3D Printing Curriculum

3D Printer Parts

Bed / Build Plate

The bed, or build plate, of a 3D printer is the surface on which the printer lays down the first layer of filament. For FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) or FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) printers, this is commonly made of glass or plastic. The Fusion F410 printers in the Robotics & Engineering Shop use a glass build plate. In addition, build plates are often heated, which encourages the filament to adhere to the bed. Good adhesion of the first layer is important for a print, otherwise it could move or become dislodged during printing. Often, additives are used to improve build plate adhesion. Such additives include hairspray, glue stick, blue tape, Kapton tape, or ABS solution. The Fusion F410 User Manual suggests using a purple glue stick for build plate adhesion.


The nozzle is the component of a 3D printer that applies the molten filament to the bed and is component of the hot end. There are many different types of 3D printer nozzles, and it is important to use their different strengths correctly. general 3D printing. For abrasive materials such as carbon, metal and wood coated or hardened nozzles are suitable.

most printers use 0.4 mm nozzles, which is generally what is being used in the shop. layer heights, and lead to lower resolution. This can be beneficial for larger prints that might normally takes days to print with a 0.4 nozzle.


The Extruder is the part of a FDM of FFF 3D printer that pulls or pushes the filament into the Hot End. Generally it uses a finely toothed gear, or Hobbed Bolt, that catches the filament and moves it forward. In the Fusion3 F410, this is located within the Filament Bay. You can see the orange handle turning during printing, which is the extruder moving the filament through the Bowden Tube. Some extruders, called Direct Drive, are located at the Hot End. See the Fusion F410 Guide to learn how to Load and Unload filament into the extruder.

Bowden Tube

The Bowden extruder has the motor on the frame, far away from the print head. This is where the Bowden tube comes in. The motor feeds the filament through a Bowden tube (usually made of PTFE plastic) to the print head. The tube guides the filament from the fixed motor to the moving hot end, protecting the plastic from snapping or being stretched by constant movement. In the first diagram to the right, you can see an example of a Bowden Style printer, with extruder gears far from the Hot End, and a Direct Drive extruder, with the gears of the extruder feeding the filament directly into the Hot End. The Bowden Tube is the plastic tube you see in the second image to the right. You can see a similar tube on the Fusion3 F410 printers we have in the shop.

Hot End

Much like it sounds, the Hot End is the part of the 3D printer in FDM or FFF printers that heats up the filament, changing it from a solid to a liquid, so it can be extruded from the nozzle. Generally, the Hot End is composed of a Heating Block, Heating Element, Thermistor, and Nozzle. Often times, a Heat Sink is added to help cooling. The Heating Block is a solid piece of metal with holes in it for the Heating Element, Thermistor, and Nozzle. Wires come from the Thermistor and Heating Element to the Control Board. The Heating Element is generally a small cylinder that uses resistance to heat the Heating Block. Temperature of the Heating Block is controlled via the Thermistor and software. A Fan is often attached to the Hot End to help regulate temperature and to cool the filament after extrusion.


In 3D printers, the gantry is the frame structure that supports the printer head along the X/Y axis as the printer head moves around to print the part on the build platform (similar to an arcade claw game). 3D printers typically use 3 gantries to support the printer head. The gantries are moved by stepper motors, which use digital pulses to move and track the gantry. The stepper motors allow for high resolution movement by allowing the pulses to move the motor at a small fraction of a rotation. The gantries hold up the printer head as it moves along the build platform. The Fusion3 F410 uses nylon string to control the X and Y movement of the Hot End, and Lead Screws attached to Stepper Motors to control Z height. Movement of any axis is restricted by End Stops, small electronic switches that are triggered if the X, Y, or Z carriages run into them.


3D printing filament generally comes in 2 sizes 1.75 and 3.00 mm. All printers in our shop use 1.75 mm currently. You can check filament size by using calipers. Filament is used in 3D printers that operate using FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) or FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication), which is heating filament and extruding it through a nozzle.


ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) plastic filament is a polymer used in 3D printing because it can be molded and engineered. It falls under a family of other plastics known as thermoplastics. These plastics have the ability to become soft and moldable when heated at high temperatures and returning to it’s normal solid state when at cooler temperatures, making it an ideal 3D printing filament.

ABS filament is a favorite for 3D printing because it is light weight and durable. It can be injection molded which makes it perfect for 3D printing extruders. It has a high glass transition temperature to reduce deformation but low enough to be safely attainable with 3D printers. ABS filament needs to be printed on a heated bed because the filament will curl upwards of the surface. The heated build platform as well as a smooth flat surface helps reduce the deformation.

ABS filament is a hard strong plastic with some flexibility when compared to PLA filament. It is also soluble in acetone, and it can be easily sanded and machined. It has ideal strength, machinability, and temperature resistance making it a favorite filament among 3D printer users.

Please store ABS filament in a cool dry place. ABS, if exposed to moisture, will bubble and spurt from the extruding nozzle. ABS filament can be dried from a food dehydrator, oven, or from any source of hot air.


Polylactic Acid (PLA) is one of the most popular plastics used for 3D printing. PLA filament is a thermoplastic meaning at cooler temperatures it is solid and higher temperatures it is soft and moldable.

Polylactic Acid or PLA filament, is created from processing a number of plant products. PLA plastic can be composted at commercial facilities making this 3D printing filament a more earth friendly plastic compared to ABS. Since PLA filament is derived from sugars, it gives off a semi-sweet smell when heated during printing. This is generally preferred over ABS filament, which gives off the smell of hot plastic.

PLA plastic filament is stronger and more rigid than the ABS filament. The 3D printed parts will feel more glossy. PLA plastics can also be sanded and machined.

PLA filament has a relatively low melting temperature compared to other thermoplastics. PLA has much less warping versus ABS, and thus a heated build platform is not required. Because a heated bed plate is not used for PLA, many users often prefer to print using blue painters tape instead of kapton tape. PLA filament generally enjoys sharper details and corners compared to ABS without the risk of cracking or warping. PLA can also be printed at higher throughput speeds.

Please store PLA plastic filament in a dry cool space. Absorption of moisture can cause bubbles to form because PLA reacts with water at high temperatures.


There are many other types of filaments for use in 3D printing today. The Robotics and Engineering shop also has some of the other common types such as TPU, PETG, PC, Nylon, and even Carbon Fiber.

Filament traditionally is purchased on a roll or spool. Common sizes are 1kg and 5kg rolls.

The Fusion F410 printers in our shop are compatible with a wide variety of 3D printing filament. You can check this link to see the full list of compatible filaments.

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