Filament deposit 3D printers (FDM / FFF)
Fused Deposition 3D printing, or fused deposit modeling (FDM) 3D printing, is an additive manufacturing method in which layers of materials are fused together according to a model (3D file) to create an object. The material is typically melted just past its glass transition temperature and then extruded in a pattern alongside or on top of previous extrusions, creating an object layer by layer.
Simply put, a typical FDM 3D printer takes a plastic (polymer) filament and presses it through a hot nozzle, melting it and then depositing it in layers on the print bed. These layers are fused together, accumulating throughout the print, and eventually form the finished part.
FDM technology is identical to Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) technology, but the term "Fused Deposition Modeling" and the abbreviation "FDM" were trademarked by Stratasys in 1991, creating the need for a second name.
Many types of materials can be used with FDM techniques, including the most common thermoplastics, chocolate, pastes, and even "exotic" materials like metal or wood infused thermoplastic.
Widely accepted as the easiest way to 3D print, FDM is cheap and quite efficient. This is why FDM 3D printers dominate the 3D printing market today.
The different types of FDM 3D printers
Extrusion system variations of wire deposition modeling 3D printers include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Filament extruders, the most common and versatile model, use spools of thermoplastic filaments.
- Pellet extruders, exchanging the filament for plastic pellets,
- Chocolate extruders,
- Pasta extruders, which allow you to extrude any dough. Common uses are ceramics, concrete and food. Pasta extrusion is sometimes left in its own category, because dough is not necessarily a thermoplastic material.
The common theme among all of these variations is the extrusion of a substance through a nozzle onto a build plate and/or the heat melting or adhesion of the material to a previous layer in specific patterns to create a shape, which forms the basis of an FDM 3D printer.
Other variations in FDM 3D printing include motion systems for all 3 axes of a printer. The two main variants are Cartesian 3D printers and delta 3D printers. Each has advantages over the others, but they all use the same general method of printing.
Advantages and disadvantages of FDM printers
FDM offers a number of advantages over other 3D printing methods, but it also has some disadvantages.
One of the main advantages of FDM 3D printing is its scalability: It can be easily scaled to any size. Indeed, the only constraint linked to the size of the printing area is the movement of each gantry: if the gantry rails are lengthened, the construction area can be enlarged. Sure, there are some minor issues, and at some point the cost is no longer outweighed by the benefits, but no other printer design is capable of being scaled so easily with so little problems than the FDM.
One of the most obvious advantages of an easily scalable design is cost/size. FDM printers continue to get bigger and cheaper, due to the low cost of parts and simplicity of designs. Other styles of printers cost more simply because they are difficult to upgrade and key components are still quite expensive.
Another advantage is the flexibility of the materials. On any FDM printer, a wide variety of thermoplastic materials and exotic filaments can be printed with relatively few upgrades and modifications, which cannot be said of other styles where the material must be a resin or a fine powder.
One of the most commonly cited disadvantages of FDM 3D printing is the quality or detail of the parts. Because the material must be extruded in layers and has a certain thickness preset by the nozzle, highly detailed prints are difficult to achieve and often require a lot of post-processing to achieve a professional, finished look. Another disadvantage of layers in FDM printing is that they create an inherent weak point in the print where each layer is joined, making the prints less strong and unsuitable for certain applications. However, this disadvantage is becoming less relevant as manufacturers bring to market industrial grade materials specifically designed for durability and strength.
For more information on FDM 3D printing, do not hesitate to contact our sales and technical team who can guide you in the process of acquiring the machine suited to your needs.