3D printing glossary

Brim: a series of attached/concentric layers all in contact with the bed and your piece to maximize the grip of your piece to the bed. Especially useful for pieces with "islands" (the end points of contact with the bed. For example, if you print the model a chair on your printer). In the image on the opposite side, the Brim is shown in green.

Extruder gauge:
also called an extruder nozzle gauge, it is the print head diameter (extruder). It is usually 0.35 mm or 0.4 mm by default. Some 3D printers offer packs of nozzles with different diameters, such as the Olsson Pack for Ultimaker, with nozzles from 0.15 mm (precise printing) to 1 mm (fast printing).

CAD:Computer Aided Design refers to all graphical modelling techniques and software making it possible to virtually test and make manufactured goods.

SD card: SD cards are memory cards for storing and transferring all kinds of computer files.

External dimensions: the external dimensions of your device (3D printer, scanner, etc.).

Extruder: A special term used in FDM 3D printing (fused deposition). It's the print head that the melted plastic flows out of (just like ink in a conventional printer).

STL file: 3D modelling file format commonly used for 3D printing. All the data from your 3D model enabling your printer to understand where and how to lay down the layers of material are recorded in the STL file.

3D filament: this is the consumable of 3D printing called FDM, just like the ink cartridge for a conventional/2D printer. It is usually a coil of filament material (generally plastic based) that is progressively melted through the extruder to model, layer by layer, the desired object.

Gcode: file format containing the 3D model (usually an STL file) as well as the instructions so the 3D printer can print it (travel, speed, layer height, etc.). This is the final format to launch a 3D print.

Firmware: Micro software integrated into the machine. Manages the 3D printer's various native functions.

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM): this is an additive manufacturing technology. That is to say, the process is the deposition of material layer by layer (additive). This is the technology used by most desktop 3D printers as it was the first to become more accessible.

Layer thickness / Layer height: Certainly one of the most watched criteria by makers. This is the fineness of your 3D printer's printed object. The 3D printing is done by successively depositing superimposed layers of material, and the layer thickness (or layer height) refers to the thickness of each layer of deposited material. A succession of very thin layers (0.02 mm, or 20 microns, for example) provides a perfectly smooth rendering your final piece. On the other hand, your print will last longer than if you print with layers of 200 microns, with a final result that's more 'rough'.

Hollow : means a piece whose degree of filling (Infill) is 0%. The printed piece is, therefore, only made of the walls, and the interior is empty.

Islands: small points of contact of a piece with the bed. For example, if you print a chair standing on your bed, the legs of the chairs are islands. These islands are likely to come unstuck from the bed more easily. You can counteract this effect by printing a Brim.

3D printer: The 3D printer is the machine intended to make three dimensional pieces by depositing successive layers of melted material (plastic, metal, food, etc.). 3D (or "three-dimensional") printers, therefore, make it possible to produce real objects.

Infill: Expressed in percentage or decimals (0 to 1) depending on the software, the "Infill" option is the fill rate of the inside of your 3D creation. 10% Infill means the inside your piece will be 10% material and 90% empty. 100% Infill refers to a completely solid piece.

Maker (a): An English term meaning "one who makes", it is commonly used abroad for a person who designs 3D objects using a 3D printer.

Micron: reference unit of length when talking about printing accuracy for a 3D printer. 1 micron (1µ) = 0.001 millimetre. For example, an accuracy of 100 microns is equal to 0.1 mm (one tenth of a millimetre).

3D Model: the 3D model is the three dimensional "drawing" of your object to be printed. Generally, it's sent to the 3D printer as an STL file. The 3D model, when imported and then processed through print software comes out in Gcode format. Therefore, in its memory, it contains all the necessary characteristics for an object so that it is understood and printed by the 3D printer.

Offset: voluntary forced displacement of a measurement. Applying a 1 mm offset to Z axis, for example, through the printer software, means that when printing starts, the bed will be shifted 1 mm from the nozzle throughout printing.

