3D Glossary2017-06-30T16:12:21+00:00

3D Printing Glossary

Getting around to understanding all the different elements of 3D printing can be challenging. There are many sources of information and getting a full picture is often time-consuming. In keeping with our mission statement – “For those who create” – at easy3D we have attempted to make a 3D Printing Glossary which encompasses all the major terms, processes, and elements of 3D printing and additive manufacturing.

This glossary is a continued work in progress. Today we are uploading an alpha version and we will keep updating it as we go and keep receiving new entries and edits from our readers and partners. To submit an edit or entry, please contact office@easy3d.bg and include “3D Glossary” in the title.

Current version: V0.01
Last updated on: June 29, 2017

More commonly known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing (abbreviated as AM) is a process for creating objects by adding a raw material layer by layer, as oposed to taking it out from a larger block of material. Apart from 3D printing, additive manufacturing is also widely refered to as rapid prototyping, rapid manufacturing, and direct manufacturing, although these are terms which describe a specialized production process, and not the manufacturing technology itself. We see additive manufacturing as potentially having a strong impact on the addition of business value for manufacturers over the next decade. Additive Manufacturing is good in situations where we have a high design complexity, we are constrained by a short execution timeframe, we are aiming for a fast prototyping speed and time to market, and where we want to minimize material waste in the manufacturing process.
to manufacturing – machining or milling where we’re taking a solid block of material and we’re removing (subtracting) some material in order to get to the finished object.
Additive manufacturing in opposition is to say forming technologies, like casting or molding.
Traditional manufacturing methods such as injection moulding are well suited to produce very high volumes of parts. However, due to the high startup costs incurred from buying and designing a matrix, for lower volumes (typically between 2,000 and 4,000 parts, 3D printing is a cheaper and more flexible option, as it allows for design changes at any point of the manufacturing process without additional expenses.

3D printing (abbreviated as 3DP) is an additive manufacturing umbrella term for the process of creating a physical object from a 3D model by adding material layer by layer. The 3D printing method is the opposite of the subtractive manufacturing approach of milling or machining where material is strategically removed from a larger block of raw material. There are many different 3D printing technologies such as FDM, SLA, DLP, SLS, SLM, EBM, LOM, ColorJet, PolyJet, and other technologies, which are closely related to them.

3D printers are the machines which create objects through additive manufacturing by layering material until a finished object is created. Operating a 3D printer to satisfactory professional results requires a degree of knowhow because of the large number of variables involved in getting a successful print process: nozzle temperature, heat bed temperature, room temperature, extrusion speed, and platform leveling just to name a few. There are many different brands of printers with the most popular ones being Zortrax, 3D Systems, Stratasys, Formlabs, EOS, Ultimaker, and many others spanning from starter consumer models to full-blown factory machines.
3D modeling is an umbrella term for various CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design) activities, which involve representing and manipulating an object as a 3D model in software. 3D modelling is the first step in the 3D printing process. A 3D model has to comply to specific criteria such as wall thickness, surface crossover, and others, in order to be 3D printed into a high-quality part. These requirements are what makes 3D modelling for 3D printing a narrowly specialized field within CAD/CAM.
To 3D print an object you need a 3D model. The model itself can be created directly in CAD software, or it can be generated through the use of a scanning device, which scans a physical object to digitalize it and convert it into an editable model. 3D scanners achieve this through various means such as lasers, touch sensors, and others. The collected data from a 3D scanner needs to be compiled in specialized software and further edited by a 3D designer to achieve full accuracy vis-a-vis the original object.
STL stands for Standard Tessellation Language and it is the most popular file format for additive manufacturing and 3D printing. To tessellate something is to break it down into a series of polygons which represent its structure. Once the STL file has been created, the system slices it into multiple different layers and passes that information (in the form of a Gcode file) to the additive manufacturing device, whatever that device may be. The AM system itself then begins creating the object layer by layer, until we have a finished object.
In 1986 Charles Hull invented a process called Stereolithography in which liquid photopolymer (or liquid plastic) held in a vat is selectively cured, by using UV light. The biggest advantage of SLA is the high resolution, precision, and smoothness it can achieve. Though SLA we can make parts with very complex geometries, which you wouldn’t be able to easily make with other manufacturing technologies.
FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) is a material extrusion 3D printing process in which a thermal plastic filament is run through a heated nozzle which extrudes it onto a build surface layer by layer to create a finished object. FDM is one of the key underlying technologies for most of the consumer additive devices that exist in the market today.
SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) is an AM technology which uses a laser to sinter (or melt) powdered material (typically nylon/polyamide) to bind the material together and create a solid structure. Typically the powder is a form of nylon or plastic, but over the past 5 years there has been tremendous headway in using metal powders instead. 3D metal printing is quickly gaining the interest of engineers and companies worldwide.
Often after a part has been 3D printed a certain degree of post-processing is required. Post-processing varies from practical to cosmetic. It may include removing support materials, UV light post-curing, machining, polishing, painting, and others.
When 3D printing a part, all overhanging ledges need to be held by support strucutres. Supports are generally designed to be easily removable, but this varies from material to material and form printer to printer. Some support materials such as those from HIPS or PC are notoriously difficult to remove. Nevertheless support structures are often necessary, or otherwise the printer will atempt to build something in mid-air. Positioning support structures and specifying settings such as quantity, angle, point-size, width, and others requires specific knowhow and experience in 3D printing.
An additive manufacturing process in which liquid photopolymer in a vat is selectively cured by light-activated polymerization.
An additive manufacturing process in which droplets of build material are selectively deposited to achieve specific qualities in different parts of the end object.
An additive manufacturing process in which material is selectively dispensed through a nozzle.
An additive manufacturing process in which thermal energy selectively fuses regions of a powder bed.
An additive manufacturing process in which a liquid bonding agent is selectively deposited to join powder materials.
An older additive manufacturing technology in which sheets of material be they paper, plastic, or metal are bonded together to form an object.