Objects created with a FDM printer start out as computer-aided design (CAD) files. Before an object can be printed, its CAD file must be converted to a format that a 3D printer can understand — usually .STL format.
FDM printers use two kinds of materials, a modeling material, which constitutes the finished object, and a support material, which acts as a scaffolding to support the object as its being printed. During printing, these materials take the form of plastic threads, or filaments, which are unwound from a coil and fed through an extrusion nozzle. The nozzle melts the filaments and extrudes them onto a base, sometimes called a build platform or table. Both the nozzle and the base are controlled by a computer that translates the dimensions of an object into X, Y, and Z coordinates for the nozzle and base to follow during printing.
In a typical FDM system, the extrusion nozzle moves over the build platform horizontally and vertically, "drawing" a cross section of an object onto the platform. This thin layer of plastic cools and hardens, immediately binding to the layer beneath it. Once a layer is completed, the base is lowered — usually by about one-sixteenth of an inch — to make room for the next layer of plastic.
Printing time depends on the size of the object being manufactured. Small objects — just a few cubic inches — and tall, thin objects print quickly, while larger, more geometrically complex objects take longer to print. Compared to other 3D printing methods, such as Stereolithography (SLA) or selective laser sintering (SLS), FDM is a fairly slow process.
Once an object comes off the FDM printer, its support materials are removed either by soaking the object in a water and detergent solution or, in the case of thermoplastic supports, snapping the support material off by hand. Objects may also be sanded, milled, painted or plated to improve their function and appearance.
R&D Prototype offers Fused Deposition Modeling which is a solid-based rapid prototyping method that extrudes material, layer-by-layer, to build a model. The system consists of a build platform, extrusion nozzle, and control system. This method is ideal for conceptual models, engineering models, and functional testing prototypes.
ABS-M30 has strong mechanical properties that make it ideal for concept models and moderate-requirement parts including functional prototypes, jigs, fixtures, manufacturing tooling and end-use parts. It works with soluble support material for hands-free support removal to make your product-development process more efficient.
ULTEM 9085 offers a well-vetted high-performance thermoplastic. Advanced applications include functional testing, manufacturing tooling and direct digital manufacturing of end-use parts — including aircraft interior components and ductwork. This high-performance FDM thermoplastic expands the use of additive manufacturing into applications that demand thermal and chemical resistance. ULTEM 9085 works with breakaway support material and is available in tan and black.