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Fused Deposition Modeling 3D Printing

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Fused Deposition Modeling 3D Printing

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is ideal when you need to build concept models, functional prototypes and end-use parts using standard, engineering-grade and high-performance thermoplastics. As you consider the many material options available for FDM versus other additive manufacturing technologies, remember that this process uses the same types of raw materials used in the injection molding process.

What is FDM Printing?

FDM is a filament-based additive technology distributed by a moving print head that extrudes a heated thermoplastic material in a pattern layer by layer onto a build platform. This technology includes the use of support material to create supportive structures removed by force or solution. FDM is the best choice for jigs and fixtures, molds, tooling and other functional parts that require durability and resistance. Additional examples of FDM include medical tissue engineering, rapid prototyping, modeling, production applications and more.

How Does a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D Printer Work?

The FDM process begins when a computer-aided design (CAD) design is made. The CAD file acts as a set of instructions or blueprints for the machine. An FDM printer will use two types of materialsone for modeling and the other for support. Once the printing begins, filaments are unwound from a coil and fed into an extrusion nozzle. The nozzle is heated to melt the material and can be moved in horizontal and vertical directions, controlled by computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software package. The model or part is produced by extruding small beads of thermoplastic material to form successive layers, with each material layer hardening immediately after extrusion from the nozzle. Once the piece is made, the support structures must be removed by force or solution. The more massive and more complex the part, the longer it will take to print.

What Materials are Used in Fused Deposition Modeling?

One of the most essential advantages of FDM is the ability to use a variety of materials. FDM printers are fed by a filament from a spool, usually thermoplastic and organic material blends. Several materials are available with different trade-offs between strength and temperature properties, including ABS polymer. FDM technology can also be used with polycarbonates, polycaprolactone, polyphenyl sulfones and waxes. The material selected will affect the accuracy and properties of the part produced and the price.

FDM 3D Printed Parts and Images

(thermoplastic polyurethane elastomer)
  • Accurate elastomer parts with high elongation
  • Superior toughness & abrasion resistance
  • Wide variety of applications including flexible hoses, tubes, air ducts & vibration dampeners
Antero™ 800NA
  • High heat & chemical resistance
  • Low outgassing & high dimensional stability
  • Excellent strength, toughness & wear-resistant properties
ULTEM™ 1010 resin
  • Certified food safety & bio-compatibility
  • Highest heat resistance, chemical resistance & tensile strength
  • Outstanding strength & thermal stability
ULTEM 9085 resin
  • FST (flame, smoke, toxicity)-certified thermoplastic
  • High heat & chemical resistance; high flexural strength
  • Ideal for commercial transportation applications such as airplanes, buses, trains & boats
FDM Nylon 12™
(polyamide 12)
  • The toughest nylon in additive manufacturing
  • Excellent for repetitive snap fits, press fit inserts & fatigue-resistance applications
  • Simple, clean process – free of powders
FDM Nylon 12CF™
(polyamide 12CF)
  • Carbon-filled thermoplastic with excellent structural characteristics
  • Highest flexural strength
  • Highest stiffness-to-weight ratio
  • Most widely used industrial thermoplastic with superior mechanical properties & heat resistance
  • Accurate, durable & stable for strong parts, patterns for metal bending & composite work
  • Great for demanding prototyping needs, tooling & fixtures
(polycarbonate – ISO 10993 USP Class VI biocompatible)
  • Biocompatible (ISO 10993 USP Class VI)1 material
  • Sterilizable using gamma radiation or ethylene oxide (EtO) sterilization methods
  • Best fit for applications requiring higher strength & sterilization
(polycarbonate – acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
  • Features high dimensional stability & colorless transparency
  • Certified for five medical approvals including cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, delayed type hypersensitivity, irritation & USP plastic class VI
  • Ideal for applications requiring prolonged skin contact of more than 30 days and short-term mucosal membrane contact of up to 24 hours
(acrylonitrile styrene acrylate)
  • Build UV-stable parts with the best aesthetics of any FDM material
  • Ideal for production parts for outdoor infrastructure & commercial use, outdoor functional prototyping & automotive parts & accessory prototypes
(acrylonitrile butadiene styrene – static dissipative)
  • Static-dissipative with target surface resistance of 104 ohms (typical range 105 – 103 ohms)2
  • Makes great assembly tools for electronic & static-sensitive products
  • Widely used for functional prototypes of cases, enclosures & packaging
(acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
  • Versatile material good for form, fit & functional applications
  • Familiar production material for accurate prototyping
  1. 0.005 inch (0.127 mm) layer thickness not available for Stratasys F900.

