FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) is currently one of the most widespread additive technologies in the world, which is confirmed by the large number of installed systems using this technology. Stratasys is considered a pioneer of FDM, focusing on investing in its development since the early 1990s.
The basic and most important motivation behind the invention of FDM was the ever-increasing need for prototyping with low investment in time and money. Along with the dynamic development of the industry and a significant improvement in the technology itself, it began to be used for manufacturing end-use parts. The extraordinary versatility of the FDM technology made it applicable in many sectors of the economy.
What is FDM manufacturing?
Manufacturing with the additive FDM technology consists in heating the material and selectively depositing it in a semi-liquid form, layer by layer, to achieve an object of a predetermined shape. A special building material, so-called filament, is placed into the machine and delivered to a printer head, where it is melted and transformed into a semi-liquid state. The material is then deposited in layers on the printer build plate until the full height of the manufactured object is achieved. After depositing a layer of material, the plate lowers, allowing multiple passes of the printer head. The cooling, often supported by fans, consolidates the material layers deposited one by one.
By moving in a three-axis system, the printer head manufactures 3D objects. The entire manufacturing process follows a pre-calculated print path, prepared through a special 3D printing design software.
Materials used in FDM
The basic building materials used in the FDM additive technology are the so-called thermoplastics, i.e., high-performance plastics, designed to be molded at high temperatures. The most commonly used materials are ABS, ASA, PC-ISO, NYLON, PLA, and ULTEM. The mentioned materials are durable and resistant to harmful chemicals and high temperatures, which positively affects the durability of the products themselves.
Raw materials are usually supplied in the form of a special string of various diameters, wound onto a spool. Due to such a form, a spool can be placed on an arm of the machine used to ensure continuous and uninterrupted supply of material to an extruder and a printer head.
Applications of FDM
The technology of FDM additive manufacturing is now used in the broadly understood industrial sector. Durable products are perfect for applications in the automotive, military, and aerospace industries, as well as in various architectural and design offices. Due to sterility and biocompatibility of some building materials, the FDM additive technology is also used in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.
A significant reduction in production and prototyping costs makes FDM a perfect solution for manufacturing conceptual models, templates, construction elements, and other production tools.
FDM 3D printing advantages
Advanced FDM 3D printing systems are capable to run quick and economical processes to manufacture a whole series of visual models and end-use parts. FDM is one of the most economical manufacturing techniques, which also ensures a high production rate and low material losses.
The unquestionable advantage of the FDM technology is also the possibility to use a wide range of plastics. This advantage also emphasizes the versatility of the FDM technology and possibility to influence the parameters as well as the dimensional and shape accuracy of the manufactured models. The FDM additive technology can ensure high repeatability in 3D printing process and high dimensional accuracy of the manufactured models, with values ranging from +/- 0.15 to +/- 0.3 mm.