Open Source: The open source, or "open source code", designation applies to software and products whose licence meets specific criteria established by the Open Source Initiative, that is to say, free redistribution, access to the source code (the case of software) and the possibility of creating derivative works.

Printing bed: this is the bed on which the melted plastic will be deposited, layer by layer, in order to create the final object to be printed.

Bridge: area of a suspended 3D printed piece, cantilevered, for which no support is generated.

Pre-calibrated: a pre-calibrated device is a device already set according to pre-established reference data. In the case of a 3D printer, this means that the basic settings are already made, such as: the position of the extruder, axes settings, belt tension, horizontality of the bed, etc.).

Raft: These are the first layers deposited on the bed, on which your printed object will be deposited. They are thicker and provide better adhesion to the bed for your piece. Once printing is complete, the raft is removed from your final print.

RepRap: RepRap is the abbreviation for "replicating rapid prototyper". It's an initiative to develop an open source 3D printer that can print its own components and, consequently, can largely self-replicate. The advantage being building a low-cost 3D printer.

Retraction: the fact that the extruder "swallows" the filament, usually when going from point A to point B of your piece without extruding. That makes it possible to avoid "stringing" (the appearance of unwanted strings of material between point A and point B).

3D Scanner:3D scanners allow you to model an object by scanning it with lasers; that is to say, to record all its features, and make a 3D drawing/model of it. This is to transmit the scanned data (the 3D model) to a 3D printer, and reproduce the object at will.

Skirt: initial deposit of material around your piece to be printed. The skirt is deposited before printing your piece in order to ensure regular, clean flow when you 3D print starts.

SLA: refers to stereolithography, a 3D printing technology operating on the principle of the photopolymerisation of liquid resins. Backed by the Manufacturer Formlabs, it's the second technology to become accessible after FDM. This technology makes highly precise 3D printing with an exceptional level of detail possible because it virtually eliminates the stair-stepping effect of FDM due to solidification by an ultra-precise laser.

Supports: supports are additions of soluble materials making it possible to print cantilevered sections on your pieces. In the case of a figurine with outstretched arms, the first layer deposited to form the arms rests on nothing if the supports are absent; therefore, your extruder will deposit the filament into empty space. From a 30° inclination, supports are usually required. Supports are made of PVA (water soluble and recommended for PLA) and HIPS (soluble in D-limonene and recommended with ABS). Find an example of a support on the HIPS 3D filament sheet.

Shells: the "number of shells" refers to the thickness of the outer part of your piece. The minimum and standard for this measurement is 1. Each "shell" that you add adds an extra layer to the perimeter of your piece. So, if you specify "shells = 2" in your software, you will get a thickness of 3 concentric circles. These additional layers are added inside your piece so that the external dimensions do not vary.

Vase mode: print mode in which the Z axis moves with snap action to the end of each layer. It moves progressively throughout printing; this is also called a dynamic "Z". Printing in vase mode is very restrictive as regards the characteristics of the model to be printed but generally produces cleaner prints.

Print speed: print speed is a highly regarded feature when buying a 3D printer. Indeed, designing a plastic part takes time, and the possibility of reducing its print time from 6 hours to 4 hours makes a difference. Current printers have print speeds from 20 mm/sec to 120 mm/sec as a standard speed. Some machines, like the Ultimaker 2+ can even print up to 300 mm/sec (however, high-quality results cannot be expected at this speed). Apart from the machine itself, print speed is particularly affected by the complexity of the piece or the desired accuracy.

Print volume: often called "length x width x height" measurements (or LxWxH), the print volume is the maximum object volume/size that can be printed by the 3D printer. If a machine's maximum print volume is 25 x 20 x 18 cm, you can print objects with a maximum size of 25 cm in length, 20 cm in width and 18 cm in height. If the object is larger, nothing prevents you from printing it in several parts.

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