FDM 3D Printing

FDM: The Basics of Layered Manufacturing with 3D Printing

With FDM, you can build up layers using thermoplastic filaments, saving time and money in production. Stratasys offers a range of additive manufacturing solutions for manufacturers like you.

Discover the benefits and applications of FDM, including its use in Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser vehicle. Get ready to dive into the world of FDM 3D printing and unlock its potential for your industry.

The Fundamentals of FDM Technology

FDM technology is a widely adopted AM technique that uses polymers as the raw material and involves layer-by-layer deposition of the material to achieve the desired product shape and size. It is a form of layered manufacturing that utilizes 3D printing principles to create objects with high precision and accuracy.

FDM works by heating a thermoplastic filament to its melting point, which is then extruded through a nozzle onto a build plate. The nozzle moves in three degrees of freedom to deposit the polymer in precise locations, creating each layer of the final object. This process continues until the entire object is constructed.

The fundamentals of FDM technology lie in its ability to produce complex geometries and structures with ease. By building up layers of material, FDM allows for intricate designs that would be difficult or impossible to achieve using traditional manufacturing methods. This makes it an ideal choice for prototyping, rapid tooling, and low-volume production.

Key advantages of FDM technology include its affordability compared to other 3D printing technologies, versatility in printing objects with various sizes and shapes, easy modification of designs before printing, self-supporting nature reducing the need for support structures, wide availability of printers and materials, and customization capabilities.

With continued advancements in materials and equipment, FDM technology will continue revolutionizing industries such as aerospace, automotive, medical, construction, and more.

Benefits and Advantages of FDM in Manufacturing

You can experience numerous benefits and advantages when utilizing FDM in your manufacturing processes. FDM, also known as fused deposition modeling, is a type of 3D printing that uses layered manufacturing techniques to create objects.

  • One of the main benefits of FDM is its simplicity and ease of use, making it a clean and office-friendly technology.
  • Additionally, FDM offers cost savings in production expenses and shorter lead times for faster market entry.
  • Another advantage of FDM is the ability to use production-grade thermoplastics, which provide stability and durability to the printed objects. This makes FDM suitable for creating complex geometries and cavities that would be difficult or costly with traditional manufacturing methods.
  • Incorporating FDM into your manufacturing processes can bring significant improvements in efficiency and productivity.
  • It allows for rapid prototyping, enabling you to quickly iterate on designs before committing to full-scale production.
  • Furthermore, the self-supporting nature of FDM reduces the need for support structures, saving time and material waste.

Overall, by leveraging the benefits and advantages of FDM technology in your manufacturing processes, you can achieve cost savings, faster time-to-market, increased design flexibility, and improved product quality.

FDM Applications and Case Study: Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser

Sierra Space utilized 3D printing with FDM technology to develop tooling and save thousands of hours in production for their Dream Chaser vehicle. This application of FDM showcases the benefits and capabilities of layered manufacturing with 3D printing. Here are three key points to understand about FDM and its applications, using Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser as a case study:

Increased Efficiency

By utilizing 3D printing with FDM, Sierra Space was able to significantly reduce production time for their Dream Chaser vehicle. The ability to rapidly produce tooling allowed for quicker iterations and adjustments during the manufacturing process.

Cost Savings

Implementing FDM technology resulted in substantial cost savings for Sierra Space. Traditional methods of tooling production can be time-consuming and expensive, requiring specialized equipment and skilled labor. With 3D printing, Sierra Space was able to bypass these costs while still achieving high-quality tooling.

Design Flexibility

One of the major advantages of FDM is its ability to create complex geometries and cavities that may be challenging or impossible with traditional manufacturing techniques. For the Dream Chaser vehicle, Sierra Space leveraged this design flexibility by utilizing 3D printed chucks and locating fixtures, enabling precise positioning during assembly.

Stratasys: A Preferred Choice for FDM Technology

Stratasys is widely recognized as a top choice for utilizing FDM technology in various industries. Their expertise in layered manufacturing and 3D printing makes them the preferred option for companies seeking reliable and efficient solutions.

