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FDM 3D printing

The way in which 3D printing has developed in recent years is nothing short of astounding with a wide range of 3D printing technologies available, one of them being FDM 3D printing.

This FDM technology is most common and is also known as Fused Deposition Modelling. This is a technology that has been patented by Stratasys and it is a technology that enables the creation of prototypes in a very short timeframe. This technology is also known as Fused Filament Fabrication or FFF 3D printing. All Tractus3D industrial printers make use of this technology. But what is it exactly?

What is FDM printing?

A 3D printing nozzle

FDM 3D printing is a technology that works both horizontally and vertically, where an extrusion nozzle moves over a build platform. The process involves the use of thermoplastic material that reaches melting point and is then forced out, to create a 3D object layer by layer. As the design takes shape, it is clear to the see each layer as a horizontal cross section. Following the completion of one layer, the nozzle of the printer is lowered in order for the next layer of plastic to be added to the design. Once the object has been created, the materials that are used to support the object can then be removed.

Many businesses use FDM 3D printing technology as it allows the creation of detailed and intricate objects. Therefore, engineers are using it to allow them to test parts for fit and form. It is a technology that is now assisting the creation of small parts and specialised tools that would once take a lot longer to produce.

Every single 3D printer that we have uses FFF 3D printing with the most common 3D printed material being (Polylactic Acid) also known as PLA. However, we do not stop there because our T650P can also use other materials such as polyetherimide (PEI) and Polyether ether ketone (PEEK).
The technology that drives FDM forward was invented in the 1980’s which was down to the evolution of technology that became commercially available. We have also adopted this FFF 3D printing technology and that enables us to deliver 3D printing systems that can provide a huge range of benefits.

How does FDM 3D printing work?

Extruder of a industrial 3D printer of Tractus3D

In the same way as other forms of 3D printing, FDM uses a digital design that is uploaded to the 3D printer. The materials used have already been identified as ABS, PEI and PEEK. These take the shape of plastic threads that are fed from a coil and through a nozzle. The filaments are melted and fed onto the base, known as a build platform or table with the base and the nozzle, both of which are controlled by a computer. The computer works by translating the object and its dimension into co-ordinates that make it possible for the nozzle and base to follow.

As the nozzle moves across the base, the plastic cools and becomes solid, forming a hard bond with the previous layer. At this point the printhead goes up in order for the next layer of plastic to be laid. As always, 3D printing is efficient and fast but the time it takes to create an object does depend on its size. Smaller objects that are around several cubic inches can be created quickly but larger, more complex object will take longer.

What is FDM 3D printing used for?

Digital designs for FDM 3d printing

The use of 3D printing is highly publicised but what is FDM 3D Printing or FFF 3D printing used for? Many different industries choose to use FDM 3D printing including the automotive industry and a wide range of consumer goods manufacturers. They use FDM because it helps to aid their product development, their prototyping and their manufacturing process.

Manufacturers of certain products use FDM 3D printing because of the thermoplastic that is used during development is perfect for anything ranging from Children’s toys or even sports equipment.

Prior to a product being taken to the mass market, it is important that objects are tested vigorously. Therefore, the use of thermoplastics is ideal for creating prototypes because they can endure heat, chemicals and mechanical stress. Along with this, as FDM printing has the ability to create extremely detailed objects, it makes it the ideal choice for those industries that use need to create parts that need to be tested for fit and form.

However, it is not just about prototyping because FDM is also used to create end-use parts, especially small parts that have a lot of details. In fact, it is common for thermoplastics to be used for food packaging and drug packaging and so, it is a popular technology in the medical industry. Here you can find some case studies about the use of 3D printing.

For businesses looking for a viable option that can deliver results, FDM 3d printing offers the perfect solution. It is competitively priced and can deliver results efficiently and effectively.

What are the advantages of FDM 3D printing?

