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Beginner’s Guide to FDM Printing
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printing is a 3D printing technology that produces part from industrial grade thermoplastics. Because of its durability, FDM is perfect for functional prototyping and end-use parts. FDM printing also happens to be the technology we use for 3D printing many of the jigs and fixtures we use in-house to speed up our own production processes.
How FDM Printing Works
FDM is one of the most common 3D printing technologies, comprising almost the entire market of consumer-oriented desktop 3D printers. However, at 3 Space we use industrial equipment and our FDM machines are larger than your average refrigerator. The build volume for these machines is 16” x 14” x 16” and they are capable of printing layer heights as small as 0.005”.
FDM machines use spools of thermoplastic filament that looks similar to weed eater line. The filament is fed into the print head, where it is heated to its melting point and extruded as the print head “draws” the shape of each layer.
The layers immediately cool, harden, and bind to the layer below. This process is repeated until the entire part is printed. This process can take anywhere from 20 minutes to several days, depending on the size and orientation of the part being printed.
Like most 3D printing technologies, FDM requires support structures during printing to ensure the stability of your part’s geometry. The support structures are not made from the same thermoplastic as your part, but rather a dissolvable starch-based material. Once the part is printed, it is placed in a solution bath where the support material dissolves and only the part is left.
FDM Printing Materials
One of the advantages of choosing to print with FDM technology is that there are many available materials that provide a comprehensive selection to print jigs, fixtures, and end-use parts. One of the most common, general purpose 3D printing materials for FDM is ABS, but we also offer more durable and more specialized materials.
We’ve created a guide to each of the materials we have available for FDM printing. Below are fast facts about each material. All information can be viewed on our 3D printing materials page.
ABS-M30 and ABS-ESD7
When used with FDM technology, ABS-M30 is a general purpose material that is ideal for concept models and jigs, fixtures, tools, and parts that will be moderately used when completed. This material can also be 25-70% stronger than standard ABS. Top features of ABS-M30 include a tensile strength of 5,200 psi, flexural strength of 8,800, and a shore hardness of R 109.5.
ABS-ESD7 is based on ABS-M30, but is made with electrostatic-dissipative material that’s best used when static charge may inhibit performance of an end-use part.
Polycarbonate and PC-ABS
Polycarbonate (PC) is one of the most widely used industrial thermoplastics and offers high tensile and flexural strength. In short, it is more durable than ABS filament.
PC-ABS creates a premium high-heat 3D printing filament which is widely used in the manufacturing industry. By mixing the high-heat resistance and mechanical properties of PC with the printability of ABS allows for the printing of functional prototypes and end-use parts with high-attention to detail and quality surface area.
Polyphenylsulfone (PPSF) is a filament of polymers from the sulfone family that has high heat-deflection, impressive dimensional stability, and extraordinary chemical resistance. This filament is resistant to water absorption in acidic and alkaline environments making them ideal for use in the automotive and aerospace industries.
This high-performance polymer combines excellent thermal properties, high chemical resistance, and is inherently flame retardant to a certain extent. Parts created with this filament can withstand high glass transition temperature up to (Tg) of 186°C.
Nylon 12 is the right choice for parts needing to be both impact and fatigue resistant. Nylon 12 is excellent for parts that need to be flexible.
Our FDM services allow you to print with precision and consistency with a build size of 16″x14″x16″, layer height between 0.005″ – 0.013″, and tolerance of ±0.005. For more information about our FDM services, be sure to check out our FDM 3D printing design guide.