FDM 3D Printing Guide

3D printing is the process of creating a three-dimensional object by using a CAD or 3D model. Another name for 3D printing is Additive printing. The process of 3D printing involves placing one layer on another several times until the object takes its final form. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) is a very popular form of 3D printing. In this article, we are going to take a brief look into the colorful world of FDM printing. The entire article has been divided into various parts for the ease of understanding.

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History of 3D printing

3D printing became popular in 1990. Back then, 3D printing served the purpose of prototype modeling. The term Rapid prototyping was given to 3D printing for this reason. The wheel of technology kept rolling and slowly 3D printing became a viable part of the manufacturing industry. A major advantage of 3D printing is that it is capable of making complex objects that are impossible to make with bare hands. Fusion Deposition Modelling (FDM) is the most common form of 3D printing. At an industry level, FDM helps to manufacture many sensitive industrial parts.

What is FDM?

Fusion Deposition Modelling (FDM) or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) is a part of the material extrusion family. The modeling is done as the laser moves through a predefined path set with the help of the digital model. FDM commonly uses thermoplastic polymer as the printing material. These printing materials come in the form of filament sheets. FDM is present all over the world in all the major industrial manufacturing sectors. All industries must be aware of the capabilities and the limitations of FDM while using it. So, in this article, we are going to discuss everything there is to know about FDM.

In FDM, you have to load a filament of thermoplastic into the printer. Then, you have to wait for the nozzle to reach the optimal temperature. Once the nozzle reaches the desired temperature, the filament reaches the extrusion head in the nozzle and melts there. The extrusion head follows a three-axis system (namely: X, Y, and Z-axis). The nozzle transforms the melted polymer into strands. These strands are then deposited layer by layer on the path that the digital 3D model will determine. Additionally, in some cases, you can use cooling fans at the tip of the nozzle to speed up the cooling process.

One pass can’t fill an entire area, and so it requires multiple passes to create a structure. The nozzle makes a pass, retracts back to its original positions, and then starts its second layer. This process continues several times until the entire structure is ready. The printer deploys the cooling mechanism in between each layer to ensure that the layers don’t get deformed with the pressure of the new layer. Thus, FDM is one of the most sophisticated yet one of the most user-friendly printing technologies in the market.

People often think that FDM is used in large scale manufacturing just because it is quick and saves a lot of time. FDM has many more advantages that make it one of the most demanding manufacturing processes in all leading business organizations. Let us take a quick look at some of the prominent advantages of FDM. These serve as one of the distinguishing factors if you want to take a lead over all your business competitors. 

1. Variety of Customizations

 

Using FDM, there is no limit for your imagination. In simple terms, if you can think about something, FDM can get it developed for you. There are various things that we can’t manufacture with our bare hands. On the other hand, the sophisticated technology of FDM can do these models with ease in no time. Additionally, you don’t need to change the printing chamber to alter the layout of the end product. Thus, you can customize all items according to end-user demands without having to bear any extra expenses.

2. Completely Tool-less manufacturing process

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Physical manufacturing requires a lot of tools. You will need a separate tool for every step to manufacture a product. However, with 3D printing, you can do different processes with one single machine and a 3D model. The FDM is capable enough to adjust itself according to all the various steps involved in the fabrication of an article. It might seem to be a costly investment in the initial phases of the installment, but you and your company will be saving a fortune in the coming years of production.

3. Manufactures Environment-Friendly products

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FDM uses thermoplastic polymers for manufacturing most of the products. This material is a special plastic that has high reusable abilities and is completely recyclable. It means that all items manufactured with the help of FDM are recyclable, and they pose no threat to the environment. With increasing amounts of global pollution, technologies like FDM are necessary to sustain the natural balance in the environment. Additionally, FDM uses 90% of the original raw material. Thus, this method of 3D printing produces fewer amounts of waste products. FDM allows manufacturing any item locally and eliminates the huge shipping costs that all business companies had to bear earlier.

4. Say goodbye to all manufacturing complexities

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Various industries such as aerospace manufacture sophisticated items that need to be detailed. These demands increase complexity that is nearly impossible to solve with physical manufacturing methods. FDM helps to make these components with utmost ease to ensure that these perform as per the demands of the end-user. Moreover, the finished products are lighter and more durable than you could make by any other manufacturing method. Many electrical and technical industries are using 3D printing for all major manufacturing processes. Among the various users, Intel is a prominent name, and it has shifted most of its advanced manufacturing process to FDM.

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FDM uses thermoplastic polymers for manufacturing most of the products. This material is a special plastic that has high reusable abilities and is completely recyclable. It means that all items manufactured with the help of FDM are recyclable, and they pose no threat to the environment. With increasing amounts of global pollution, technologies like FDM are necessary to sustain the natural balance in the environment. Additionally, FDM uses 90% of the original raw material. Thus, this method of 3D printing produces fewer amounts of waste products. FDM allows manufacturing any item locally and eliminates the huge shipping costs that all business companies had to bear earlier.

