What is 3d printing and how does it work?

3d printing can be accomplished a few different ways, namely Resin printing, and FDM printing - Fused Deposition Modeling. At this time, this site mostly works with FDM style printers. Resin is a different type of printing that uses a liquid that is cured by UV light, one layer at a time and not currently covered at length yet. FDM "draws" a layer at a time much like a baker deposits frosting on a cake - it leaves a line of plastic that adheres to the previous layer over and over until the print is complete. For most purposes, all printers that use a filament can be considered FDM printers.

ABL - automatic bed leveling - this is a leveling assist device that will check a bed surface for minor defects, high or low spots, and compensate the height of the print to null the defects out. it DOES NOT manually level the bed for you- the name is deceiving. Typically uses a CR-touch/BL-touch/Other proximity probe to touch the bed and measure and record the height at multiple points, and then stores that data as a mesh, comparing the height of the surface to the tip of the nozzle.

ABS - a type of filament that is very strong and durable in most conditions, but requires a special set up to print with

Additive manufactoring - the process of 3d printing by creating a bunch of 2d layers stacked to form a 3d object.

Axis - a part of the machine responsible for the motion in one direction - X is left to right, Y is front to back, and Z is up and down.

Axis binding - a problem with a printer when moving in that direction, usually caused by a lead screw or sticking bearing.

bed/printbed - the surface that the printer prints on, aka a build plate.

Bedslinger - a slang term for a 3d printer with a print surface that moves forward and backwards to accomplish Y axis movements.

Belt - the part of the machine that transfers the motion from a stepper motor to the mechanical parts of the axis that move.

Bridging - the practice of stretching the plastic in the air while printing to cover a space such as a hole in the print - the plastic is deposited unsupported and cooled fast enough by air flow to reach the other side of a gap in the print. (bridge the gap)

Brim - a adhesion assisting option where a base platform is printed around the 3d opject, allowing better adhesion to the bed, and is trimmed off the print after it is completed.

Build Plate - the surface that the hot end deposits plastic onto as its printing, aka the bed/printbed.

Build volume - the maximum size a printer can effectively print.

Bowden Extruder/Bowden tube - a system of delivering the filament from the spool to the hot end. A extruder pinches the filament between a gear and a bearing, driven by the extruder motor, and pushes it through a long tube, called a bowden tube, all the way to the nozzle inside the hot end.

CAD - Computer Aided Drafting - the practice of drawing up a print in software to be sliced into the printer. When Someone says "cad something up", they are referring to creating a item from scratch and then printing it. There are many free and paid software packages to learn to use to design your own prints.

Cartesian - a type of printer where all 3 axis move independently of each other on their own stepper motors

Calibration - a series of tests and settings performed on a printer to "dial in" its performance to a peak setting.

Carriage - the part of the X/Y assemblies that move the nozzle and bed on a bedslinger type machine, the X carriage is the hot end assembly and wheels, the Y carriage is the sled that the bed is attached to with wheels to the frame of the machine.

Control screen - the interface on the printer that is used to operate it.

Cooldown - the time after the print is complete where the fans will cool the hotend down, and allow the plate to cool, so the print will pop off easier. the cooler the bed, the easier it is to remove a completed print.

CoreXY - a type of printer where the X and Y is joined together at the carriage, and the stepper motors move as one, working together. Generally these machines tend to be much higher speed and more precise machines than a typical cartesian machine. Examples are the Creality Ender 6 and Ender 7.

Cura - a slicing program that is very common to use, it allows you to bring in a STL file you download, and convert it to a G-Code file that the machine understands - a step in preparing to print.

Endstop - a mechanical switch that lets the machine find its position, typically one for each axis. when the machine touches the end stop, a switch engages and signals the motor that the axis has reached its limit of travel.

Extrude - the act of pushing the plastic through the print head to print.

Extruder - the group of mechanical parts responsible for conveying the plastic. this includes the extruder body, extruder motor, and sometimes a extruder fan.

Extrusion Multiplier - a slicer setting that has to do with the flow rate of plastic as the machine is printing.

Filament - the plastic that is fed through the machine to print. It is available in many different colors, types, material., and typically has a specified filament diameter. In most common 3d printers this will be 1.75 mm.

Fill, fill density- see infill.

Flow - the rate of plastic moving through the print system during the print itself, adjustable both in the printer software and on the configuration menus of most printers

Gantry - the overhead part of the motion system that moves the print head. In Bedslinger machines it is the part of the motion system responsible for left to right (x) and up and down) Z movements.