Printhead making the first layer on a PEI printbed

1. Easy handling

The 3D printing industry is constantly evolving. There is no doubt that it will become the main way to create parts and objects in the future. It simplifies the manufacturing process and enables manufacturers to test, alter and finally produce a final product in timeframe that is faster than traditional methods. Easy handling is one of the great benefits of FDM or FFF 3D printing.

2. Cost efficient

For any business, cost is everything because it eats into the bottom line and affects profits and so, keeping costs low is vital. Therefore, FDM 3D printing, provides a viable solution that is designed to help keep manufacturing costs low. Of course, there is the prototype development costs to keep down, the testing costs and the final production costs. Through a comparison with other types of 3D printing techniques, FDM 3D printing is also cheaper than other methods. The materials used are cheaper than the ones used in SLS and SLA 3D printing.

3. Flexibility in material choice

Often, many businesses are governed by the materials they use during the manufacturing process. However, when it comes to FDM or FFF 3D printing, there is a broad range of materials available and all are accessible and economical. It is also possible for a selection of materials to be used at the same time which helps to create complex objects while it is also possible to print using a wide range of colours offering versatility and flexibility.

4. Less post-processing

Time is money but FDM 3D printing is an option that optimises production times and that saves money. As there is less post-processing required, it means that there is no need to think about how you use expensive liquids used in other methods, it simply creates a product that is ready to use.

Accessibility is vital for businesses if they are to take advantage of FDM 3D printing. Whether a business is looking for a 3D printing solution for the first time or simply looking for a feasible printing option that is readily-available, FDM 3D printing is a great option. The technique is efficient, easy to understand and delivers readily-available results with very little fuss.

The future of FDM 3D printing

PEI printbed of Tractus3D

FDM 3D printing will stay a leading technology

The ability to use 3D printing to enhance business operations, reduce costs and improve efficiency is exactly why 3D printing has become a popular solution. As it continues to grow, we believe the FDM 3D printing will continue to become a leading technology that is embraced by businesses around the world. Therefore, the future of 3D printing is one that will prove just how beneficial it can be while continuing to deliver results.

Every business wants to simplify their workflow and that is where FDM printers can really enhance the simplicity of the whole process. It has already been mentioned that the technology is simpler than other forms of 3D printing but the fact that the printers are smaller, the process is safer, cheaper and a lot easier means that it is an attractive option.

More and more businesses will be able to adopt FDM printing

As the equipment evolves and becomes smaller and more compact, it will become something that more and more businesses will be able to adopt. This will provide flexibility and more control over how they produce products, test and take their final designs to market. This level of control will also enable businesses to create goods without the need to store items and that certainly will give them a greater level of adaptability.

Often, scaling up manufacturing processes can lead to problems and increased costs. However, FDM printers are a lot easier and far less complex than other machines which means that manufacturers can produce more products in an efficient and simple way without the high costs. In comparison to other technologies, this is an option that can certainly give businesses the ability to produce more goods without the complexities that often come with that.

New materials will be developed

FDM 3D Printing is a technology that competes with other technologies that are currently available. It is a cost effective way of creating products without having to adopt expensive and time-consuming methods. Of course, the fact that the consumable market in FDM 3D printing is made up of mainly PLA and ABS plastics means that the consumables have decreased in price compared with other types of 3D printing.

Longevity and the ability to evolve is what makes a technology successful and FDM printing offers exactly that. As it uses real materials as oppose to photopolymers, it means that new materials could be developed resulting in a technology that is able to adapt to a wide range of uses. As a market that is still deemed to be relatively new, it is still possible to purchase a wide range of materials such as woodfill, corkfill, electrically conductive material as well as carbon fibre-infused material.

FDM printing is here to stay

Therefore, FDM printing will continue to develop well into the future and at a pace that will enable it to be a real leader when it comes to the manufacturing process. The future potential is huge while the material capabilities make it a technology that stretches far and wide. Here you can take a look at our industrial 3D printers.