3D Printing
3D Printing

3D scanner – A device used to analyze physical objects to create a solid model from the cloud of points.

3D Printing – The additive manufacturing process of creating a physical object layer by layer. Also known as Additive Manufacturing.

3d Printer – A machine that creates a physical object one layer at a time (the additive fabrication method). Used mostly for rapid prototyping, and molds, and benchies.

3D Modeling

3D Systems – a global manufacture of production 3D printers, additive manufacturing equipment and other additive services and products.

Absolute Accuracy – Defined as the difference between an intended final dimension and the actual dimension as determined by a physical measurement of the part. In addition to those for linear dimensions, there are accuracy specifications for such features as hole sizes and flatness.

ABS plastic Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) – a common thermoplastic. ABS is commonly used in rapid prototyping extrusion-based 3D printers. This is the same material as LEGO bricks are made of.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) Additive Manufacturing – the process of manufacturing objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies. The most common additive manufacturing methods utilize this layered approach, but other geometries are also possible. This term is also used generically as a synonym for rapid prototyping.

Axis: A spatial direction along a which the path of motion. There are three primary axes, X, Y and Z. Each primary axis has a relative axis along that axis; A, B and C.

Binder Jetting (BJ)

Boolean– a 3d modeling function used to modify or create a solid body by combining, subtracting, or intersecting more than one body.

Boundary: a geometric parameter of constraint used to confine or exclude a toolpath.

Boundary Representation ( B-Rep) : a method used in solid modeling to define geometry that’s represented by edges, faces, and vertices. 

CAD: Computer Aided Design; The use of computers to assist in the design process.

CAD/CAM: Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacturing.

CAM: Computer Aided Manufacturing; The use of computers to assist in manufacturing.

Cartesian Coordinates: A three dimensional system used to represent a position, location, or direction of motion in space.

Closed Profile– a chain of geometry that connects together without any gaps.

Concentricity/ Concentric: Two round circles or round surfaces that share the same center line / axis of rotation.

Contour Crafting – a form of 3D printing that uses robotic arms and nozzles to squeeze out layers of concrete or other materials, moving back and forth over a set path to fabricate a large component.

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) – the automation of machine tools that are operated by abstractly programmed commands encoded on a storage medium, as opposed to controlled manually via handwheels or levers, or mechanically automated via cams alone. In modern CNC systems, end-to-end component design is highly automated using Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) programs.

Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) – is the broad usage of computer software to aid in engineering tasks. This is also sometimes called computer-aided drafting.

Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) – a computer program that generates tool paths or other manufacturing data to fabricate tooling, usually by subtractive means. CAM programs may use a geometry definition from a CAD program as a starting point.

Constraints:  Spatial parameters or boundaries that are used to define relationships within geometry. Constraints may be used to associate parametric or variationally geometry within a CAD system.

Gap (profile gap) – a gap in a profile where the geometry chain doesn’t connect.

DIY 3D printer – a term used to describe building, modifying, or repairing of 3D printers without the aid of experts or professionals.

Desktop Manufacturing (DTM) – an early synonym for rapid prototyping, but no longer in current usage. DTM Corp., now incorporated into 3D Systems, was named after this terminology. Use of DTM as a company name became more common usage than the prior technical definition itself.

Digital Light Processing (DLP)

Electron Beam Melting (EBM)

Filament – the material that goes into a 3D printer to realize the CAD model into a touchable product. An example of a filament is a spool of ABS or PLA with a thickness of 3mm that you can put in your personal 3D printer.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) – The additive process of using a plastic filament or metal wire which is unwound from a coil and supplies material to an extrusion nozzle which can turn the flow on and off. The nozzle is heated to melt the material and can be moved in both horizontal and vertical directions by a numerically controlled mechanism, directly controlled by a computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software package. The object is produced by extruding melted material to for layers as the material hardens immediately after extrusion from the nozzle. FDM was invented by Scott Crump in the late 80’s. After patenting this technology he started the company Stratasys in 1988. The software that comes with this technology automatically generates support structures if required. The machine dispenses two materials, one for the model and one for a disposable support structure. Kinect is a motion sensing input device by Microsoft for the Xbox 360 video game console. The Kinect software has been hacked so the device can also be used as a 3D scanner.



Hybrid 3D Printing – Modern Manufacturing Techniques merge with additive processes.

Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)

Makerbot – MakerBot Industries is a company founded in January 2009 by Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, and Zach Smith producing an open source 3D printer to democratize manufacturing.

