Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)
The most common form of 3D printing.
What is Fused Deposition Modelling?
Fused deposition modelling is a method of additive manufacturing (3D printing) in which a thermoplastic (plastic which can be reformed when heated) is melted and fused together. The plastic is then allowed to cool to form a solid object. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) is sometimes also referred to as Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).
This process is achieved by heating up a component aptly named the heat block. This component is made of a material which can transfer heat well such as aluminium or copper. The thermoplastic chosen is then fed into the heat block where it is melted and extruded out through a nozzle. The nozzle is constantly being moved based on instructions that take the form of gcode like that used to control similar computer numerical control (CNC) devices such as CNC mills. The gcode is generated based on a 3D model.
FDM 3D Printed part with internal geometry.
FDM 3D Printed part showng the affect of layer lines.
Large FDM part with clear layers and regular extrusion.
When to use Fused Deposition Modelling
Fused deposition modelling is suitable for a number of applications such as prototyping, small runs of plastic parts and one off parts. Due to the nature of FDM, the larger the part the longer it takes to print. The costs associated with FDM do not scale well when considering thousands of parts. In these cases an injection moulding machine would be both faster and cheaper despite the tooling required.
Feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss what manufacturing process would suit your part.
A large variety of materials can be printed using fused deposition modelling. These include but are not excluded to PLA, ABS, TPU, PETG, PEEK, Nylon. Some materials require machines with specific setups. Due to the low melting temperature and overall accessibility, polylactic acid (PLA) is the most common material to be used in traditional fused deposition 3D printers. Many of the materials also come in a wide variety of colours allowing for a final product that doesn't need to be painted to fit its purpose.
Multi Material Printing
Fused Deposition Modelling also lends itself to multi-material printing. Generally multi-material printing is used to produce dissolvable supports for complex geometries or allow for alternate colours of the same material to be used.