Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a 3D Printing technology popularly featured in most consumer grade desktop 3D printers. This method of 3D Printing requires a fairly simple set up, using only a heated nozzle, a build platform, and coiled thermoplastic filaments to build an object. Before printing begins, the modeling software slices the 3D CAD file, and it creates an extrusion path that the nozzle will follow. Any necessary supports that the object needs are also factored into the path. The computer controls the nozzle’s movements as it works its way across the build platform, creating a cross section of the object in accordance with the calculated path.
After the software determines the path for the nozzle, the filaments are unwound and fed through the heated nozzle. The nozzle is hot enough that the plastic becomes semi-liquid. The malleable plastic is then forced from the nozzle in super fine beads. Almost immediately after leaving the nozzle, the plastic hardens and binds to the layer under it. After the nozzle has completed building one layer, the computer lowers the platform about one-sixteenth of an inch, and the nozzle begins extruding material for the next layer. When the object is finished, the user either dissolves the supports attached to it in a solution of detergent and water or simply breaks them off.
FDM 3D Printing in Practice
FDM is more user-friendly than the other two methods, and it has fewer working parts to contend with. It’s also more affordable, making it the most popular method for desktop 3D printers. In addition to carrying a lower price tag, the thermoplastic filaments are also environmentally and mechanically stable. However, printing an object with FDM generally takes longer than printing the same object using SLS or SLA, and the final product will need some retouching. FDM often produces objects with rougher surfaces.
Because FDM produces objects that are durable, it is often used to create prototypes that will withstand strenuous testing. Objects that need to endure large temperature changes, mechanical stress, and chemical corrosion are often printed using FDM. This technique is also used to create final products, especially smaller, detailed objects. Engineers often use FDM when they want to test parts for form and fit, and automotive manufacturers generally use it to create prototypes for smaller parts.
There are a variety of desktop FDM printers available; it is by far the most popular printing method for personal use. Among the many printers in this category currently available, the well known MakerBot Replicator is one of the most “plug and play” friendly of the group. In addition to the onboard features (assisted leveling, an onboard camera, and more) it comes with cloud storage and ties in to the MakerBot ecosystem.
FDM Printers here at 3D Supply Guys
Here at 3D Supply Guys, we offer a number of different printer brands featuring FDM technology. Our popular printer brands include Flashforge, Solidoodle, and 3Doodler. To see our full line of FDM printer brands, please click here.