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Viking Production Lab: 3D Printer

A Place to Learn, Create, & Explore

3D Printing Terminology and Safety Protocols

How to Print in a 3D printer


To better use and understand our BIBO 3D printer, there are some terminology for users to better operate the printer.

The printer style we have is a Fused Disposition Model (FDM): it uses plastic filament rolls that are 1.75 mm 

Our printer utilizes a Cartesian print engine. It uses  X, Y, Z coordinates the horizontal and vertical  movements of the nozzle head.  Our X, Y, Z coordination is featured on a small touchscreen. 

The  X dimension is use to move back & forth and the Y dimension is moved through . the Z coordinate is the fixed plate. 

Nozzle:  is the very small diameter metal end (.2-.5 mm) through which the melted plastic is forced under pressure on its way to the build plate. 

Spool Filaments : s it's the way that filament is generally purchased and used. A typical purchase of ABS or PLA would be a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of plastic, wrapped onto a plastic or cardboard spool that hangs on the printer and plays out filament as needed.

Hot end:  The metal piece that has the heating element in it and melts the filament. 

Build Plate: printer, the build plate is the surface upon which the plastic is extruded.

Extruders: part of the FDM printer that forces the plastic filament into the hot-end and through the nozzle onto the build plate. One is simply called a direct extruder, while the other is known as a Bowden extruder.

Cura : A 3D printer slicing software. Utilized to transform 3D models into a X, Y, and Z coordinate language called g-code in “.gcode” format.


Endstop: Mechanical switches that indicate where the “home” or “zero” position is on each print axis. see also Limit Switch


Extrude :The act of dispensing build material onto the build platform through a small nozzle commonly referred to as a "hot end.”

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) :FFF is another name for material extrusion and FDM.  see also FDM, Material Extrusion


Gantry: The part of the extruder assembly and X-axis motor that moves up and down on the Z-axis of a 3D printer. see also Z-Axis Carriage


G-code:Coding language that the 3D printer understands. It is used to transmit instructions to a 3D printer’s control system to tell the printer how to print the 3D model. see also Cura, Slicer


Heated Build Plate / Heated Print Bed: The heated surface where the printer deposits the material used for printing. A heated bed can help reduce warping on large prints and help adhere parts better.


HIPS: High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) is a thermoplastic used as a 3D printing material that can be dissolved using limonene and therefore used for dissolvable supports on delicate prints.


Hot End

The heated portion of the extruder assembly that includes the nozzle and heating block.



The area within a 3D-printed object that connects top, bottom, and side layers. This creates a rigid structure and determines print durability.


Kapton Tape

Heat-resistant polyimide adhesive tape typically used to secure wiring and insulate the hot end of the extruder.



Extruded plastic of a closed loop, represented as a two-dimensional drawing on the X-Y plane. When replicated over again in the Z direction, it produces a 3D object or multi-layered X-Y drawing. see also Layer Height


Layer Height

Utmost determinant of quality for 3D printing, it defines the distance between lines of extruded plastic in the Z-direction. Material extrusion 3D printers typically print layers between 0.1mm and 0.3mm high. A lower layer height translates to a smoother, higher quality print. A higher layer height translates into a faster, low quality print.



Dual Extruders 

Our Macbook and PC computers has the 3D production program Cura which is used to design images into 3D objects. You may choose to use to the computers in the lab or  send your design via email to Nia Kearney  ( and print shall be completed by the end of the day.

1. Patrons may only submit ONE print request at a time. Additional requests should not be submitted until the previous request is finished. 

2. For multi-part models that will need to be assembled to create a single design when finished, email us for prior approval.. 

  1. This service is designed for rapid prototyping, not production. No jobs printing large numbers of identical objects will be accepted. 

  1. When 3D printers are running, users should not congregate around the printing operation to minimize the inhalation of particulates being created and exposure to chemical vapors.

  2. There shall be no eating, drinking, applying cosmetics, chewing gum, or handling contact lenses in rooms that contain 3D printing operations.

  3. All work surfaces must be cleaned by a wet method. Sweeping and other dry methods can create airborne particles.

  4. Clean the printer nozzle before each use and the build plate after each use.

  5. Wash hands thoroughly after working with 3D printers.

  6. When 3D printers are running, users should not congregate around the printing operation to minimize the inhalation of particulates being created and exposure to chemical vapors.

3D printer hazards include, but are not limited to:

  • The generation of ultrafine/nano-sized particles;
  • Heat;
  • Mechanical hazards from moving parts;
  • High voltage;
  • Ultraviolet light; and
  • Chemical vapors (ex. styrene, acrylonitrile, or formaldehyde, etc.) depending on the media being used

Print cores are compatible with specific material combinations, and it is important to have these properly selected each time you slice a model file.

At the top of the main Cura prepare screen, you will see which current materials and print cores you have selected. Clicking the drop-down arrow on the right hand side will allow you to change the cores as desired.

NOTE: If you have an incompatible material with your print core, a red box will appear and prevent you from slicing your file.

Notes about 3D printing

For larger prints, please consider the time it takes to process. So plan in advance to the detail and approximate  time it will take to construct your work. In the Reserve form, please detail the work you plan to do and/or upload your design in our forms. The operation/ construction of the 3D print is based on the operational times of the GR Little Library. 

What is 3D printing?


G.R. Little Library

Elizabeth City State University