The Technology HouseSea, Air and Space

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

What is FDM?

Stratasys’ co-founder Scott Crump invented the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology and process. He patented FDM in 1989. FDM uses a thermoplastic filament that is heated then extruded layer by layer to create a 3D dimensional object.

Today, FDM is the most widely used 3D printer because of the ease of use and that it runs engineering grade plastics. Over the last 10 years, FDM has become more widely known and affordable by providing desktop 3d printers as well as industrial grade machines. Currently, there are hundreds of available FDM 3d printers in all different sizes, for different materials and applications.

FDM runs 24/7 with connections to provide real-time status to our AM technicians. The ease of material changeouts allow flexibility to run all different materials. This flexibility, along with the minimal finishing required, allows the ability to turn projects around in as little as 1 day. The Stratasys Fortus machines are made for repeatable, industrial printing and provide the best parts and best finishes FDM can offer.

Most FDM parts are used for fit and function prototypes, vacuum form templates, testing, jigs & fixtures and production parts. Engineers often choose FDM because printed part strength can be roughly 75% a molded part of the same material (ex ABS).

How does FDM work?

FDM builds a 3D model of a component from a 3D CAD file using a thermoplastic filament. That filament is then heated and extruded or deposited layer by layer until the part is complete. There is typically a heated nozzle for both support material and thermoplastic material. The machine reads the layer slice then deposits the support material and plastic materials as required. After the layer is complete, the build platform is lowered and the next layer is started. When the build is complete. The FDM parts are removed from the machine, removed from the platform and support material is removed often by hand or small tools.

FDM Process

FDM Build Layers

  • .007” Build Layers – Best part finish, accuracy, detail, and strength but increases cost and build times*
  • .010” Build Layers – Best balance of finish, accuracy, detail, strength with cost and build times
  • .013” Build Layers – Best for quick low-cost parts but finish, accuracy, detail, and strength are not as great
*Ultem cannot be built in .007″ layers

FDM Advantages

  • Tough & Durable Prototype Parts
  • Real Thermoplastic Materials
  • End-Use Production Parts
  • Ease of Use
  • Test Parts Production Materials
  • No size limitation – Section and Bond Large Parts Together

FDM Best Uses

  • Fit Checks
  • Material Testing
  • Master Patterns
  • Fixtures
  • Durability Testing
  • End Use Production
  • Heat Resistance
  • UL 94-Rated
  • Bio-Compatibility
  • Color Printing

Not sure which additive process is best for your application?
Download our Best Additive Uses Chart (pdf).

FDM Equipment

Large Industrial FDM Machines (Fortus 400 & 900)

Large Frame FDM Machine

These FDM printers have large build platforms from 16” x 14” x 16” (400mm x 350mm x 400mm) to 24” x 36” x 24” (900mm x 600mm x 900mm). These machines can build parts at different layers of .007”, .010” and 0.013” (125-330 micron) layers depending on the material chosen and requirements for parts. These are great for building large parts or loading up lots of smaller parts.

Desktop 3D Printers

Desktop FDM Printer

These 3d printers have smaller build platforms, roughly 11” x 7” x 6” (280mm x 175mm x 150mm). Most printers print in layers of 0.004”-0.010” (100-250 micron). Desktop printers are great for home projects, schools, and engineering offices. Parts are great for fit & function or gadgets.

FDM Materials

TTH offers (4) standard FDM materials based on the requirements of our customers and industries. Other materials are available for special requirements. Here is a list of standard materials offered:

  • ABS-M30
    • BEST for STANDARD PROTOTYPING or ABS PRODUCTION PARTS
    • White ABS Material (available in other colors as requested)
    • Soluble Supports
    • Applications: Form, Fit and Function Prototyping, Master Patterns for Vacuum Castings, Testing, and Production
  • PC
    • BEST for TOUGH & RIGID PROTOTYPES or PC PRODUCTION PARTS
    • White PC Material
    • Soluble Supports
    • Applications: Form, Fit and Function Prototyping, Jigs & Fixtures, Master Patterns for Vacuum Castings and Production
  • PC-ISO
    • BEST for TOUGH & RIGID PRODUCTION MEDICAL COMPONENTS
    • White PC Material
    • Applications: Medical Device Components & Parts
  • Ultem
    • BEST for HIGH HEAT PROTOTYPES & PRODUCTION PARTS
    • Ultem Material Colored Black or Tan
    • Tough, Durable & Rigid
    • Applications: Aerospace & Medical Parts, UL94V-O Rated Parts, High Heat Applications

Learn more about the materials available for FDM here (pdf).

Don’t see the materials you want to use? It may be available with another additive process.
Download our Materials Availability Chart (pdf).

FDM Finishes Available (*Standard*):

  • *Level 1 – Quick Finish = Support Removal Only*
  • Level 4 – Primer Finish = Sand/Remove/Fill All Build Lines & Primer
  • Level 5 – Painted Finish = Sand/Remove/Fill All Build Lines, Primer, and Paint/Mask/Texture as Needed (Show Quality Finish)
  • Metal Finish = Level 1 with Primer & Plated with Chrome, Nickel, Brushed Nickel, Gold, or Other

Design Guideline:

  • Minimum Wall Thickness & Feature Size
    • .007” Build = .028” (.71mm)
    • .010” Build = .040” (1.02mm)
    • .013” Build = .052” (1.32mm)
  • Tolerances = +/- 0.010” for first inch then +/- 0.002” per inch thereafter
  • Inserts = Preferred for threads. Install in Post-Processing with Heat Stake or Adhesives
  • Holes = Drill, Ream, and Tap (Print threads then chase or ream in finishing.

FDM printed PC Material
FDM Printed Tan ULTEM material

FDM Printed Black ABS material