  2. See individual material spec sheets for testing details.

  3. Annealed

  4. Actual surface resistance may range from 109 to 106 ohms, depending upon geometry, build style and finishing techniques.

  5. Available only on the Stratasys F370

For more material options, download FDM Material Specification PDF and consult a Fathom expert for details.

For additional flexible 3D printing options // TPU 88A for SLS, PolyJet & Urethane Casting

Order Material Samples // Keychains & Kits


What are the Advantages of FDM?

There are many advantages to Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). One main benefit of FDM technology is its ability to produce parts and prototypes using engineering grade plastics. FDM thermoplastic parts are strong, durable and are dimensionally stable. FDM parts can be used for advanced conceptual models, functional prototyping, production parts and manufacturing tools. Modern FDM 3D printing machines possess large build envelopes capable of producing larger pieces at higher quantities than other additive manufacturing technologies. Today’s FDM printers are so efficient that they can eliminate many of the steps necessary with traditional manufacturing. As a result, overhead costs are reduced and there is a quicker turnaround. Brands often select FDM technology due to the wide selection and lower price of materials. Multiple different types of material can be used simultaneously in the FDM process. Some additional benefits of FDM include:

  • Suitable For Rapid Prototyping, Modeling & Production
  • No Assembly Required—All Parts Are Produced As A Single Object
  • Impact Resistance & Toughness
  • Lightweight Product

What Industries use FDM?

Startups and large aerospace companies have all used Fused Deposition Modeling to produce their products. FDM parts are durable, chemical resistant and can endure extreme conditions, making them ideal for testing and end-use parts. As FDM technology continues to advance, more and more industries have adopted the technology, including:

  • Medical & Dental
  • Automotive & Antique Automotive
  • Jewelry & Art
  • Custom Automation
  • Architecture
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Health & Beauty
  • Food & Beverage
  • Packaging

Why Choose FDM?

A primary benefit of FDM is the ability to test a design before transitioning to the production process physically. This allows a brand to identify any issues and make improvements early in the design process. The ability to test saves a lot of time and money in the long run. A functional prototype can be produced within a few hours or days, depending on the complexity of the part. Having a functional prototype not only reduces the time to market but maximizes the overall product performance.

FDM technology also presents an opportunity to create custom tooling and fixtures. This allows a brand the flexibility to take on new projects and lower costs and risks in a timely manner, much quicker than with traditional production. Rather than spend a lot of time and money on tooling and making a custom mold or cast, you can print it with FDM.

A low-volume production run is easy with FDM. There is no minimum quantity requirement; you can make as much or as little as is required. Production can start as soon as a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) design is available and translated to the 3D printing machine.

What is the Difference Between FFF and FDM?

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) is the same process as FDM. The two terms can be used interchangeably. FFF uses a filament material that is layered and then fused, just like FDM. Fused Deposition Modeling was initially invented and trademarked by Stratysys, Inc. in 1988. The patent did not expire until 2009. To avoid trademark violations, other 3D printing companies began to reference the technology as Fused Filament Fabrication.

Who Invented Fused Deposition Modeling?

FDM technology was invented by Stratasys founder, Scott Crump, nearly 30 years ago using the same production-grade thermoplastics found in traditional manufacturing processes. FDM is ideal for applications that require tight tolerances, toughness and environmental stability. The materials available for FDM also meet applications requiring specialized properties such as electrostatic dissipation, translucence, biocompatibility, VO flammability, or FST ratings.


FDM Timeline:

  • 1989 Scott Crump patents Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
  • 1991 Stratasys commercializes FDM
  • 2008 Stratasys offers high-performance ULTEM 9085 for its 900MC and 400MC FDM machines
  • 2009 First FDM patent expires
  • 2011 Beginning of FDM 3D desktop printers

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