Glossary of 3D Printing and Printer Terms

This is a list of common terms and abbreviations used in the 3D printer, design, and printing communities.


  • Abbreviation for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, which is a thermoplastic used in build materials.
  • ABS is often used when referring to filament made of ABS.


  • The build plate of the 3D printer on which parts are actually made.


  • A group of parts which handles feeding and extruding of the build material.
  • Each extruder consists of two assemblies; a cold end to pull and feed the filament from the spool, and a hot end that melts and extrudes the filament.


  • Plastic material that is formed into string, which is then used as build material in 3D printers.
  • Typical filament diameters are 1.75mm and 3mm.


  • Abbreviation for Object File, which an alternative file format to describe 3D objects. See STL.


  • Abbreviation for Polylactic Acid, which is a biodegradable thermoplastic polymer that is used as build material.
  • PLA is often used when referring to filament made of PLA.


  • Abbreviation for Polyvinyl Alcohol, which is a water soluble filament used as build material.
  • PVA is often used when referring to filament made of PVA.
  • PVA is soluble in water, and mainly used for support material.


  • Abbreviation for Stereo Lithographic, which is a recommended file format to describe 3D objects.
  • 3D designs are converted into an STL files, which are then used to print parts on 3D printers.

Support Material

  • Extra (non-design related) material that acts as support while printing overhangs, arches, etc.
  • The material can either be the primary material that is broken away at the end of the print, or a secondary material (such as PVA) that can be removed using another process.