Various industries such as aerospace manufacture sophisticated items that need to be detailed. These demands increase complexity that is nearly impossible to solve with physical manufacturing methods. FDM helps to make these components with utmost ease to ensure that these perform as per the demands of the end-user. Moreover, the finished products are lighter and more durable than you could make by any other manufacturing method. Many electrical and technical industries are using 3D printing for all major manufacturing processes. Among the various users, Intel is a prominent name, and it has shifted most of its advanced manufacturing process to FDM.

We can indeed see 3D printed materials almost everywhere nowadays, but few sectors use FDM to the maximum limits. So, here we are going to discuss the business sectors that benefit a lot from FDM and can’t function in the absence of it.

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Dental and medical

Dental health care is one of the major health sectors that implemented FDM to its maximum use. In Dental care, Doctors mostly use FDM to make prototypes. The advantage of FDM is that it meets all medical-grade certifications. So, the doctors can use it to make the most sophisticated operations while ensuring complete customer satisfaction. Other than teeth implants, FDM is also used to manufacture various other body implants.

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Jewelry

Jewelry is a part of clothing that increases the beauty of the human exponentially. Making beautiful jewelry will need to carve out many small parts that need to be perfect to uplift the overall beauty of the entire item. FDM helps to do unlimited customizations as per the demands of the customer. FDM also ensures that the customer gets the most beautiful and high-quality finished product.

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Automobiles

With the advancement in technology, we have introduced various new features to the automobiles that make our travels a lot easier. Most of these features are a result of advanced technology that requires precisely made parts to work efficiently. These parts are quite complex to make. So FDM can be of great help in this field. FDM allows the companies to manufacture all these parts in bulk with the help of just a single 3D digital model.

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· Art and Sculpture

There is no limit for innovation in art. FDM has helped to make artistic creations in such ways that were earlier just myths. The dynamics of sculpture have been upgraded by implementing FDM in the art industry. Many companies use FDM for large-scale production of artworks.

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Aerospace

In simple terms, the Aerospace research will become completely crippled without FDM. Most of the parts that the industry uses are impossible to manufacture with bare hands or by any other manufacturing method. So, FDM is like a lifeline for this industry, from the minute parts to the large industrial-grade sheets of heavy machinery, it is done with the help of FDM.

Characteristics of FDM

There are thousands of features of FDM that make it the best industrial manufacturing technology. In this part, we are going to discuss the most significant features of FDM.

Printer Parameters for the process

FDM allows you to customize your product to the very minute detail. There are various options that you can tweak to get the best result. For instance, using FDM you can not only create an item as small as 20x20x20 mm but also as large as 1000x1000x1000 mm. Additionally, you have the option to set the height in microns. The typical height varies from 40 to 500 microns.

Warping

Warping is a common defect of FDM. While printing, different parts of the product cool down at different times. Thus, the structure keeps changing with the cooling of every part. Due to the changing structure, it forms an unusual form factor, and we call this process warping. Warping can be easily prevented by closely monitoring the temperature during the entire printing process. You can also prevent warping by changing the materials that you use for printing. A good FDM printing sheet will have the following features:

  • Large flat areas
  • Thin protruding areas
  • Sharp Corners

 

Adhesion between two layers of the product is important if you want to manufacture a high-quality product. While the previous layer cools down, the next heated layer comes out of the nozzle. The heated layer reheats the previous layer and presses against it. It ensures that both the layers stick together by an almost unbreakable force. Additionally, you must remember that in FDM the bond between the two layers is always less than the strength of the base material. This ensures that the end product is stable and preferably lightweight.

Support Structure

A support structure plays a vital role in the FDM product. In simple terms, the support acts as a backup in case the adhesion between layers fails in any particular post. Moreover, you cannot deposit the melted thermoplastic on thin air. So, you will need some support structure to act as the base for the model. The printer makes a support structure of lower quality than the actual one. So, we will advise you to create models that require minimal use of support structures. This will help you to maintain the overall quality of the entire finished item.

Infill and shell the thickness of the product

Using FDM, you can even customize the infills and the thickness of the shell. Shell is the outer structure that is the result of various layers stacking on one another, and infill is the filling material for the shell. By using FDM you can change the thickness of the shell, and even the density of the infill depending upon the item or the demand of the customer. So, it again proves the fact that there is no limitation to customization while using FDM.

Indeed, FDM is probably the best 3D printing mechanism that you can find in the market but, it doesn’t mean that it is completely perfect. FDM also has its share of limitations.

  • There are high chances that FDM products will have visible layer lines. So, you have to perform post-manufacturing to get a smoother finish.
  • FDM has very low dimensional accuracy and resolution compared to all other 3D printing technologies.
  • Since FDM uses layer adhesion, so all the FDM parts are inherently anisotropic.
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A conclusive view on Fused Deposition modeling 3D printing

So, we can conclude that FDM is still one of the most respectable manufacturing methods if you own a company that needs to manufacture very sophisticated parts on a bulk. It ensures that you can quickly deliver high-quality products to your customers who are on a budget. With the advancing technology, we can guess that FDM will slowly overcome its shortcomings and become the perfect manufacturing method that all companies dream about. Every company has high hopes from FDM as it has continued to revolutionize the industries since its first introduction.

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