Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) is the most common 3D-printing technology and is what we commonly associate 3D printing with. This technology is also known as Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). Some have categorised this as two different technologies, but they are the same. The different names are due to trademarks that Stratasys filed back in 1991.
How Does FDM Work?
FDM works by extruding plastic filament through a heated extruder, layer by layer. As there are many iterations and designs of FDM 3D printers, some of the functionalities may differ slightly from the general idea. For most industrial printers, the X-axis and Y-axis controls the print head while the Z-axis controls the build plate. The printer head will follow the path determined by the cross-section of the part. The build plate will move down by the programmed amount after each layer is completed, continuing the cycle to fuse the layers together till the part is complete.
What Materials Does FDM Use?
As FDM attracts hobbyists, enthusiasts, as well as industrial users, many companies have developed different types of materials and specialised materials:
- Thermoplastics Filaments
- Exotic Filaments
- Metal Filaments
For a more in-depth look at the different types of filament materials, click here.
Compared to the rest of the 3D-printing technologies, the price for a mid-range printer is considerably low. This makes it very affordable for businesses, hobbyists, and enthusiasts to get one. The price of the filament material is also relatively cheap.
FDM 3D printers are home-safe as it does not use a powder or a liquid. The part is usable once the print is completed and the supports have been removed.
Large Support Of Materials
There are many different types of thermoplastics and specialised materials, which provides you with a wide range of different mechanical properties and aesthetics to choose from. A strong 3rd-party market also gives you increased access to more materials.
Large Amount Of Users
As FDM is popular for 3D-printing hobbyists, a large community would be able to assist you in any of your problems besides the manufacturer’s customer support.
Mechanical Weak Points
Due to the way the 3D-printing works, it is mechanically stronger on the axis perpendicular to the build plate compared to the axis parallel to the build plate.
As FDM 3D-printing prints in layers, ‘stepping’ lines will appear and will require post-processing to appear smooth. Or it would require tweaking of the settings in order to reduce the visual impact of the lines.
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