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3D Printing Glossary: 15 Important Terms to Know

3D printing has been in use for longer than many people think. While its explosion in popularity is a more recent occurrence, the technology is by no means a new one. However, many might still be unsure what a 3D printing service actually entails and what the practice even is at a base level.

Getting into 3D printing can feel impossible, especially if you’re confronted with terminology you don’t understand. This blog will explore some key terms around this topic that you should know as a business owner or manager who wants accurate prints from your 3D printing partner.

Common terms used in 3D printing

To get you acquainted with terms commonly used in the industry, here are 15 you’ll need to know before getting started.

1. 3D printer

3D printers deposit material layer by layer on top of each other until the 3D object is complete. This process creates a 3 dimensional physical object from a digital file known as a 3D file which is created from a Computer Aided Design software (CAD), allows companies to create customised objects that fit correctly. There are different 3D printers available in the market today such as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), Stereolithography (SLA), Digital Light Processing (DLP), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Multi-Jet Fusion (MJF) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) just to name a few popular types of 3D printers.

Source: 3D Hubs

2. Build Platform

Sometimes known as a “build surface” or “build plate”, the build platform is the flat surface that objects will be printed (or built) on top of. Depending on the type of 3D printer and material used, there are several build platform options such as polypropylene and glass. These can play a part in the print quality and ensure that your 3D-printed part is built precisely.

3. Heated Bed

A heated surface for the plastic or other types of material to stick to during printing. This is intended to reduce warping with the low difference in temperature to the plastic.

4. Extruder

The part of the FDM/FFF 3D printer that feeds out the filament you’re printing with in a liquid/semi-liquid state to form each layer of the object.

5. Nozzle

The nozzle is the very tip that applies the printing material to the bed to form each layer for FDM/FFF 3D printer. The bigger the diameter of the nozzle, the higher the extrusion speed will be. More mass and surface area will be available to transfer heat to the filament, playing a part in the speed of printing the object.

However, this will depend on how accurate you need your 3D-printed parts to be as smaller nozzles may also be preferred in terms of providing high precision in 3D-printed parts.

6. Filament

This is the general name for the material that the FDM /FFF 3D printer uses. It’s the 3D equivalent of ink for a standard printer. There are many types of filament, ranging from standard plastics like ABS, PLA to engineering and high performance materials such as nylon, carbon fiber to metal infilled.

7. Infill

This is the shape inside a part that you’ll need printing. These patterns determine the strength, flexibility, weight, and time spent printing of each part.

8. Layer Cure Time

This refers to the time spent to cure each layer during the 3D printing process with SLA and DLP type of 3D printers. You’ll want to check with your 3D printing service company as the layer cure time can determine how quick you can get your prototypes or parts.

9. Mesh

The mesh refers to the 3D digital model that the printer will use as a blueprint to create the desired object.

10. Overhang

An overhang is the term for any shape on a 3D object that extends beyond the previous layer. As overhangs have no direct support to it, they can be difficult to print properly.

11. Shell

This is the term for the outer perimeter of each layer. Essentially, the furthest area around each individual layer. Think of it as the opposite of the infill.

12. Support

Supports are the non-permanent additions to a 3D object that hold up or connect overhangs to the main object in order to make them stable and printable. Should you require support in your 3D-printed parts, your 3D printing company will activate this in the slicer before production.

13. Slicer

A slicer is a software program that transforms a full digital model into printing instructions for a 3D printer to use when building an object.

14. Print quality

A 3D printer’s print quality (usually measured in microns) works very similarly to the resolution of a 2D printer. It determines the level of minuscule detail that can be included in the 3D models that you print.

15. Warping

Warping is the undesired distortion or shrinking of the model. Sometimes when printing, corners can lift from the plate, material can contract and shrink, and the model will take an undesired appearance from what was intended. While this is a common Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) problem, warping do also occur in other 3D printing technologies. Rest assured an experienced 3D printing company like Additive3D Asia will know how to prevent or fix warping when it occurs.

In summary

That covers the top 15 most widely-used terms in 3D printing. With that bit of 3D printing knowledge under your belt, you should have an easier time grasping any concepts discussed using these terms. For more information, you can learn about the different types of 3D printing processes, post-processing tools and latest materials used in Singapore.

If you’ve got a 3D printing project on your hands, or you need rapid prototyping or additive manufacturing in Singapore, feel free to discuss it with Additive3D Asia today. Here you’ll find some of the best end-to-end 3D printing services available.

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