Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D Printing: Everything You Need To Know

    3D PrintersFused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D Printing: Everything You Need To Know

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    Here’s a quick intro to fused deposition modeling, or FDM! This popular type of 3D printing technique is known for its speed, affordability, and versatility.

    Keep reading to learn more about how it works and what you can do with an FDM printer.

    Fused deposition modeling (FDM), also renowned as fused filament fabrication (FFF), refers to a 3D printing process that uses a continual filament of a thermoplastic material. RepRap project members coined this name to give it the acronym (FFF), but later it was legally sustained as the sole name for the process.

    This printing process is one of the most used techniques for additive manufacturing due to its ability to create complex parts with high strength, chemical resistance, lightweight, and above all, can withstand high temperatures.

    It has been tested in the automobile industry, ranging from manufacturing lightweight tools to testing models and final functional components.

    The objects created by this process begin as computer-aided designs that have been converted into formats that the best 3D printers can easily read and translate.

    Once those objects have been printed using this process, the support material is then removed, thus leaving the thing, which is then either polished, sanded, or coated with other materials to give the end product expected.

    How it works

    A filament is fed from a large spool using a moving hot printer extruder head. It’s then deposited onto a growing work, and then the printer head is moved under a controlled computer which defines the shape to be printed.

    To deposit a single layer, the print head moves in two dimensions, after which it’s moved vertically by a small amount, thus beginning a new layer.

    Whenever the user wants to start a new deposition to form an interrupted plane without dribbling or stringing between sections, they need to control the speed of the extruder.

    The final product of this process is reinforced FDM printed parts that have a continued strand of carbon fiber, increasing their strength to be as strong as two aluminum axes combined.

    Characteristics of the FDM printing process

    Even though there are variations in the extrusion systems of the FDM printers which lead to the production of products with different qualities, below are some of the characteristics that cut across all FDM prints.

    1. Layer adhesion

    Whenever the molten thermoplastic is excluded through the nozzle, it is generally pressed against the previously printed layer, making the material’s shape deform into an oval.

    This means that no matter the height and size of FDM parts, they will always have a wavy surface- learn more about 3D printing adhesion problems.

    2. Warping

    Warping is the most common defect in the FDM prints, which involves decreasing dimensions whenever the excluded material cools down during solidification.

    This is caused by the different rates at which the various sections of the prints cool down, which therein causes the buildup of the internal stresses to pull the underlying layer upward, making it warp.

    3. Support structures

    Since the molten thermoplastic can be deposited in thin air, it requires a support structure. Hence, the support materials are printed in the same shape as the parts or material supports that dissolve in liquid.

    4. Shell and infill thickness

    To save on material and reduce the printing time, the FDM materials are usually not printed in solid but instead passes, which are traced on the shells. At the same time, the interior (infill) is filled with low-density structures. (Source)

    Advantages of the FDM process

    1. It uses a wide range of available materials for functional applications and prototyping. Some of those materials include engineering materials (such as PETG, PA, and TPU), thermoplastic commodities (such as ABS and PLA), and high-performance plastics (such as PEI and PEEK).

    2. It’s very cost-effective in producing prototypes and custom thermoplastic parts.

    3. The ubiquity of the technology ensures a short lead time.

    Disadvantages of the FDM process

    1. The parts produced are inherently anisotropic due to the layer adhesion mechanism.

    2. Post-processing is required to produce a smooth finish since the parts are likely to have visible layer lines.

    3. Compared to the other printing technologies, the FDM has the lowest resolution, thus making it unsuitable for more minor details.

    4. This technique faces weaknesses that hinder its development as an effective manufacturing method in the automobile industry. The main ones are; it can only be effective with a limited variety of printing materials and its anisotropic weak mechanical properties. (Source)

    The Types Of 3D Printing

    1. Stereolithography (SLA) 
    2. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): (check out the best SLS 3D printers)
    3. Digital Light Processing (DLP)
    4. PolyJet 3D printing
    5. Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)
    6. Electron Beam Melting (EBM)
    7. Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
    8. Binder Jetting (BJ) Technology
    9. Drop on Demand (DOD)
    10. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

    FAQs

    1. What’s the function of the Fused Deposition Modelling?

    The Fused Deposition Modelling is used for manufacturing a wide variety of products ranging from children’s toys to industrial machinery.

    2. What is a Multi Jet Fusion?

    A multi-jet fusion is a 3D printing process used for faster prototyping and building parts.

    3. Which type of filaments does the FDM use?

    The FDM uses various filament materials based on the product required. Some frequently used filaments include PLA polymer plastics, wood filaments, metal filaments, ABS plastic, and nylons.

    4. Are the products produced good conductors of electricity?

    Some of the products of this process are good conductors of electricity depending on the raw materials used. A good example is PLA filaments combined with a conducive form of carbon, graphene.

    If you’re interested in learning more- check out some our favorite 3D printers for beginners.