What is Fused Deposition Modeling?

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a 3D printing/additive manufacturing technology used for modeling, prototyping, and production applications. FDM technology works with production-grade thermoplastics to build durable parts that are accurate, repeatable, and stable over time.

FDM fixtures, tools, and prototypes can withstand constant use on the production floor and perform well in punishing applications such as parts on the manufacturing floor and auto racing.

Monikers: Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), filament extrusion, fused filament deposition, material deposition, FDM

How does FDM work?

3D printers using FDM technology extrude a heated thermoplastic filament through a nozzle, building the part layer-by-layer from the bottom up. The 3D printer heats the thermoplastic to a semi-liquid state and deposits the ultra-fine material along the extrusion path. FDM can deposit thicker or thinner layers to decrease build time (thicker layers) or decrease hand finishing time (thinner layers) due to the smoother surface. After each layer, the build platform indexes down to automatically prepare for the next layer.

To build angles, overhangs, and holes, FDM uses removable support material that acts as scaffolding to support the intricate build areas. Once completed, the support material can be broken away by hand or dissolved in detergent and water. The part is then ready to use.

How is FDM used?

3D printed FDM Airplane InteriorFDM materials offer many specialized properties including, but not limited to, toughness, electrostatic dissipation, translucence, biocompatibility, UV resistance, VO flammability, and FST ratings. This makes it perfect for demanding designers and engineers in aerospace, medical, electrical, consumer goods, and other industries.

FDM is commonly used to build aircraft interior components and ducting, and medical, consumer, industrial, and transportation prototypes and products. FDM can also be used for sacrificial tooling and internal mandrels.

What file format is used to process a part on an FDM system?

3D printing processes typically begin with a 3D CAD model that is then exported as an STL file. Other data inputs are possible through CT and MRI scans. There are also a variety of 3D scanners that can capture data and output STL files. The STL file is uploaded to the printer’s software program. From there, the user can hit the print button to grow the part or can use more advanced features for specialized parts.

What tolerances are FDM 3D printers capable of holding?

Tolerances are a function of the system producing the part and the overall size of the part.

*Note: Accuracy is geometry dependent. Achievable accuracy specification is derived from statistical data at 95% dimensional yield.

What is the minimum thickness FDM machines can print? (Also know as resolution)

The minimum layer thickness varies between material and machine. The user can choose the desired thickness based on the printer, the application, part intent, and material capabilities.

What types of materials are available in FDM?

FDM uses the same materials aerospace, automotive, medical, and industrial sectors have relied on for injection molding with the ability to build complex geometries and the lower material consumption associated with 3D printing.

Some even offer specialized properties like toughness, electrostatic dissipation, translucence, biocompatibility, UV resistance, VO flammability, and FST ratings.

FDM materials can be opaque to semi-transparent in multiple colors including blue, red, yellow, white, black, and tan.

3D Printed FDM ABSi Tailight Can I print a model with multiple colors?

FDM can accommodate multiple colors throughout a single part. Generally, the software can pause the print job between any layers of the build so the user can load a canister of a different color and resume building on top of the previous color. This can only be done with various colors of the same material.

Can hollow or partially-filled models be printed using FDM materials?

3D Printed FDM box Users seeking to reduce cost/weight can use software to create different internal properties to allow for less

Some software allows a user to modify the interior model with solid and sparse fills as well, creating a custom fill by using advanced tools within the software.

Where can I get a prototype or small quantity produced without purchasing a 3D printer?

Easy, just contact the 3D printing experts at GSC. Get a quote within two business days by contacting 3dparts@gsc-3d.com today!