3D Printing – Facts Behind The Fused Deposition Modelling Technology
FDM or Fused Deposition Modelling is one of the cheapest forms of 3D printing made commercially available. The system is priced at around ,000 and starts from there. Unlike stereolithography and its other counterparts, FDM makes use of heated materials and plastic to help form the materials rather than printing them. However, the underlying principle still follows with the other forms of technology. The image still has to be rendered using a CAD program and still has to undergo a conversion of instructions which can be understood by the printer. In other words, the CAD-rendered image is sliced into tiny horizontal layers which will be printed out using FDM.
Stratasys was able to commercialize this technology and currently owns the trademark. The company is able to use FDM for the following industries:
– Commercial and consumer products
The company is also able to use this technology for the following 3D applications:
– Concept modelling
– Functional prototyping
– End-use parts
– Manufacturing tooling
But how does FDM work?
FDM is able to recreate models through the heating and layering of plastic filaments. The technology still relies on an additive principle where the model is constructed through layers. The plastic filament or metal wire is unwound from a coil and is loaded into an extrusion nozzle, similar to the ones you find in hoses. Once the material is loaded, the nozzle is heated until the material is melted. The nozzle is then controlled horizontally and vertically by a numerically controlled mechanism from the CAM or Computer-aided manufacturing software. In simpler terms, the nozzle follows a path defined by the CAD. Once the 3D printing is done, the user removes the part from the support material by dissolving it with detergent and water, or breaking it.
Why use FDM?
The product designed using FDM are made with high accuracy and resolution, which makes them ideal for developing prototypes and scale models. The product, despite being made of plastic, has high tensile strength. It is also one of the cheapest 3D printing systems that are commercially available, so that alone is a huge bonus.
However, FDM also suffers from drawbacks like unpolished textures due to the breaking away of the support material, although this can be remedied using a sand polisher. You can only recreate small machines, mainly because it’s faster. You can still create larger models, but it will take a long time. Other than that, FDM is considered as a very efficient printing technique.