3D Printing Terminology

If you’re new to the world of 3D printing some of the terms and abbreviations may make it seem a little intimidating. Below is a list of some key terms to help get you better acquainted with 3D printing terminology. If you’re serious about getting into 3D Printing you may want to learn more about our 3D Printing courses.

  • Additive Manufacturing

– Although many people think the two share the same meaning 3D printing actually falls under the category of Additive Manufacturing. This refers to the process of a three dimensional object being built one layer at a time.

  • Computer Aided Design (CAD)

– Computer Aided Design, or CAD for short is a type of computer software that enables users to design their own 2D or 3D model that they can later print. The act of using CAD to design an object is called 3D modelling.

    • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a popular choice. It is a strong, slightly flexible material used in the manufacturing of food packaging, Tupperwear containers and medical implants.
    • PLA (Polylactic Acid), another popular filament type. It is an environmentally friendly, biodegradable thermoplastic which can be derived from renewable resources. It is used in the manufacturing of Lego bricks, knife handles and phone cases.
    • PET (PolyEthylene Terephthalate) is a hard and shockproof type of filament that has a crystalline structure. It is colourless and transparent until it is heated and is used to make flexible mechanical parts, jewellery and electronics.

The type of filament you choose depends on the object you are printing. You’ll need to ask yourself whether you need your product to be strong, safe, cheap or flexible for example.

  • G- code

G-code is a numerically controlled programme language used by many desktop 3D printers. G-code is not written by hand, but generated by computer software. Essentially, these commands tell the 3D printer what actions to perform. It is beneficial to have a basic understanding of G-code so you can instruct your printer where to print, the speed at which to move and what temperature to needs to be used.

  • Printbed3d printing machine showing printed

– The Printbed is the surface of the 3D printer on which the 3D model is printed. The Printbed is often referred to as the ‘build platform’ or simply the ‘bed’.

  • STL file

– An STL file, generated by CAD, is the most popular file format used in 3D printing and is often submitted when using a 3D printing service

  • Subtractive Manufacturing

– The opposite of additive manufacturing. A manufacturing process that creates an object by removing or cutting pieces away from a block of material. Imagine someone creating an ice sculpture as opposed to icing a cake.

  • Thermoplastic

–  A plastic material that becomes pliable when it is heated up and then becomes solid again when it is cooled down. The two most popular filaments for 3D printers are PLA (Polylactic Acid) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene).

Read our 3D printing FAQ to  learn more…