What is fused deposition modeling? Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is an additive manufacturing 3D printing method that makes strong, durable parts and prototypes from many of the same plastics that you see and use everyday.
One of the most widely available and popular forms of 3D printing, FDM technology uses a thermoplastic filament, which the printer heats to its melting point, before extruding it in layers that build-up to create a finished three-dimensional object.
How FDM 3D Printing Technology Works
One of the reasons for FDM’s popularity is its versatility and relatively fast turnaround times. Engineers can make a napkin drawing in the morning and have a finished product in their hands that afternoon, which makes it ideal for rapid prototyping.
- Pre-Processing: 3D CAD file is sliced into cross-sections and positioned by build prep software, which also calculates the extrusion path for the thermoplastic and any necessary support material.
- Production: The thermoplastic is heated to a semi-liquid state by the 3D printer before its deposited in ultra-fine beads along the material extrusion path on the build platform. The 3D printer also deposits a removable material that acts as support or buffering when needed.
- Post-processing: The support material is broken away or dissolved in detergent and water, leaving the finished part.
FDM 3D Printing Materials
FDM 3D printers can use a variety of ABS, ASA, nylon, polycarbonate and Ultem materials to give finished products a wide range of characteristics, including chemical resistance, electrostatic dissipation and heat deflection.
3 Benefits of FDM 3D Printing
The wide range of performance specifications (that are already common in manufacturing processes) that can be achieved using thermoplastics isn’t the only benefit of FDM 3D printing.
- Considering its long history, FDM is one of the most refined, easy-to-use and office-friendly 3D printing technologies.
- The production-grade thermoplastics used in FDM machines have sound mechanical properties and are environmentally stable.
- Product characteristics, including cavities, protrusions and geometrics are not a problem for FDM 3D printers.
If you want to learn more about 3D printing technology, check out our recent article “The Best 3D Printer for Product Development and Designers”.