Printing Anatomy: The Components of a 3D Printer

The physical parts of the 3D printer are one thing to familiarize yourself with while learning printing anatomy and the components of a 3D printer. During setup, you’ll also get to know the axes, extraction parts, and the hotend portions. Let’s dissect the most central parts of the 3D printer.

The Axes

A 3D printer has three axes: X, Y, and Z. The X-axis has a motor to move left and right; the Y-axis moves forward and backward; the Z-axis moves up and down. Think of the axes as the arms of the machine.


When studying basic human anatomy, you learn where the most vital organs are, including the powerhouse that controls everything: the brain. For the 3D printer, the controller is the brain. Everything you need to plug in or control goes into the controller.

Extruder Part

The extruder part of the 3D printer or 3D printing anatomy is what pushes the filament out. The extruder has a motor that controls how fast the fiber comes out; some developers may design certain extruder styles to work for certain filaments. For example, a Bowden tube is great to use with low-friction fibers like PTFE.

The print bed is the part that helps the piece stick. Sometimes, the fiber won’t stick, leading to adhesion problems later. If you need an extra sticky layer, rub a glue stick across the bed before printing so the filament sticks better and removes easily.

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Hotend Parts

The hotend is the digestive tract of the 3D printer. The entire hotend assembly melts the plastic so it’s ready for use. The nozzle heats the filament before spewing. Then the heater cartridge charges the hotbed with heat, and an insulated heat block attached to the unit helps it avoid overheating. If you need to check the temperature, use the thermistor on the heater block.

The other hotend parts include the heat break and sink and the fans. The heat break prevents the hotend from receiving too much heat, which can clog the nozzle. The heat sink takes heat away from devices to safeguard the life of machines. The cooling fans keep the heat break from overheating. The partial cooling fan cools down the material after depositing it onto the print bed. While the fans might help stop filaments from softening too fast, it’s a good idea to level the hotend to prevent filament jams.

End Stop

End stops are marks that limit how far or close an axis arm can move. This is often called a home position. When one axis moves to a position, the rest follow, meaning this is relaying to the printer that when the sensor hits a certain point, it will need to stop. This action keeps going until each axis meets at the same spot.

There is much to learn about a 3D printer’s anatomy. Get to know the functions before starting your project. Then, start researching filaments. Learning these things now helps prevent problems in the future.

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