Eleven 3D Printing Terms You Need to Know – What to Know

If you're new to the world of 3D printing, there are plenty of things to learn about. From concepts to terminology, jargon dominates conversations that you'll find hard to understand. But don't worry, we've got you covered.

Here are the 11 most common 3D printing acronyms you’ll need to know:

1. Additive Manufacturing (AM)

AM is commonly used as a synonym for 3D printing. The technology behind 3D printing is referred to as ‘additive technology’ and defines the process of combining materials to create a three-dimensional object. The opposite of additive manufacturing is subtractive manufacturing, where materials are removed to create an object.

2. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

It does sound complicated and even hard to pronounce, but you won’t have to memorize the word. Just know that ABS is a type of plastic from the thermoplastic polymers family. This material is used on FDM printers where it is heated up and formed into models.

3. Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

The term Computer-Aided Design describes design software used in creating, modifying, analyzing, and optimizing three-dimensional designs. It is often used by engineers and designers to create and edit 3D models they want to print.

4. Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

DMLS is just one of many techniques for 3D printing metals. It is a laser-based 3D printing method that utilizes powdered metals—aluminium, titanium, and other alloys. Sharing the same principles as SLS, a 3D printing machine spreads a thin layer of metal powder while a powerful laser heats up and binds the parts together to form the model.

5. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

FDM is one of the most popular 3D printing technologies. It works by heating plastic filaments, such as ABS and layering them one by one. This technology was created in 1988 by the founders of Stratasys Crump, S. Scott and Lisa Crump.

6. Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)

Up until 2009, the term FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) was used over FDM due to legal patent restrictions. It was coined by members of the RepRap project to evade any legal issues concerning Stratasys Crump.

7. Multi-Jet Fusion (HP)

HP technology is similar to SLS, but rather than using lasers to melt a material, it fires a fusing agent melting fine grains of powder together. As a result, the material is flexible yet very durable.

8. Polyamide (PA)

Polyamide, also known as nylon plastic, is a fine powder used with SLS 3D printing technology. Because the powder gives the finished product a sandy feel, it allows for a wide range of colours and finishes to be applied along with nearly unlimited designs. That’s why this material is so popular among 3D artists and graphic designers.

9. Polylactic Acid (PLA)

Sometimes known as biopolymer, PLA is also used in FDM 3D printing. This thermoplastic is made with raw materials (such as soy, corn, potatoes, and sugarcane) and can emit a sweet fragrance when burnt. Although the finished product is more brittle than ABS, it is famous for its home-use due to its cost-efficiency and simplicity.

10. Stereolithography (SL/SLA)

Both SL and SLA stand for the same thing: stereolithography. It is a process in which liquid resin is spread over a platform and specific areas hardened with UV lasers to make the 3D model. The liquid is continuously spread on top of another until the model is done.

11. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

As referenced many times by previous terms, SLS is a 3D printing technology that revolves around the use of powder. The printer heats up to just below the melting point, and a layer of powder spreads. A laser beam then heats up the material above its melting point, fusing them and creating the model.

With all of that in your head, you’re well on your way to becoming a 3D printing expert.

If you’re looking for a 3D printing service, get in touch with us today to see how we can help today!

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