What is FDM 3D Printing?

fused deposition modeling 3d printing

Most people assume that Fused Deposition Modeling 3D printing is only suitable for making prototypes and models. However, this technology has demonstrated its wide-ranging capabilities by being utilized to manufacture non-visual end-use products for highly demanding aerospace and automotive applications. This highlights the amazing versatility of FDM 3D printing and showcases how it can be used in many different industries.

Gaining a better understanding of fused deposition modeling is essential to appreciate the potential of this additive manufacturing process. It is important to comprehend how it works, in comparison with stereolithography, along with exploring options for materials and post-processingOnce you comprehend the fundamentals, and it will be easier to assess both the advantages and disadvantages that this AM process has to offer.

FDM 3D Printing: What Is It?

FDM, or fused deposition modeling, is a 3D printing technique that involves fabricating parts or prototypes by layering melted plastic filaments that are extruded from the nozzle. This method of printing provides an extensive range of options for designs; it enables you to construct intricate geometries and forms as well as simpler structures like housings and fixtures.

How Does FDM Operate?

Before the FDM 3D printing process is initiated, a 3D design is first uploaded into the computer software of the printer. This computer is equipped with a CAD program that can break down the model into different slices or layers for printing. The program then sends instructions to the printer on how to print each layer so that when all layers are combined, it will produce an accurate representation of the original design.

FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) is a 3D printing process where heated plastic filaments are distributed from nozzles inside the printer onto a build platform. Each layer of the part is formed as each cross-section is built upon, and once one layer has been completed, the build platform gradually lowers to allow for the construction of the subsequent layers above it. This repeated step continues until the entire shape or model has been formed, and the printing process is finished.

Due to the heated, molten plastic material that is used in 3D printing, any features of the build that overhang require supports to be added by the nozzles in the printer. These supports must then be removed during post-processing as they are not a part of the finished product.

Once an FDM build is complete, it comes out with a relatively coarse surface. Manufacturers will sand the part and make the surface smooth to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing result. Other finishing options are also available; for instance, they may choose to paint the item in order to add color or plate it with metal.


Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) and Stereolithography (SLA) are widely used to 3D print prototypes and models. However, while these two processes have the potential to create lightweight, intricate designs which make them highly suitable for creating prototypes, models, as well as low-volume end-use components, they are fundamentally different from one another in terms of their underlying technology.

First, FDM 3D printers employ the use of plastic filament, whereas SLA printers make use of liquid resin. The resin is precisely applied into a cross-section that matches the desired design and then solidified with the aid of a UV laser. This process is repeated for each layer until the entire part has been formed.

FDM and SLA are two popular 3D printing techniques, but they differ from each other in terms of the surface quality of their prints. When it comes to SLA parts, they typically result in a much smoother finish compared to FDM parts, which generally require additional post-processing to achieve a smooth surface. This is because FDM parts have more visible layering that needs to be sanded down or smoothed out with a chemical solution before they can be considered finished products.

Stereolithography is able to produce prints of a much higher resolution than those created from Fused Deposition Modelling, though these parts are more brittle and not as strong. As a result, SLA is less suitable for manufacturing truly functional parts that require greater durability, making FDM the superior choice in this regard.

Material Choices

Fused deposition modeling typically uses a variety of plastic filament materials, some of which are listed below.

  • Polylactic Acid (PLA)
  • Nylon (PA)
  • PC
  • TPU
  • Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate (ASA)
  • ABS
  • Process-Oriented Design

Due to its compatibility with a vast array of materials, the FDM process can be difficult to design for. To guarantee the best part quality and successful printing results, adhering to a number of established geometric guidelines is highly recommended. Considering these factors when designing components for FDM will help ensure optimum performance from the 3D printing process.

FDM applications

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a widely used 3D printing technique with many applications. It is most commonly utilized to create basic visual models and prototypes. Still, it can also be employed in the aerospace and automotive industries to fabricate small functional parts, such as jigs and fixtures. The versatility of FDM makes it an attractive option for many businesses that need reliable production results.

HLH Rapid offers FDM 3D printing with a remarkably short lead time of just 2-3 days, allowing customers to obtain the low-volume parts they require expeditiously. This swift turnaround makes HLH Rapid’s FDM 3D printing a great option for those who need their parts quickly and efficiently.

Benefits of FDM

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a 3D printing process that offers users a wide range of material selections, allowing them to create custom parts and prototypes. As it has a quick turnaround time and can print both small and large builds, this method is incredibly scalable for businesses looking to expand production. It also allows for an array of materials to be used, such as PLA, ABS, nylon composites and more. This makes FDM an ideal choice for those who require versatility in their 3D printing projects.

FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) is a cost-effective and budget-friendly 3D printing technology that produces parts from filaments at a fraction of the cost compared to other Additive Manufacturing techniques. The materials used for FDM are comparatively inexpensive, allowing users to achieve their desired outcome without breaking the bank. This makes it an ideal solution for those looking for a relatively low-cost production method.

Soluble Support Structures provide an easier way to remove supports than the traditionally used SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus) supports, as they are constructed from a filament readily soluble in water. This makes them substantially simpler to remove compared to their more permanent counterparts, allowing for a much quicker and more efficient post-processing stage for 3D printing projects.

The Drawbacks of FDM

Fused deposition modeling (FDM) printing is a 3D printing process that requires support structures to print complex parts. This requirement for additional material, as well as increased time and post-processing steps, makes FDM an inferior choice compared to other processes, such as selective laser sintering (SLS). One of the major drawbacks of FDM is the rougher surface finish on the parts it prints; this can be time-consuming to smooth out in the post-processing stages—selective laser sintering (SLS).

FDM parts have varying quality in terms of their mechanical properties, with anisotropic characteristics that can cause them to deform or alter shape when exposed to certain conditions. Additionally, the process yields parts of lower resolution than other printing methods, such as SLA.

Wrapping Up:

This article has offered an informative overview of FDM 3D Printing. We hope you have found it useful and enlightening, providing a comprehensive introduction to this process and the technology behind it. As a result, we trust that you now have a greater appreciation for what FDM 3D Printing is capable of achieving and how it can be used in various applications.