Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

What is FDM?

Also known as: Fused Filament Fabrication, FFF, Fused Layer Modeling/Manufacturing, FLM

FDM is a 3D printing process where parts are built up layer by layer with strands of extruded thermoplastic. Some materials available for FDM are the same as those used in traditional manufacturing processes such as ABS, Polycarbonate, and Ultem.

It is ideal for functional applications where durability and material properties are important.

3D Print

How does FDM work?

Filament (long, spooled strands of material) is melted and extruded through a nozzle. The nozzle moves on the X & Y axeis to lay down the filament and build up the part layer by layer as the build plate moves in the Z direction.

Support structures are required wherever there are overhangs to prevent the material from drooping. These structures act as scaffolding for the print. These support structures have to be carefully broken away (or in some cases dissolved in a solution) after the print is finished.

Applications Using FDM 3D Printing

DM is an excellent fit for durable end use parts and rough prototypes. FDM materials are generally UV stable, quick to produce, and relatively inexpensive.

FDM builds parts in the same production-grade thermoplastics used in injection molding, CNC machining and other traditional manufacturing processes. With materials like ABS, PC and ULTEM, it is easy to test the fit & function of prototypes or create custom parts in small production quantities.

Benefits of FDM:

  • economical to quickly produce durable end use parts
  • parts are printed in standard production materials - not imitation resins
  • UV Stable

Challenges of FDM:

  • FDM parts have visible layer lies that are tough to finish to a smooth surface
  • low precision
  • parts are weaker on the Z-axis due to weak inter-layer bonds
  • slow production for large parts

Design Guidelines for FDM 3D Printing

Minimum Wall Thickness Minimum Feature Size Minimum Space for Interlocking Parts Minimum Size Embossed/Engraved Detail
0.8mm 1.0mm 0.5mm 1.0mm

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