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FDM: Filament Extrusion

This post is part of our 3D Printing Technologies series.

FDM 3D printing is the most common type of additive manufacturing technology. It is a popular choice for desktop 3D printers and has grown to be the most well-known form of 3D printing. While satisfactory results are possible on desktop models, FDM performs best in an industrial setting when handled by trained professionals. As such, this article will solely focus on FDM 3D printing as it operates on an industrial level. Specifically, this article will discuss what FDM is, how the technology works, when to use it, common materials, and alternative manufacturing options. 

What is FDM?

Fused Deposition Modeling, or FDM, is a 3D printing technology that creates parts via the extrusion of molten thermoplastics inside a patented closed and heated build chamber. The patent is owned by Stratasys, a company that makes all FDM 3D printers. Non-Stratasys filament extrusion printers are referred to as Fused Filament Fabrication, or FFF, because they do not have the same build chamber set up. While FDM and FFF share identical printing processes, the lack of the patented build chamber can make a huge difference in the printing quality of some materials. As such, FDM is the preferred technology for most filament extrusion print jobs. 

Advantages of FDM

  • Most accessible additive manufacturing technology¬†
  • Reliable, durable, and heat-resistant parts
  • Wide range of thermoplastic materials available
  • Fewer geometrical restrictions than traditional manufacturing
  • Quicker lead time than traditional manufacturing (great for rapid prototyping)