. Before you use any printing material, make sure to check the Tg.

B. B.

Tg is the temperature at which 3D printing material will melt slowly. It varies from material to material and brand to brand depending on how the component is manufactured.

Glass transition temperatures typically range from -5 to 15%

17. Infill

A. What does it mean?

Infill is the repetitive structure found within your printed structure. Unless you design a structure to highlight its patterns, it will remain hidden and not be visible to the naked eye.

Infill density should be between 10% and 20% to make your print stronger.

B. B.

Infill is an important part of maintaining a weight requirement. This can be done by increasing its value with some additional fillings. Infill allows your printer draw horizontal edges on empty spaces without worrying about them falling apart.

This gives the print more strength and stability, which can help you feel more confident.

18. Curing

A. What does it mean

Curing 3D printing refers to hardening a liquid, such as resin, using ultraviolet rays. This is achieved by shining the UV light onto the resin, whose wavelength undergoes several photochemical reactions. These UV wavelengths typically have a value between 10 and 400 nanometers.

B. Applications

This step is used in post-processing work for SLA printing. It can also dry adhesives and coatings as well as other wet components of finished products. Curing is an ideal replacement for two-part adhesives and has made the workflow more efficient.


You now have a good understanding of the terms used in 3D printing.

This glossary should have helped you understand the most important terms in 3D printing. You can design and implement anything you want in the 3D printing world.

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