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What is FDM?

Whilst FDM builds in layers, it does not use lasers, powders or resins. It is basically an extrusion system, melting a thermoplastic and extruding it layer by layer to correspond to the layer (or slice) data obtained from the original 3D cad model.

As these were some of the first additive patents to expire, and the materials can be easily handled, this process represents the majority of home or school printers in existence. Systems are available from under £200, all the way up to hundreds of thousands of pounds.


What are the advantages of FDM?

One of the biggest advantages is the range of materials that can be used with the process. Most systems use a filament as the feedstock allowing easy manufacture in PLA’s, ABS’s, PETG etc. However given a heated bed , build chamber and specialist extruder, Ultem’s and PEEK’s can also be processed, along with filled or reinforced materials.

Some of the larger machines now use pellets (as in injection moulding feedstock) directly, cutting out the need for producing an intermediate filament.

The second biggest advantage is the ability to scale, these printers represent some of the largest available, producing full size car parts or boat hulls.

Thirdly, due to the proliferation of systems, these components can be some of the lowest cost additive parts available – although if building 100’s of the same part it may be SLS is quicker.


Disadvantages of FDM?

These may or may not be seen as disadvantages, more things to be aware of.

Thick sections are usually built with an ‘infill’, so a shell with a lattice core. The density of the core can be varied. This can save on material and produce parts that are substantially lighter than would normally be expected.

Layer thicknesses are usually greater than for SLS or SLA although vapour smoothing options can now address the resultant smoothness. If building threads these would usually require post tapping or inserting.


For further information please contact us today for unbiased advice.

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