G-Code - a language that 3D printers understand. it is written by a slicer program based off a model.

Heated build surface/heated print bed - the option of having the build surface set and maintain a temperature during a print, to aid in adhesion.

Hot end - the collection of components that make up the print head. They consist of a nozzle, heat block, heat break, heat sink, compression fitting, hot end fan, parts cooling fan, thermistor, heating element, and hardware to attach it all to the carriage.

Kapton tape - a special insulating heat resistant tape, often found in the hot end or under the print bed, meant to protect wiring from heat.

Layer - the line of plastic deposited by the moving hot end that is laid down one on top of each other to form a 3D print.

Layer height - a slicer setting that defines how thick a layer is. The lower the number, the thinner the layer. Lower layer line heights will result in less visible layer lines in the final print however will be significantly slower to print, and larger layer lines add speed but lose quality resulting in more visible layer lines. Typical layer height is .28 with a .4 nozzle.

Leveling -(correctly known as tramming) the act of making the tip of the nozzle the same height across the print surface, no matter the position. The top left corner should be the same as the bottom right corner if a bed is "level" or trammed. the distance between the nozzle and the surfaceis always precisely the same.

Limit switch - the part of the end stop that is responsible for generating the signal to the mainboard.

Minimal Layer time - the amount of time plastic needs to effectively cool for the next layer to be deposited on top.

Mesh - a scan of the print surface generated by a ABL system that gives feedback to the printer and allows very small height changes to the surface to compensate for high or low spots in the surface.

Nozzle - the tip the plastic is pushed out of, typically brass, typically 0.4 is the size of the hole.

PLA- Polyactic acid - a biodegradeable plastic derived from plant starch. Most common of the filament types, weak in sunlight and heat. available as plain PLA, PLA+, silk etc

PETG - a slightly more versatile filament, but a little more difficult to print with. Handles sun and temperature better than PLA., also very common.

Preheat - setting your machine to warm up prior to leveling or printing.

Print bed - the printing surface.

Print speed and quality - how fast the printer prints, and how clean the print looks after.

Printing temperature - the settings of both the hot end and the print surface, usually dictated by the type of filament

Raft - a type of bed adhesion where a plastic platform is printed first, for a print to be printed on top of. The raft is broken and peeled away after the print is complete. Good for wide prints or prints that refuse to stick well.

Retraction - the backwards motion the printer performs on the filament to draw plastic back up into the nozzle while it moves from location to location on the print during a travel (move without printing)

SD Card - a memory card used to ferry G-code from slicer to printer, or flash firmware. Some printers also store their settings on the SD card instead of on the main board memory.

Seam - the start and stop point of a layer can cause a "z -seam in a print - a visible mark where each layer started, and typically they are stacked, resulting in a "seam". There are slicer settings to combat this.

Shell - the side wall of a print. AKA perimeter

Shell thickness - a slicer setting that is a multiple of nozzle size, and how thick a outer later is.

Skirt - a series of later lines printed around the outside of a print, but does not attach to the print. useful to purge plastic before a print or check z-offset live.

Slice - process a print through a slicer program to convert it into G-code

Slicer - a software program like Cura or PrusaSlicer for setting up printer parameters, and processing files into G-code with the parameters applied.

Soft pull/Soft removal - heating the hot end to a lower melting temp and pulling the filament out- to help remove buildup, Generally done around 180 degrees.

Stepper aka Stepper motor - a electric motor that moves in very precise movements or steps. It operates off of electical pulses from the Stepper drivers

Stepper Driver - the part of the main board that controls voltages and timing to a stepper motor.

Stepper motor cable - the electrical cable between the motor and the board, that carries power and signal information to the motor.

STL- Stands for stereolithography - the typical type of file downloaded or created for slicing into prints, there are other types of slicable files.

Supports - structures printed but not intended to be a permanent part of a print, they are temporary to help bridge gaps when bridging alone will not work, or a overhang angle is too steep.

Tension arm - a part of a extruder that compresses the filament between a drive gear of a stepper and a bearing or other gear to move the filament.

Travel speed - the speed the print head can relocate while not actively printing.

Usb connection: a way to hook up a printer to a computer for both sending g code files, and diagnostic functions using a terminal program such as "Pronterface"

Z-hop - a slicer setting that lifts the head above the print height to move overhead a print, versus just moving along the top at print height.

3DP Rescue! - a great Facebook forum similar to ours however much larger. Run by a top notch admin team, a great additional resource if you don't get a answer here. at the time of the posting, about 5000 members and they are unforgiving to trolls. A great bunch of people.
3DP Rescue!