FDM or Fused Deposition Modelling is probably the most well-known 3D Printing technology. It uses a reel of plastic filament that is melted and then deposited in layers on a print bed, creating the object layer by layer. FDM printing is easily identified by the tell-tale layers of plastic on each print.
Often confused with...
SLS (Selective Laser Sintering)
SLM (Selective Laser Melting)
DLP (Digital Light Processing)
The above technologies use liquid or powder-based resin and light to create the 3D object. The advantages are often speed and quality, but this is very much dependent on the model of printer that is being used.
How it's done
Most forms of 3D Printer require a computer or a file from a computer to inform the printer about the geometry of the object it is printing. FDM is no exception. A piece of software called a Slicer takes a 3D model (often in .STL format) and calculates what movements the printer needs to perform in order to print successfully.
Converting a 3D geometry to a set of 3D printing instructions is not straightforward, but luckily Slicer software is usually very capable. Not only does it calculate based on the printer, and the filament material, but also more complex things like how the inside of the model is printed (Infill) and how to support areas that might slump due to gravity (support material). Combine all of those factors and the Slicer results in a file called .GCODE that basically describes everything the printer needs to know - temperature, speed, co-ordinates in 3D space, etc.
The printer will then heat up the print nozzle - the "hot end", and sometimes the print bed to help the filament stick. It feeds the plastic filament through the hot end, melting it in the process, and precisely places it based on the information in the GCODE file. It works layer-by-layer until the print is completed. Or something goes wrong.
Who is doing it ?
There are many FDM manufacturers. Popular models are the Ultimaker 2+, Formlabs Form 2, Zortrax M200, Makergear M2, Lulzbot Taz 6, Flashforge Creator Pro, Prusa i3 Mk2, and the CEL Robox.
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