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3D Printing Glossary

3D Printing Glossary

Reading time: 5 minutes

3D Printing

A technique for producing three-dimensional (3D) objects from two-dimensional layers of materials

3D Design Program

A piece of software that provides an interface for rendering 3D objects virtually and can convert 3D renderings into a set of instructions that can be implemented by a 3D printer to produce a 3D printed object

Additive Manufacturing

A method for producing products by adding layers of material

Build Plate

A fundamental layer on which materials are deposited to begin an additive manufacturing process

Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

A software system for producing digital models of physical objects and layers


A mechanical part of a 3D printer that injects materials onto a surface to produce an additive layer of substrate


The source material used by a 3D printer to generate a 3D object. The filament may be shaped like a wire.


The connective body of material within a 3D object that provides structural support


The movement of the filament into the extruder or the disposal of materials from the extruder onto the build surface

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

An additive process for manufacturing in which molten materials are deposited onto a build surface and allowed to cure into a solid layer of substrate

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)

FFF is an additive process for manufacturing that uses molten materials. FFF is synonymous with FDM.


A fundamental unit of substrate in an additive manufacturing process. Each layer is formed through a closed, continuous extrusion of materials and is represented virtually in CAD as a 2D dimensional slice of a 3D object.

Layer Height

The thickness of a layer of extruded material. Reducing the layer height improves the quality of a 3D printed object but also increases the time required to build the object. Typical layer heights for FDM 3D printers are from 0.1 to 0.3 millimeters.

Minimal Layer Time

The curing time required for extruded materials to form a solid substrate


A three-axis driving system for controlling the location of the extruder relative to the build surface


A part of the extruder though which materials are released onto a build surface. The nozzle may be constructed out of brass or steel.


The unit-dimension adjustment of the extruder on a build surface. The resolution controls the size of features that the 3D printer can produce and can affect the quality of a completed 3D object.


A software program that converts a 3D model into a composite of 2D models. Each 2D model corresponds to a layer of extruded material that a 3D printer will produce in the additive manufacturing process.

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