Material Jetting (MJ) / Wax Casting


PLA Poly(lactic acid) or polylactide (PLA) – A thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable sources, such as corn starch, tapioca products or sugarcanes. PLA is commonly used in rapid prototyping extrusion-based 3D printers.



Recycled Deposition Modeling (RDM) – an additive manufacturing process using a temperature-controlled head which extrudes recycled materials.

RepRap – The RepRap Project is an initiative to develop a 3D printer (RepRap, short for “replicating rapid prototype”) that can print most of its own components. To date, the RepRap project has released four 3D printing machines: “Darwin”, released in March 2007, “Mendel”, released in October 2009, “Prusa Mendel” and “Huxley” released in 2010. The RepRap project is open-source where all of the designs produced by the project are released under a free software license, the GNU General Public License.

Resin: Any of numerous physically similar polymerized synthetics or chemically modified natural resins including thermoplastic materials such as polyvinyl, polystyrene, and polyethylene and thermosetting materials such as polyesters, epoxies, and silicones that are used with fillers, stabilizers, pigments, and other components to form plastics.

Revolve Tool: Revolves a selected profile around a selected axis.


STL File – STL is a file format that originates out of the stereolithography CAD software created by 3D Systems. STL files describe only the surface geometry of a three dimensional object without any representation of color, texture or other common CAD model attributes.

Stratasys – an additive-manufacturing company and manufacture in the commercial for prototyping and producing plastic parts. Stratasys patented and owns the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process. The process creates functional prototypes and manufactured goods directly from any 3D CAD program, using high-performance industrial thermoplastics. The company holds more than 285 granted or pending additive-manufacturing patents globally. Stratasys products are used in the aerospace, defense, automotive, medical, business and industrial equipment, education, architecture, and consumer-product industries.

Stereolithography (SLA) – an additive technology in which photopolymerization is used to produce a solid part from a liquid is SLA. This technology employs a vat of liquid ultraviolet curable photopolymer resin and an ultraviolet laser to build the object’s layers one at a time. For each layer, the laser beam traces a cross-section of the part pattern on the surface of the liquid resin. Exposure to the ultraviolet laser light cures and solidifies the pattern traced on the resin and joins it to the layer below. After the pattern has been traced, the SLA’s elevator platform descends by a distance equal to the thickness of a single layer, typically 0.05 mm to 0.15 mm (0.002″ to 0.006″). Then, a resin-filled blade sweeps across the cross section of the part, re-coating it with fresh material. On this new liquid surface, the subsequent layer pattern is traced, joining the previous layer. The complete three dimensional object is formed by this project. Stereolithography requires the use of supporting structures which serve to attach the part to the elevator platform. This technique was invented in 1986 by Charles Hull, who also at the time founded the company, 3D Systems.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) – the additive process that uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass powders into a mass that has the desired three dimensional shape. The laser selectively fuses the powdered material by scanning the cross-sections (or layers) generated by the 3D modeling program on the surface of a powder bed. After each cross-section is scanned, the powder bed is lowered by one layer thickness. Then a new layer of material is applied on top and the process is repeated until the object is completed. All untouched powder remains as it is and becomes a support structure for the object. Therefore there is no need for any support structure which is an advantage over SLS and SLA. All unused powder can be used for the next printing. SLS was developed and patented by Dr. Carl Deckard at the University of Texas in the mid-1980s, under sponsorship of DARPA.

SLM (Selective Laser Melting)

Shapeways – A 3D printing service / online platform where users upload design files to be 3d printed. Users can have objects printed from a variety of materials, including food safe ceramics. Shapeways enables users to create and to modify their designs, or import them from popular 3D modeling software.

Thingiverse a website created by Makerbot to the sharing of user-created digital design files. Providing primarily open source hardware designs.

Toolpath: the path that a tool moves in order to cut or rapid into position to cut.

Translate: To move or shift an element or solid over.

Z Corporation – In 1995 Z Corporation developed a new 3D printing technology called Z Printing. In ZPrinters, an inkjet-like printing head moves across a bed of powder, selectively depositing a liquid binding material in the shape of the section. A fresh layer of powder is spread across the top of the model, and the process is repeated. Also, Z Corporation developed the first full-color 3D printer. Z Corporation (commonly abbreviated Z Corp.) was acquired by 3D Systems on January 3, 2012.