Fused deposition modeling: definition, application, process

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What is FDM technology

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is an additive manufacturing process that belongs to the industrial 3D printing processes.

With this process the object is constructed by depositing molten material layer by layer through a hot nozzle.

The materials used are thermoplastic polymers in the form of filaments.

Fused Deposition Modeling is a technology widely used also in the industrial field; its success is mainly due to the wide range of machines available on the market, which are also easily accessible from an economic point of view.

This has allowed the use of this technology also in the B2C field through printer desks; in the B2B field, many companies, including SMEs, have had the opportunity to invest in this technology to carry out the first visual tests on the prototype.

For the success of a project and to have the right answers from prototype tests, the designer must know in depth the capabilities and limitations of the technology when manufacturing a part with FDM, this knowledge will help him to obtain the best result.

How the process works: the phases

Before starting the printing of a prototype in FDM it is necessary to have in mind which are the phases of the process:

  1. The spool of thermoplastic filament chosen for printing is first loaded into the printer. This is a “hot process” so before starting it is necessary that the nozzle reaches the right temperature, immediately afterwards it is possible to start printing.
  2. At the base of the extrusion there is a plate where the prototype is built, the system has 3 axes X, Y and Z. The molten material is deposited layer by layer and during the process it cools to give solidity to the model.
  3. When one layer is finished, the platform lowers and the extruder moves on to building the next layer. This process is repeated throughout the height of the prototype.


The strength of Fused Deposition Modeling is the material.

There are two elements that distinguish this 3D printing process:

This second aspect is important if the tests to be carried out on the piece cannot ignore this characteristic.

On the other hand it must be said that the precision of a prototype made in Fused Deposition Modeling is not very high and the surface finish is not very pleasant. While using the most advanced machines, the print layers are also visible to the naked eye.

This is why it is essential to know the advantages and disadvantages of each technology, it allows us to choose the most suitable process for the tests we have to carry out.

Possible uses and applications in Fused Deposition Modeling

This process is often used for making prototypes

Certainly the spread of low-cost machines on this process has facilitated its accessibility and use.

So producing a first prototype in FDM even just to touch a piece with your hand and “see how it is made” is now part of the modus operandi of every designer.

Very often it is also a fairly cheap solution, especially when it comes to small low-precision prototypes that can be built with a printer desk.

The use of this process has also found wide application in the production field, especially in all those cases where aesthetics and precision are of no importance: for example, we are talking about customized templates or positions that facilitate the operator’s tasks in production processes.

Case Histories: practical examples of works carried out

In the industrial field, many companies have become autonomous in the production of prototypes in Fused Deposition Modeling.

For this reason we have decided to buy a machine with high performances in order to be the reference point for the production of complex, monolithic prototypes for large dimensions, with medium-high precision.

This is to respond to requests that our customers are unable to satisfy internally.

By exploiting the characteristics of our machines you can make monolithic pieces up to 600X500X310 mm; the most used materials are ASA, TPU, PA66, PA12 Carbon, PC, PC ABS, POM.

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