Skip to main content

3D Printing Drop-off & Scanning Service: 3D Printing Terminology

Guide to the University Libraries' 3D Printing Services

3D terminology glossary

  • ABS - Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. One type of plastic filament used in the Fused Filament Fabrication 3D printing process. Lightweight, high heat resistant. Used in applications such as plumbing materials, (plastic) musical instruments, small kitchen appliances and lego toy bricks.
  • Build Plate - The surface on which the 3D printed model is formed.
  • Build Platform - The part that supports the build plate.
  • Build Envelope - The measured limitations of a 3D printer's space, which determines the maximum physical size of a 3D model that can be produced.
  • Dual Extrusion - The ability to print in two colors at once. The 3D printer with dual extrusion capabilities is equipped with two extruders, each feeding its own spool of plastic filament and depositing on the build plate.
  • Extruder - The part of the 3D printer that melts and deposits the melted plastic.
  • Filament - The plastic material that is melted and extruded to create the 3D printed object in the Fused Filament Fabrication method.
  • Fused Deposition Method (FDM) - (see Fused Filament Fabrication)
  • Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) - An additive manufacturing process in which a spool of plastic filament is heated to a melting point and deposited, built from the bottom up one layer at a time until a 3D model is created.
  • Infill - The interior structure of a 3D printed model. Rather than printing a solid interior, which is a waste of plastic, a model is typically printed with a patterned internal "mesh". In the 3D print settings this is usually represented by a percentage (ex. 10% infill).
  • Layer Height - The thickness of a particular layer in a 3D printed model. (ex. 0.20 mm)
  • Makerware - The free software designed for the Makerbot 3D printers that prepares your 3D digital model for printing and sends the file to the printer.
  • Mesh - The surface area of a 3D model in digital form. In curved shapes this is typically represented by a series of flat triangles. The smaller the triangles the finer the printed results will be.
  • Nozzle - The part of the extruder that deposits the melted plastic material.
  • OBJ - Short for Object file. A file format from 3D modeling programs commonly used in 3D printing. 
  • Overhang - A part of a 3D model where there is no support below it. Parts that jut out at an angle of over 45 degrees are generally considered overhangs.
  • PLA - Polylactic Acid. Corn-based plastic filament used in the Fused Filament Fabrication 3D printing process. Biodegradable and doesn't give off fumes like ABS plastic does. Used in applications such as medical implants, compostable packing material and disposable garments.
  • Raft - to prevent warping during printing and to ensure successful prints of models with minimal area on their base surfaces, a flat layer of support material will print below the model on the build plate. Raft supports are constructed to be removable, either by dipping in a chemical bath or pulling apart (as with the Makerbot Replicator 2x).
  • Resolution - The minimum feature size that can be expected to be reproduced. On the Makerbot Replicator 2x, the highest resolution available is 100 microns (0.0039 in).
  • Shell - The outer layer of a 3D printed model. In 3D printing programs this is represented by the number of layers of plastic used to create the outer layer (ex. 2 shells).
  • Simplify3D - This paid software is designed for use with Multiple 3D printers that prepares your 3D digital model for printing and sends the file to the printer. 
  • Slice - A single layer of the 3D printed model. Slices vary in thickness depending on the design (ex. 0.1 mm). Most 3D printer programs automatically generate, or "slice" your 3D digital model into the layers to prepare for printing.
  • STL - short for Stereolithographic. A file format from 3D modeling programs commonly used in 3D printing.
  • Supports - models that have large overhangs or gaps between parts require support material to be printed; with the Makerbot Replicator 2x, the material used for supports is the same as the material used to print the model itself. Support material is constructed to be removable.
  • X, Y, Z axes - 3-dimensional coordinate system. Z axis represents what would typically be considered "vertical".