Jargon Busting in the 3D Printing Industry

Our expert team demystify the world of 3D print technology by explaining some of the unfamiliar terms we use.

The 3D printing industry comprises of a range of different 3D printing methods, materials and processes in which it can sometimes be a bit tricky getting your head around all the different terms we use.

Well don’t worry! Our expert team at the 3D print Bureau are here to demystify the world of 3D print technology by explaining some of the unfamiliar terms we use. Here’s our guide to 3D print jargon and we hope you will feel a little less confused and a bit more confident when discussing your 3D printing needs in the future.

Fused Deposition Modelling

Fused Deposition Modelling or ‘FDM’ as we refer to it, is a 3D printing process that extrudes heated thermoplastic material through a computer-controlled print head nozzle to build parts in layers. Fused Deposition Modelling is a term which has been trademarked by Stratasys themselves, therefore the other term used for alternative FDM printers is Fused Filament Fabrication.

Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methods. ‘AM’ as we refer to it in the business, is a collective term for fused deposition modelling and fused filament fabrication.


CAD simply stands for computer aided software. It is used by architects, engineers, drafters, artists and others to create precise drawings or technical illustrations. It can be used to create 2D or 3D models.

Functional Prototype

A Functional Prototype is an agile model created using engineering thermoplastics or digital materials that reveal how the real product will perform, before committing to production tooling. They are essentially used to test fit, form and function.


Part orientation is the way your 3D model sits on the X, Y and Z axis in CAD software. Part orientation is an important aspect of 3D printing as it determines the strength and thickness of a model as well as how much support material needs to be used.

G – Code

G-code is the language used to instruct the 3D printer to perform operations. They are usually generated by software and control specific actions such as motion, speed, rotation and depth.

Support Material

Support Material gives our 3D Printers a support structure when they are printing. Support tends to be printed in a lattice like structure alongside your part – acting like a scaffold almost. Support structures are there to keep your part in place!


A thermoplastic is a synthetic resin that becomes plastic on heating and hardens when cooled. They are able to go through this process multiple times.

Rapid Prototyping

Rapid Prototyping or RP as we commonly call it in the industry is a group of techniques used to fabricate a scale model or a physical part using 3D CAD software in a short space of time. This is usually done via additive manufacturing/3D Printing.

Watertight Mesh

A watertight mesh is a term used to describe a 3D mesh suitable for 3D printing. It essentially means that there are no holes, cracks or missing features on the mesh of the model.


Hopefully we’ve busted all your 3D jargon problems in this blog but if we haven’t give us a call on  +44 (0)1782757320 and one of our expert team members will be able to advise you.