3D Printing Definnitions: key terms used in 3D Printing.

A definative guide to help you get past the Jargon.



3D printing is fascinating and incredibly complicated at the same time. Understanding every concept can be overwhelming, specially when you are just starting out. Thats why we are here! Sklptor aims to simplify 3D printing and bring it to the everyday users. Even then, you might be curious about some of the Terminology used in 3D Printing. That is why we have compiled this list. This list of 3D Printing jargon should give you better understanding of what people are talking about when they say thing likes “I just 3D printed my CAD model with Sklptor.com in PLA FDM.”

AM – Additive Manufacturing

3D Printing is also sometimes referred to as Additive Manufacturing. This is because 3D Printing works by adding material in different layers to create the final 3D object. AM is the opposite to Subtractive Manufacturing, which remove material to form an object. An example of SM is Sculpting.

ABS – Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

The name might sound complicated but ABS is just a type of thermo plastic. This material, comes in the form of a filament and is used on FDM (see below) printers. These 3D Printers heat up the filament and melt it to create 3D Printed Objects.

CAD – Computer Aided Design

CAD describes the different design software used to create, modifying, analyse or optimise a 3D design. Some CAD programs are used by engineers and 3D designers to create and modify the models they want to 3D print. Some are very easy to get a grasp of so can be used by end customers rather than just experts. You can learn more about CAD Software for 3D printing on this article. Below is an image of 3DS max. This should give you an idea of how the CAD softwares work.

FDM – Fused Deposition

Modeling This is one of the most popular 3D printing technology among starters. FDM machines build 3D models by dropping layers of melted plastic on top of each other. The most popular (and cheapest) plastic used here is PLA. This technology was created in 1988, and has been improving ever since. Most home 3D printers tend to use this technology.

Industrial FDM printers are similar to home FDM printers in the sense that they both work by melting filament, industrial 3D Printers however, have a much smaller printing head, making them significantly more precise. FFF – Fused Filament Fabrication
FDM was patented technology till 2009, so FFF was generally used as a synonym to avoid any legal trouble.

MJF – Multi Jet Fusion (HP)

MJF technology was developed by HP (Yes, that computer and printer company) for 3D printing. It works similar to Selective Laser Sintering, but instead of lasers it jets a chemical that fuses very fine grains of powder, resulting in a strong but flexible material. MJF is the best option when your models has fine details and thin walls. Sklptor.com has one of the only such printers in the region!

PA – Polyamide

Polyamide is a fine, white powder used in SLS (see below) 3D printing. The material allows a wide range of finishes and colors, but has a slight downside in that it feels slightly sandy to the touch. as well as nearly unlimited freedom of design. Due to being one of the very few full colour 3D Printing options out there, PA is incredibly popular with designers and artists.

PLA – Polylactic Acid

PLA, sometimes called biopolymer, is used in the form of a filament on FDM (Those melting machines we spoke about earlier) 3D Printing machines. This thermoplastic is often made from renewable raw materials such as sugarcane and potatoes, and can have a sweet smell when burned. PLA is a very popular material for home printers because it’s easy to use and cost-efficient. If you’re going for PLA, be sure the object won’t be dropped often, as PLA tends to be little brittle.

SLA – Stereolithography

SL or SLA is A 3D printing process that uses liquid resins. Stereolithography is used on specialised 3D printers, such as our FormLabs 3L. SLA works by spreading a layer of liquid layer over a flat bed. The required areas are then hardened by a UV laser, to make the different layers of 3D-printed model. One layer of liquid is spread on top of another until the model is complete. The excess liquid flows away.

SLS – Selective Laser Sintering

SLS is another 3D printing technology based on powder. The printer is heated up enough to just before the melting point of the material. Then a fine layer of powder is spread. After that, a laser beam heats up the parts that need to be sintered (fused) together. The rest of the powder remains loose. The main advantage of this technology is that no supporting structure (see below) is needed, so it allows very complex designs with interlocking and moving parts.


STL is the name of a very common 3D printing file format. Most CAD softwares allow you to export in .STL format. It’s supported by most 3D design and printing software, and is probably the most common file format used for 3D printing.


OBJ is another very common 3D printing file format. Most CAD softwares allow you to export in .STL format. It’s supported by most 3D design and printing software, and is probably the most common file format used for 3D printing.
TPU – Thermoplastic Polyurethane
Our RubberLike prints are made with a material called TPU. The technical name is the acronym for Thermoplastic Polyurethane The final models are strong and highly flexible

Support or support structure

This one is pretty simple. Because of the way 3D printing works, certain taller objects need to be attached to the base of the printer. Otherwise the object can topple mid print. Below is an example of support structures.

We hope that this list of 3D printing terminology will help you understand how 3D printing works. This is only the very basics of 3D printing. There is a lot more to come. Check out the rest of our blog for interesting articles on 3D Printing technology, 3D Printing materials and technology and many guides on design. You can also checkout our Gallery and Shop for more inspiration before you take on a 3D Printing project of your own.
Finally, do keep in mind that although 3D Printing is incredibly complicated, our platform is not! All you need to do is upload your file, select which material you would like to print in and #GetPrinting. Here is a Video guide on how it all works at SKLPTOR

Edited By: Aaish Kanjer

Aaish Kanjer is the Co-founder and CEO of SKLPTOR. He is the one responsible for day to day operations at KOL. Amongst his hobbies are reading, football and evidently editing blog posts.


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