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What is FDM 3D Printing?

Hello, everyone! My name is Sean Aranda from the YouTube channel “The 3D Print General”. Nice to meet you all. It is my pleasure to get this chance to share with you some of my experience in 3d printing. I’ll start with what is FDM 3D Printing from my point of view.

What is FDM 3D Printing?

There are quite a few different forms of 3D printing available today, but the most commonly used in homes around the world is known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). FDM printing works by laying down consecutive layers of material at high temperatures – with each layer given time to cool and bond together before the next layer is deposited.

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This can be thought of as the inverse of computer numerical cutting (CNC). 3D models are transformed into g-code via a slicing program, which works as instructions for the 3D printer, telling it exactly where to move next, and how much volume is required to extrude. This additive process only uses the amount of material required to create the part, versus CNC which is subtractive and requires excess material which it is then cut from. The only exception to this is the support material required for overhangs in FDM 3D printing, acting as a form of scaffolding that is broken off after printing.

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Pros of Using FDM Printing

First and foremost - the most beneficial reason to use FDM 3D printing is the costs involved. FDM printers are very affordable when compared to other printing methods, and the material can be drastically less expensive.

With the expansion of 3D printing over the last few years, the amount of material options has increased rapidly. FDM printing now allows for printing with flexible, nylon, and carbon fiber blends - some of which have the strength that would surprise the average individual. There are likely over one hundred types of materials now available, each with their price, strength, heat resistance, flexibility, and ease to print – meaning there is something available for almost any application. This material option is a lot less expansive when working with other forms of 3D printing. Aside from commonly used PLA and ABS, IVI supports many industrial filament types, such as Nylon(PA), POM, PC(Polycarbonate), PETG, TPU, etc.

FDM Resolution

The resolution of FDM 3D printing is limited by the accuracy of the motors, user calibration, print time available, and nozzle diameter.

Speaking of the motor, it is worth mentioning that instead of a standard 1.8° stepper motor, IVI uses a 0.9° motor with twice the precision. Ordinary 3D printers stick to 1.8°. The 100 rotor teeth in the 0.9° motor are double the 50 of a standard 1.8° motor. As a result, the smallest step rotation becomes 0.9°, which is half that of the 1.8° motor. This significantly improves fineness and accuracy.

A print can have twice the resolution in the Z direction by reducing the layer height in half, but it will double the print time required. The smallest of nozzles can print around 0.05mm layer heights, giving a higher resolution than most people think achievable by FDM machines.

There are nozzle diameters available today that range from 0.15mm to 1.2mm, meaning the resolution in the X/Y dimension can be quite varied.

IVI provides nozzles from 0.15mm to 0.4mm that can meet most of the printing needs for the majority of models. You can click this link to check out the printing performance comparison of IVI’s different nozzles.

When Would You Use FDM 3D Printing?

As an avid maker myself, I find myself using FDM 3D printing for far more applications than I originally thought I would. Inexpensive PLA material is perfect for prototyping parts to confirm design dimensions, as well as any art pieces which I paint afterward. Printing in PLA is the least expensive way to utilize additive manufacturing, and I use it nearly every day.

While printing in plastic may not be the strongest method to create a mechanical part, the nylon and carbon fiber mixtures out there make FDM printing a great choice for most applications you can think of. I have personally used nylon and carbon fiber blends for planetary gear skateboard wheels, replacement 3D printer parts, anchors for wall shelves, extruder gears, random fixes around the house, and many other times - all of which have yet to break. These are not going to be as strong as steel, but are exponentially cheaper and easier to fabricate.

Here is a video of a mini skateboard that I made.

Conclusion

While the list of different forms of 3D printing continues to grow, and their prices continue to decrease, there will always be applications for FDM printing. Just about every day I learn about a new material and its uses and am continually shocked by the inexpensive quality FDM machines that come out. A few years ago it would be impossible to get a good machine for under $1,000, but that is not the case any longer.

IVI 3D are taking advantage of this by creating a high-quality, closed-loop FDM 3D printer at a price 1/3 what I would expect it to be.

If you have any suggestions or any topics that you want me to write about, please do not hesitate to leave your comments below. If you like this article, please click the heart button below. I would love to discuss more with you shortly.

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FDM is one of many parts of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) - CNC routers are subtractive, as Sean mentioned, but Computer Numerical Control of extruders are how the filament ends up in the correct place.