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3D printing glossary

3D Printing Help Centre


In the 123-3D help centre, we answer all your questions about 3D software and printer settings, problems you may experience during or after 3D printing and other 3D-related topics.

3D glossary

Many different and sometimes complicated terms are used in the 3D printing world. To help you on your way, we have collected the most commonly used terms in the overview below. So you can quickly get started with your brand-new printer, replacement parts or upgrade! 


ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene and is a versatile and very strong filament type that is both heat resistant and water-resistant. ABS filament has a high printing temperature which can cause it to warp during cooling. To prevent this, you can use a heated bed. Would you like to know more about the properties of ABS? Then read our ABS filament page

A means to prevent the growth of micro-organisms, such as bacteria. Antimicrobial filament is ideal for printing toys, educational materials, kitchen utensils, etc.

Arduino is an electric open-source platform with easy-to-use software and hardware. The kits are based on microcontroller boards and are used to build and control digital and interactive objects.



Bowden extruder
A Bowden extruder supplies the filament to the nozzle through a PTFE tube. This extruder is mounted on the frame so that less weight is placed on the nozzle. This improves the quality of the prints. However, the filament has to travel a greater distance, which increases the chance of filament problems. A Bowden extruder is therefore less suitable for flexible filament types.



Cold end
As the name suggests, the cold end is a cold part of the extruder. This part is (often) physically located above the hot end and ensures that the filament does not (yet) start to melt. Because the cold end is equipped with a serrated wheel, this part can pick up the filament and continue to the hot end.



Drive gear
The drive gear is part of the extruder and ensures that the filament can move forwards or backwards. Sufficient filament supply is essential for optimum extrusion. That is why the drive gear is equipped with sharp teeth for extra grip.

Dual extruder
A 3D printer with a dual extruder has a double print head. This makes it possible to print with two different colours or materials. A dual extruder is suitable for making prints with soluble support material, so complex 3D prints can be realised.  

D-Limonene is a natural solvent with a pleasant orange scent. It is used to dissolve support material, such as HIPS filament, after printing. This liquid is highly flammable and may cause skin irritation or allergies. Therefore, always use protective clothing and gloves.



End stop
The End stop is used to determine the start position of the print head. In addition, this part ensures that the stepper motor knows when the end of the x, y, or z-axis has been reached. You can add up to six end stops, but three (1 per axis) are enough to determine the start position.

The extruder provides the supply of the filament to the nozzle. Most extruders are located directly above the nozzle, which means that the filament only has to travel a short distance, is less likely to become entangled and can be quickly retracted (high retraction speed). In addition, direct extruders are suitable for almost all filament types.



FDM is one of the best-known 3D printing techniques and is an abbreviation for Fused Deposition Modelling. This technique is based on the extrusion of filament layer by layer. When the different layers adhere to each other, a 3D print is created.

FFF is one of the best-known 3D printing techniques and stands for Fused Filament Fabrication. This printing technique is exactly the same as FDM: a 3D print is built up layer by layer using plastic filament and a movable print head.

Filament is the material used for creating 3D objects and is available in different colours and materials. The PLA and ABS filament types are probably the best known. The Filament is available in two different diameters: 1.75mm and 2.85mm. The diameter you need depends on the extruder of your 3D printer. Want to know which filament type suits you best? View our 3D filament pages.



Greg's extruder
The name of a commonly used cold end.



The heatbreak is part of the extruder and ensures that the heater block transfers less heat to the cold end. As a result, the filament only melts at the hot end and the chance of a clogged nozzle is reduced.

Heated bed
A heated bed is a heated print bed whose temperature can be regulated. This prevents warping of the print. Thanks to a heated bed, the different layers of the 3D print adhere better, which benefits the quality of the 3D prints.  

HIPS filament is a food-safe and water-resistant filament type that is soluble in d-limonene. As a result, it is often used as a support material. HIPS stands for High Impact Polystyrene, has a high print temperature and is easy to paint and process. Curious about the other properties? Read more about HIPS filament here.

Hobbed bolt
The hobbed bolt, also known as 'knurled bolt' or 'driving shaft', is an essential part of the extruder. This bolt is responsible for an even filament supply to the hot end and is equipped with sharp teeth for extra grip during this process.

Hot end
The hot end is a part of the extruder that can become hot, causing the filament to melt. Because each filament has a different heat resistance, it is good to check the settings of the hot end beforehand.  



