A quick look at FDM 3D printing

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) is an additive manufacturing process that is part of the material extrusion family in 3D printing technology, where an object is built by selectively depositing melted materials in a pre-determined path layer-by-layer. Thermoplastic polymers in filament form are usually used. It was developed by S.cott Crump, co-founder of Stratasys in 1988. FDM is the most widely used 3D printing technology.

A few reasons why FDM 3D printing is so popular is as follows:

1. Open Source

FDM 3D printing became open source since 2005 with the RepRep project in England, 2005. It was part of a University of Bath initiative to develop a low-cost 3D printer that can print most of its own components.

FDM 3D printing


As an open design, all the designs produced are licensed by the GNU General Public License. 

For this reason, FDM printing became very popular especially in the Maker community where they can easily build their own FDM 3D printing products.

2. Easy to Operate

Being an Open Source Model, operating the software and machine, and preparing filaments are easy to learn.

3. Low Cost

Because it is open source, almost every component of FDM 3D printing is a standard part and we can purchase them online. Makers and 3D printing companies can design their own machines and then purchase most of the components in market.

How FDM Works?


FDM 3D printing


Cartesian(left:RED): 3 motor control x,y,z axis and the machine is stable
Delta(Right: Blue): The key design feature is the use of parallelograms in the arms, which maintains the orientation of the end effector. This restricts the movement of the end platform to pure translation, i.e. it only moves in the X, Y or Z direction. The advantage of delta is that it's fast and cost is low.

How this works?

1. First, the motor controls the drive wheel and push forward the filament into machine's hot nozzle.
2. The hot nozzle heats up the filament and liquefies it. The liquid matter then drops down due to gravity.
3. The motor controls the x,y,z distance.
4. Material drop down to certain position.
5. Builds the model layer by layer.

3D printing, especially FDM 3D printing is one of the tools for STEM education and maker education. With 3D printing, students can learn, design, make and test their structure quickly to verify their concept. In addition, FDM 3D printing is one of the efficient methods to make prototypes. 




ABS and PLA are most popular in FDM 3D printing. They have different features:
For ABS, the mechanical properties is better than PLA and easy to post polish. But the model is easy to bend at the start of printing. In addition when the machine in printing, ABS waste dust diffuse which is bad to body. So we will find most of FDM machine for ABS would be enclosed and need hot bed for platform.
For PLA, the material poses little health risk and could connect with platform to avoid bending. But it is a little hard to post polish.

There are also many different kinds of industrial materials with different performances and uses.



FDM 3D printing for the Maker Project

For the Maker Project, makers usually want to process things quickly and at low cost. Before the boom of FDM 3D Printing, hand work (Hardly precise and takes a lot of time) or Industrial processing (High cost) were used. Of course, these are not the best choices. 

FDM 3D Printing

RepRep is one such maker projects. Due to its origins, we think that FDM 3D Printing was tailored specifically for makers. Makers can easily design their own structure and print it with high efficiency and low cost. The maker can assemble and test the product in their own projects. Some makers even can use FDM models in small batch products. We can find many of such in Kickstarter. 

At present, some FDM 3D Printing can even print industrial materials such as Nylon, PEEK, Carbon Fiber and TPU.

Thingiverse, built by Makerbot, is the biggest open source 3D printing model community in the world. Makers can download the model they need.


Ultimaker provides Cura which makes it easy to set 3D printing parameters. 



In industry, they may need more technical requirements. There are also some industrial FDM 3D printing companies such as Stratasys FDM, which has many industry materials(ABS, Nylon,TPU, Carbon Fiber……) can meet high strength and reliable industrial requirements.

Desktop Metal: Powered by Single Pass Jetting™ (SPJ™), the Production System features bi-directional printing where all steps of the print process—powder deposition, spreading, compacting, ballistic suppression, and binder jet printing—are applied with each pass over the build area. Whenever there is movement, there is printing—making it the fastest way to print complex metal parts.At present, SLM replaces Desktop metal.

Markforged: With Markforged 3D printing users can economically print with advanced materials including nylon, chopped carbon fiber, reinforced continuous fiber and metal.

Prototype Testing 

The price of CNC and other 3D printing technologies is very high, plus they need experienced workers to run the machines. Thus most companies would send their design to vendors to be processed, but this takes time.

In Industry,  FDM 3D printing is good choice for designer's prototype test. Companies could purchase one then test their design by themselves. If any problem arises, they can redesign and make it again. This saves a lot of time. 3D printing can also be used for designers and artists to design customized products. 


Looking for 3D printing solutions? 

NexPCB gets you covered

We offer various 3D printing services: FDM, SLM, SLA and SLS. 

All with trusted quality, quick lead time and reasonable prices. 

Just send us your project requests below 


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Posted by Hans Yoshuara