What is FDM?

26th November 2021

Fused Deposition Modelling is a 3D printing method that has had a long time to refine itself. Stratasys – having a close history with the technology – has helped to bring it to a versatile and powerful level.

First invented in 1988 by Stratasys co-founder Scott Crump, FDM has enjoyed widespread application in additive manufacturing. But what is FDM?

How it Works

FDM printers use spools of thermoplastic filaments as their building material. The filaments are fed through heated extruder heads, which warm the plastics to just over their glass transition temperatures.

This allows the printer to deposit the material layer-by-layer, building the part in thin cross sections. The thermoplastics cool and harden as the design is printed, and support material is provided to aid with overhanging features and other aspects that become complex when accounting for the Z axis.

Stratasys FDM printers have always employed carefully designed heating chambers to get the most stability and repeatability in their prints. When extruded plastic is left to cool during printing jobs, warping occurs and the part’s overall uniformity is ruined.

This warping ruins the overall shape and means that further layers are made with the assumption that the part has stayed uniform. In short, a job quickly becomes a mess.

Why FDM?

Stratasys thermoplastics have some incredible properties that makes them suitable for industrial-grade applications as well as more basic functions.

FDM is still widespread and heavily relied upon for its reliability and simplicity whilst producing strong and stable parts. This makes it just as perfect for simple jobs such as prototyping and concept modelling as it is for making jigs and fixtures, work tools, and soft jaws.

In the latter cases, FDM replaces parts that would traditionally be made from metals. By printing them in materials such as Stratasys’ Nylon 12 Carbon Fiber, reliable parts can be produced for high-impact use for a fraction of the time and cost. All in house, self-sufficiently, using secure CAD files and precise material distribution.

Waste is dramatically reduced on all fronts, material and otherwise. When a business needs to source or produce parts quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently, an in-house FDM printer may be just what they need.

A Wide Range

In-house FDM printing doesn’t require complicated workstations or expensive infrastructure. Many Stratasys 3D printers can be plugged in and run from mains power. Quiet and odour-free operation allows the machines to exist in office spaces and studios alike, running no louder than a refrigerator yet just as efficiently as a shop floor fixture.

The Stratasys F123 Series exemplifies this philosophy perfectly. The top of this range, the F370, can work with materials such as Diran 410MF07 – which has a good resistance to hydrocarbon-based chemicals – and electrostatic-dissipative ABS-ESD7.

With software support from Stratasys proprietary programs, prints can be carried out with pauses allowing for components to be integrated, making for a highly versatile and customisable method of production.

To find out more about FDM printing, speak with SYS Systems today. As a Stratasys Platinum Partner, our dedicated team are proven specialists in all things 3D printing.

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