The Super Awesome 3D Printing Dictionary





New to 3D printing or stumped by some of the terminology? We are here to help with a dictionary full of the most common and a few uncommon 3D printing definitions. Whether you are designing for 3D printing or just curious this database is sure to help.

For the sake of brevity we will disregard material abbreviations for now. That is the topic for a completely different post.


Additive manufacturing: Often used as a synonym for 3D printing. Additive manufacturing involves adhering several layers of material together to build a part as opposed to subtractive manufacturing which involves removing material from stock.


Bridge: A bridge is when the printer is required to build a layer over a gap without support material between two points.

Build Plate: The surface that the part is printed on.

Build Volume: The total area that the printer is capable of printing in.


CAD: CAD stands for computer aided design. CAD is a software that is used to design parts in 2D or 3D.

Curing: The hardening of photopolymers. Typically accomplished with exposure to UV light.


FDM: Fused Deposition Modeling is the process used by printers that extrude thermoplastic through a small nozzle.


G-Code: Commonly used name for the numerical control code used to drive a 3D printer.


Infill: A percentage value of how much the inside of a part is filled with material. 100% is solid whereas 10% infill is very light. Applicable to FDM printers.

Isotropic: A material that has the same properties in all directions.


Micron: A measurement of length. 1 micron is equal to 1000th of a millimeter. A human hair is approximately 17 microns.


Overhang: An Overhang occurs when a layer of material is only partially supported by the layer underneath it.


Photopolymer: A polymer that changes properties when exposed to UV light. Typically used in SLA machines.

Post Processing: The act of finishing a part after it has been printed. Usually involves removal of support material and smoothing the surface.


Resolution: Typically refers to the layer thickness or layer height of a print. The higher the resolution the smaller the thickness. Resolution is often expressed in microns or millimeters.


SLA: Stereolithography is the process used by printers that build parts from a vat of liquid resin with a UV laser.

.STL: This is the most common 3D file format for 3D printing and other 3D applications. STL files are compatible with most all 3D printers. The origins of the STL abbreviation are questionable.

Shell: A shell is the outer wall of a print. Applicable to FDM prints.

Support: Extra material that is used to hold up an overhang or bridge and is discarded in post processing.


Warping: The tendency for a part to deform or change shape. Common in some thermoplastics.

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