Like all other additive manufacturing technologies, FDM starts with an STL file from a CAD software. Fused Deposition Modeling is an additive manufacturing technique commonly used in the rapid prototyping industry. It has a variety of applications but is most often used for modeling, prototyping and production applications. Fused deposition modeling is an additive process that layers the material to produce the finished prototype. A plastic or metal coil is unwound through a heated nozzle, melting the material in the desired shape. One material is for support, while the other is for the 3D model itself. A 3D CAD file defines a calculated path for melted thermoplastics (print material) to travel and the model is built up, layer-by-layer, which is eventually cooled into a solid. Although different materials cannot be combined in this form of rapid prototyping, different materials can be used to create custom finishes, effects, product specifications and appearance.
Horizontal build layers can be built in three options ranging from .007" to.013". The minimum wall thickness must exceed .020". Models made from ABS material maintain tolerances of +/- .005" for the first inch, and +/- 0.002" for each additional inch. In the z axis (vertical), there are standard tolerances of +/- 0.010" for the first inch, +/- 0.002” on every inch thereafter. The build size for a single piece is 10" x 10" x 12". This does not restrain you, however, because models that are larger than the build enclosure can be divided, printed as separate pieces and assembled after completion.
Different industries require different solutions to maximize the efficiency of their objectives, and provide solutions in the shortest time frames possible.
The fused deposition modeling (FDM) method of rapid prototyping involves extruding ABS and plastic type materials through a heated nozzle. This system forms each prototype layer by layer in precise tool paths originating from the CAD file. Once the model is finished, it is removed from the build chamber, the support material is washed away, and the product is shipped to the customer.
The Rapid Prototyping FDM process builds durable and functional prototypes that can withstand rigorous testing and won't warp, shrink, or absorb moisture; making them great for testing form, fit, and function. Because the models are built with ABS plastic, they lend themselves well to being drilled, tapped, threaded, sanded, painted, vacuum metalized, and polished.
The advantage of FDM is the material capacity to handle heat and other demanding product tests. It is a feasible option for both rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing, producing parts that are both accurate and durable. The material selection encompasses options that are applicable to various industries, including aerospace, engineering, and manufacturing to name a few. The composition of the materials make them suitable options for end-use prototypes, greatly reducing the costs associated with product development.
Common Uses FDM technology common uses:
· Functional testing
· Product end-use
· Ramping up production, while waiting for tooling
· One of a kind products
· Low-volume production
· Limited/special edition products
· Jigs and fixtures
· Design verification
· Replacement part manufacturing
Trends, Applications, History and Outlook
3D ready-to-use prototype with specific properties opens many doors to new applications. You can smoothen, emboss, engrave, cut, adopt, alter, carve, infuse, shape, duplicate, add colour, animate, scratch, sculpturize and improve your 3D prototype to your exact specifications.
Rapid Prototyping FDM is the prototyping and modeling method of choice for engineers and designers in the medical, technology, automotive, military, aerospace, consumer goods, toy, and architecture fields because of it's capability to build in durable ABS plastic. The inexpensive and rapid development of FDM prototypes greatly reduces design-to-production time and allows for much higher return on investment (ROI). The use of the material does depend on the compatibility with the FDM machine you are using.
For even greater flexibility, including rubber-like materials, a more efficient solution is PolyJet matrix technology. With greater expectations from functional prototypes, it is sometimes more efficient for multi-material and digital material combinations.