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Your Essential Guide to Additive Manufacturing Terms

Dive into the world of additive manufacturing with our comprehensive glossary, designed to empower innovators and professionals alike. This curated collection of terms illuminates the intricacies of 3D printing, offering clear, concise definitions that bridge the gap between complexity and clarity. Whether you’re a seasoned expert or a curious newcomer, this guide is your gateway to staying ahead in an ever-evolving industry.

3D Printer Terms

The predefined space within which a 3D printer can create an object. The platform or plate is the surface upon which the print bonds to and is built from.

The enclosed space in a printer where the object is produced, often temperature-controlled and filled with inert gases for most metal processes.

The component in a 3D printer is responsible for depositing material. Nozzles extrude the material in a molten, or near molten state to resolidify on the platform or previous layer while lasers melt or sinter powdered material to the platform or previous layers.

Filament: Thermoplastic material wound on a spool, melted, and extruded in FDM or FFF printers.  Metal wire filaments are fed through some DED systems for the energy source to fuse to previous layers or platforms.

Liquid Resin: Photopolymer material that solidifies when exposed to UV light, used in SLA or DLP printers.

Powder: Fine particles, often of metal or polymer, spread with a blade and fused layer by layer in SLS or SLM printers or blown with inert gas in DED printers.

A platform that can be heated to ensure better adhesion, reduce warping, and improve flow characteristics of the material.

Additive Manufacturing Terms

3D printing creates objects layer by layer. The layer thickness, typically measured in microns, indicates the height of each individual layer and affects surface finish, feature resolution, and print time.

Temporary structures are printed alongside the main object to support overhangs or complex geometries. Removed post-printing. Some technologies allow for the support material to be different to make removal easier, most technologies only use a single material which makes the bond stronger requiring more aggressive post-processing.

Any operation performed after printing to improve appearance, accuracy, or functionality. This may include sanding, painting, or chemical treatments. Nearly all AM parts go through some form of Post-Processing stages

“Dimensional stability” is an item’s resistance to size or shape shifts, largely influenced by material and temperature. As demonstrated in our CMM fixture showcase: machined aluminum reacts significantly to temperature, while 3D-printed polymer and carbon fiber remain largely stable despite ambient changes.

DfAM Terms

A design approach tailored for 3D printing, focusing on its unique capabilities and constraints. DfAM a design optimized with additive processes in mind, enabling intricate geometries and efficient material use, transcending traditional manufacturing limitations.

A preliminary phase in the design process where ideas are formed, concepts are sketched out, and primary objectives are defined. It sets the groundwork and is often open to iterations and changes based on requirements and feedback.

An iterative design process that harnesses computational algorithms to automatically generate optimized design solutions based on set criteria and constraints. This approach can produce numerous design variations and is particularly useful when optimizing for performance, efficiency, or other design goals.

The final step in the design process, is post-adjustment, where the design is set for production. This polished version embodies feedback from earlier stages and includes post-processing elements vital for the finished product.

The internal structure of a 3D print, which can vary in density.

A flat surface printed first to help with adhesion and reduce warping.

Thin flat layers printed around the base of an object to aid with adhesion.

Parts of a print that extend outward without direct support underneath.

Deformation occurs when different parts of an object cool at different rates.

Detail level of a print, often related to layer height.

The acceptable deviation from the intended design dimensions.

AM Tools Terms

Software used to design the digital 3D model for printing.

CAD harnesses NURBS to mold smooth, precise models with adjustable curves, ideal for design exactitude. In contrast, polygon meshes stitch together triangles for 3D scans, mirroring complex surfaces. Reverse engineering is the CAD alchemy that refines these meshes into sleek NURBS models, marrying real-world detail with manufacturing perfection.

Software that converts CAD designs into machine instructions.

A widely used file format for 3D printing, representing the surface geometry of a 3D object.

A file format, predominantly used for 3D printing, that represents 3D models as interconnected triangles or polygons. Due to its mesh structure, it’s optimized for the layer-by-layer approach of additive manufacturing.

NURBS (Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines):

The coded language a 3D printer and CNC equipment reads to understand how to print or machine a particular design.

A framework that integrates and uses data across the entire lifecycle of a part, from design to production to post-production.

Software that converts 3D models into layers and generates G-code for 3D printing.

Software tool to optimize material layout within a given design space, often based on Finite Element Analysis (FEA) results in a simulation tool.

Tools designed for 3D printing simulations can anticipate potential problems or distortions. Additionally, some can model how a part functions in its intended setting, assisting in refining designs by pinpointing
load-bearing areas.

Software tool that contains the properties and specifications of various printing materials.

Tools to fix gaps, overlaps, and other issues in a 3D design mesh (STL).

AM Technologies

A 3D printing process where a thermoplastic filament is heated and extruded through a nozzle, layer by layer, to create a three-dimensional object. The terms are often used interchangeably, but FDM is trademarked by Stratasys, while FFF is the generic term.

A large-scale 3D printing method used to produce sizable components. It’s similar to FDM but operates at a much larger scale and faster speed.

A 3D printing process that uses a vat of liquid resin that’s cured (hardened) by a UV light, layer by layer, to produce a solid object.

Similar to SLA, DLP 3D printing cures liquid resin using a digital light projector screen rather than a UV laser, allowing for the simultaneous curing of an entire layer.

A metal 3D printing technology where a high-powered laser fully melts metal powder particles together, layer by layer, to form a solid part.

A 3D printing method where a laser sinters (fuses) powdered material (often nylon or polyamide) layer by layer. Unlike SLM, it doesn’t fully melt the material, just fuses the particles together.

This process involves depositing droplets of material which are then solidified by UV light, similar to inkjet printing, but with layers built up to form a 3D object.

In this process, a liquid binding agent is selectively deposited to join powder particles together. Post-processing is usually required to enhance the strength of the printed object.

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