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Additive Manufacturing Acronyms Explained

When it comes to 3D printing, there is a lot to learn, especially with a huge number of acronyms used in this industry - there’s a lot of insider lingo!

However, help is at hand. Our team has put together a list of Additive Manufacturing acronyms that we feel are essential to your 3D printing journey.

In this blog, we focus on the main types of 3D printing technologies:

AM – Additive Manufacturing

We had to start the list with the most important acronym! But what is Additive Manufacturing? To put it simply, Additive Manufacturing is the process of additively building up a part, one layer at a time. It is more commonly known as 3D printing, but engineers prefer to use its industrial name.

Additive Manufacturing is the opposite to Subtractive Manufacturing – the more traditional method of manufacturing. With subtractive, a part is made out of a solid block of material, with sections gradually being removed through cutting, drilling, grinding or boring, to achieve the end part.

Additive Manufacturing is the converse, building a part one layer at a time, starting with nothing, to minimise waste material and produce more complex geometries.

CAD – Computer Aided Design

CAD, or Computer Aided Design, is a type of design software, from which you produce a digital model that can be 3D printed. CAD isn’t only used for 3D printing, but it is an essential part of the process of 3D printing. CAD software can vary in price and capability.

If you're looking for some CAD tips, check out our blog post: 9 Computer Aided Design (CAD) Sketch Tips for 3D Printing

CFR – Continuous Fibre Reinforcement

CFR stands for Continuous Fibre Reinforcement. It is the process of embedding a continuous fibre of material, often carbon fibre, Kevlar or fiberglass, into a FFF 3D print. This creates strong, functional parts by utilising the properties of composite materials.

DLP – Digital Light Processing

Digital Light Processing is similar to Stereolithography (SLA), and the two 3D printing processes are often compared. The one key difference between the two is that SLA uses a laser that traces a layer, however DLP uses a projected light source to cure the entire layer of resin. More on SLA below!

DMLS – Direct Metal Laser Sintering

Direct Metal Laser Sintering is an Additive Manufacturing method that uses a laser to heat metal powder to a point that it can fuse together on a molecular level to create a metal part. This process is similar to that of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), but for metal powders.

EBM – Electron Beam Melting

Used for metal 3D printing, Electron Beam Melting uses (you guessed it) an electron beam to fuse metal powder layer by layer. The electron beam produces a stream of electrons (guided by a magnetic field). The metal powder is deposited in thin layers, which are preheated and then fused together by the electron beam. This whole process takes place inside a vacuum chamber.

FDM – Fused Deposition Modelling. Also known as FFF

(FDM trademarked by Stratasys)

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) is the same as Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). However, the 3D printing company Stratasys trademarked the term ‘Fused Deposition Modelling' in 1991, so the latter term is used more often when talking about Additive Manufacturing.

FFF – Fused Filament Fabrication

Fused Filament Fabrication (sometimes referred to as Fused Deposition Modelling) is the most common material extrusion technology in 3D printing today. Plastic filament from a spool is melted through a heated nozzle attached to a print head, which moves around the bed, laying the melted material at precise locations. This continues layer by layer, until a complete object is created.

MJ – Material Jetting (also known as PolyJet)

Material Jetting (also know as PolyJet) 3D printing technology uses UV light to solidify thousands of (liquid) droplets of a photosensitive material that are jetted onto a build platform via an inkjet print head. The build platform moves down as each layer is created, until the final part is complete.

MJF – Multi Jet Fusion

Multi Jet Fusion is a powder-based method of 3D printing, using an inkjet array. It does not use lasers, instead a powder bed is heated, and a fusing agent and detailing agent are used to fuse the powder to create a solid part. Lamps are used to pass over the surface of the jetted material to distribute the heat.

SLA – Stereolithography

Stereolithography is the 3D printing process of using mirrors to aim a laser beam across a vat of resin. The laser cures and solidifies the resin, in the desired design, layer by layer. Most SLA parts will need to be washed and cured after being printed.

SLS – Selective Laser Sintering

The process of Selective Laser Sintering begins with heating polymer powder to just below its melting point. The powder is deposited in very thin layers onto a build platform, and a laser sinters a layer of the part. The process of depositing layers of powder and sintering is repeated until a full part is created.

SLS 3D printing does not require any supports, as the un-sintered powder around the part in build, acts as support.

STL File

An STL file is the most common type of file used to communicate with a 3D printer. STL can stand for Standard Tessellation Language or Standard Triangle Language, as the file uses triangles to describe the surface of an object. STL files are exported from CAD software, put through a slicer software, which converts the STL into G-code, and then sent to a 3D printer for the design to be printed.

We know, there’s a lot to absorb, and plenty more acronyms to come, but these are a great starting point! If you want to learn more, feel free to join any of our events or webinar sessions. Browse our upcoming events.


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