Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a rapid prototyping process that uses production grade thermoplastics (ABS, PLA, Nylon, etc.) suitable for both prototypes and end user parts.
Before the real 3D print process can be started the CAD data must be processed with a special software which slices the model and making thin layers which will be used for guiding the machine later. This technology uses plastic filament wire, melted and pushed through a very small nozzle, which is moving in the x, y horizontal planes while extruding very thin layer of plastic. The material is deposited on a heated bed platform (allowing the plastic to stick to it), which is moving up and down in vertical direction to build the model. Once spread on build platform the material quickly cools and the whole model is lowered so the process can be repeated for the next layer of plastic. Layer thickness of deposited plastic may vary from 0.1mm to 0.35mm depending on the machine, software and properties of the CAD model. Build size usually varies from 100/100/100 mm to 250/300/250 mm. Here is the final finish you can expect from this technology:
Some parts of your models may not be possible to be printed without supporting material – for example an overhang, which will result in “printing in the air”. This is why another material with different properties is used to support the base model. It is later removed either by breaking away the unnecessary material or dissolving it in a vat with special chemicals, leaving no trace on the surface.
The most widely used filament for FDM machines is ABS plastic, which is widely used everywhere, making it perfect for testing form, fit and function. Once ready, parts won’t shrink, warp or absorb moisture, they can be drilled, threaded and painted. Models will have very thin layer lines, which can be removed by post processing done to parts and the result is smooth surface, close to the injection-molded quality. Please see our Finishing section for more information of the process and the service we provide.
FDM is suitable for the following applications:
- Concept modeling – test form, fit, functionality, proof of concept and design
- Functional prototypes – plastic models are tough enough so they can be used for functional tests
- End-user parts – fast low volume production of customized parts, without tooling expense and lead time
- Manufacturing tools – quickly get hands on tooling masters, low volume tools
FDM is used in the following industries:
- Architecture modeling
FDM parts are good for the following post processing:
- Vacuum metalization