Key 3D Modeling Terms Beginners Need to Know (Part 1)

For all who are new to 3D Printing, Rapid Prototyping and Additive Fabrication in general
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3D models are the starting point of all 3D printing projects. Without a 3D model, a 3D printer doesn’t know what to print. In this blog post, we will dive into the most important 3D modeling terminology for beginners.

3D Model

A 3D model is the digital representation of a three-dimensional object that is created in dedicated 3D modeling software. A 3D model is more than a simple sketch of an object on a 2D surface. A 3D model can be turned and looked at from every different angle.


In order to understand how 3D modeling works, it helps to have a basic understanding of the key 3D modeling terms out there. This is also crucial for beginners in order to be able to follow tutorials without always having to look up the most common terms.

Not each and every term mentioned in this blog post is relevant for all the design programs out there, but they will give you a better general perception of the subject. So let’s kick off our list of key 3D modeling terms that every beginner needs to know:

NURBS Modeling

NURBS stands for Non-Uniform Rational Basis Spline. A NURBS model is a mathematical modeling type commonly used to generate curves and surfaces. The main advantages of this modeling technique are the great flexibility and precision you have in generating your shapes.

In contrast to Polygon Modeling (which we will discuss a little bit later), curves are created with a tool that works very similarly to the pen tool in MS paint or Adobe Illustrator. The curve is drawn in a 3D space, and edited by moving a series of handles called CVs or control vertices (see below).

NURBS curve

Alternately, a curved surface can be created by revolving a profile curve around a central axis. This is a common (and very fast) modeling technique for objects that are radial in nature. That is why this modeling approach is very popular for creating automotive and industrial parts.

The following image is a NURBS model that was created in Rhino, a powerful and popular 3D modeling software for product designers. You can find a tutorial to make Rhino models 3D printable on our blog.


Created by Fabian

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