  • With their advanced FDM technology, Stratasys offers a range of resources to manufacturers, enabling them to innovate product development and streamline business operations.
  • Stratasys’ FDM printers are designed to build parts layer-by-layer using thermoplastic filaments. These printers use tried and tested materials that have been optimized for FDM technology.
  • From ABS to PLA, PETG, Nylon, and TPU, Stratasys provides a wide selection of materials suitable for different applications.
  • In addition to their cutting-edge printers and materials, Stratasys also offers on-demand services through Stratasys Direct Manufacturing. This allows companies to leverage the benefits of FDM without the need for investing in their own equipment.
  • By choosing Stratasys as your provider of FDM technology, you can benefit from their validation from world-leading brands and access innovative solutions tailored to your industry’s specific needs.
  • Whether you’re looking to produce functional prototypes or end-use parts, Stratasys has the tools, expertise, and support necessary for successful implementation of FDM technology.

With Stratasys’ commitment to advancing additive manufacturing technologies and improving accessibility for businesses across industries, they remain at the forefront of driving innovation through layered manufacturing with 3D printing.

FDM Printers, Materials, and Services

When choosing an FDM printer for your additive manufacturing needs, it’s important to consider the wide range of materials and services available in the market.

FDM Printers

  • There are various FDM printers available, each with its own specifications and capabilities.
  • Consider factors such as build volume, resolution, and print speed when selecting a printer.
  • Look for printers that offer reliable performance and ease of use.


  • FDM technology uses thermoplastic filaments as the raw material for printing.
  • PLA, ABS, PETG, Nylon, and TPU are common materials used in FDM printing.
  • Different materials have unique properties suitable for specific applications. Consider factors like strength, flexibility, and heat resistance when choosing a material.


  • Some companies offer on-demand FDM printing services.
  • These services allow you to upload your designs and have them printed using professional-grade FDM printers.
  • It can be beneficial to utilize these services if you don’t have access to a high-quality FDM printer or need assistance with complex prints.

How FDM 3D Printing Works: A Step-by-Step Guide

To understand how FDM 3D printing works, you need to start by creating a 3D model using CAD software. Once the design is complete, it is converted into an STL file and sliced into layers. The next step involves loading a thermoplastic filament onto the printer. This filament is then fed through an extruder, which heats and melts the material into a liquid state.

The liquid plastic is then deposited layer by layer onto the build plate. As each layer is deposited, it quickly solidifies to form a solid object. This process continues until the entire object is printed.

To achieve successful prints, several factors must be considered. These include choosing the right type of thermoplastic filament for your desired application, ensuring proper adhesion between layers by preparing the printing bed with adhesion aids such as tape or glue stick, and setting appropriate print parameters such as temperature and speed.

FDM 3D printing offers numerous advantages in terms of affordability, versatility, and ease of use. It enables you to create complex geometries and customized objects with relative ease. By following this step-by-step guide on how FDM 3D printing works, you can unlock the potential of this layered manufacturing technique in bringing your ideas to life.

Materials Used and Advantages of FDM 3D Printing

One of the advantages of using FDM technology is its ability to create objects with complex geometries and cavities. With layered manufacturing through 3D printing, FDM offers several benefits and advantages:

Versatility in materials used

FDM technology utilizes a wide range of thermoplastic filaments such as ABS, PLA, PETG, Nylon, and TPU. Each material has unique properties suitable for specific applications.

Affordability compared to other 3D printing technologies

FDM printers are more affordable and widely available, making it an ideal choice for prototyping or small-scale productions.

Easy modification and refinement of designs before printing

The self-supporting nature of FDM reduces the need for support structures, allowing for easy modifications and refining of designs.

These advantages make FDM 3D printing a popular choice in various industries. It enables the production of end-use parts with affordability, versatility in design complexity, and ease of modification.

By selecting affordable printers, using less expensive filaments like PLA or PETG, optimizing print settings, and carefully considering materials, equipment, and settings; manufacturers can fully harness the potential benefits offered by FDM technology.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a highly versatile and affordable additive manufacturing technique. Through the layer-by-layer buildup of thermoplastic filaments, FDM technology offers numerous benefits in the manufacturing industry. Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser vehicle serves as a compelling case study, highlighting the time-saving advantages of utilizing FDM for tooling.

Stratasys emerges as a preferred choice for FDM machines, offering an array of solutions and resources for manufacturers. With its ability to create strong and precise parts, FDM 3D printing finds applications across various industries, revolutionizing manufacturing processes. Continued advancements in materials and technology contribute to the continued growth and accessibility of FDM 3D printing.


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