J Head
The J head is a simplified hot end and has been developed to reduce the number of loose parts. This improves the quality of 3D prints. With the J head, the nozzle is combined with the heater block, whereby the PTFE tube continues into the nozzle. This reduces filament leakage and reduces the chance of a clogged nozzle. A fan is essential to prevent the hot end from seizing. Please note: this product is gradually being phased out and is only used with 'old' 3D printers.  



Kapton is an electrically insulating and heat-resistant material that is used to cover the heated bed of your 3D printer. Adding Kapton improves the adhesion of your 3D print. In addition, your 3D print cools down more gradually, reducing the risk of warping. Kapton is available as tape, sticker and heating mat.



Lead screws
A lead screw is a long round rod with screw thread. Lead screws are used to upgrade the Z-axis of the 3D printer. Adding lead screws provides more stability and precision during printing.

Limonene is a natural solvent with a pleasant orange scent. It is used to dissolve support material, such as HIPS filament, after printing. This liquid is highly flammable and may cause skin irritation or allergies. Therefore, always use protective clothing and gloves. See also D-Limonene.  



Megatronics is a collective name for products designed with mechanical and electronic components, such as a controller board. Megatronics are mainly used for controlling systems, including a 3D printer. 

Minitronics is a control board for the low-end 3D printer series. Minitronics are affordable, user-friendly and high-quality 3D printer controllers. This compact solution is suitable for 90% of 3D printers. For high-end 3D printers you can look at Megatronics and Ultratronics.  



The nozzle is the part of the printer which builds up the liquid filament, layer by layer, on the print bed. It is a part of the hot end and is available in different materials and diameters. Small diameter nozzles give a higher degree of precision.  



PETG filament is a fully recyclable and water-repellent filament type. PETG stands for polyethylene terephthalate, is very strong and has a high melting temperature. It is just as easy to use as PLA filament and is odourless. Discover the other properties of PETG  See here for more information about PETG filament.

PLA filament is the most popular type of filament for a 3D printer. It is user-friendly, easy to print with, biodegradable and available in many different colours. With PLA you can make very detailed prints, even without the use of a heated print bed. For more information, see our page about PLA filament.

The pneufit is a connector that is part of the extruder. This part acts as a coupling between the PTFE tube and the hot end. Pneufit connectors are available in different sizes and materials.

PTFE tube
The PTFE tube is part of the Bowden extruder and connects the filament to the nozzle. The filament is guided through the PTFE tube, after which it ends up in the heated hot end and flows out of the nozzle.

PVA filament is soluble in water and very suitable as a support material. A PVA filament is extremely suitable for creating hollow spaces and openings in your 3D print. Read more about PVA filament on  this page.



Servo Motor 
A Servo Motor, also called a servo, is used to automatically control a mechanical system, without a direct mechanical connection. A servo uses the concept of negative feedback from control technology and is therefore very accurate. This makes it the ideal motor for the automatic bed levelling function of 3D printers. In addition, this type of electric motor has a very large speed range.

Single extruder
A 3D printer with a single extruder has one print head, which means that you can print with one filament at a time. If you want to print with multiple colours or types of filament, look at Dual Extruder for 3D printers.  

Stepper motor
Where ordinary motors rotate continuously Stepper motors move in small increments. Because this motor works with steps, the printer electronics know how to determine the correct position. A common problem with stepper motors is that it misses or skips steps due to a blockage.



The word thermistor is derived from the English 'thermal resistor' and refers to the electrical resistance that depends on the temperature. The thermistor is part of the 3D printer and measures the temperature of the hot end. When the temperature gets too high, the thermistor shuts down the hot end heater to prevent damage from overheating.

Timing belt
The timing belt together with the stepper motor drives the position of the print head. If this belt does not have enough tension, or too much tension, you can suffer from quality problems. Ideally, the belts are tensioned so that they cannot slip, but not so tight that the system can no longer rotate.

TPE filament is a rubbery and very flexible filament type that is often used for printing smartphone cases, shock-absorbing parts and non-slip objects. TPE stands for Thermoplastic Elastomer, is very strong and must be printed at low speed (30 - 40mm/s) for an optimal result. Read more about the properties of flexible TPE filament here. 



Wade's extruder
The name of a commonly used cold end. A similar version is Greg's Extruder.


Do you have another question?

Have you not been able to find the answer to your question in the overview above? At 123-3D.co.uk we are busy with 3D printing every day and we like to follow every development. We are happy to share the knowledge and experience that we have built up over the years with you in our 3D printing help centre!
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