Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)


Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is a additive manufacturin technology commonly used for modeling, prototyping, and production applications.

The Technology:

The Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) process constructs three-dimensional objects directly from 3D CAD data. A temperature-controlled head extrudes thermoplastic material layer by layer.

The FDM process starts with importing an STL file of a model into a pre-processing software. This model is oriented and mathematically sliced into horizontal layers varying from +/- 0.127 - 0.254 mm thickness. A support structure is created where needed, based on the part's position and geometry. After reviewing the path data and generating the toolpaths, the data is downloaded to the FDM machine.

The system operates in X, Y and Z axes, drawing the model one layer at a time. This process is similar to how a hot glue gun extrudes melted beads of glue. The temperature-controlled extrusion head is fed with thermoplastic modelling material that is heated to a semi-liquid state. The head extrudes and directs the material with precision in ultrathin layers onto a fixtureless base. The result of the solidified material laminating to the preceding layer is a plastic 3D model built up one strand at a time.
Once the part is completed the support columns are removed and the surface is finished.


FDM begins with a software process, developed byStratasys, which processes an STL file (stereolithography file format) in minutes, mathematically slicing and orienting the model for the build process. If required, support structures are automatically generated. The machine dispenses two materials – one for the model and one for a disposable support structure.

The thermoplastics are liquefied and deposited by an extrusion head, which follows a tool-path defined by the CAD file. The materials are deposited in layers as fine as 0.04 mm (0.0016") thick, and the part is built from the bottom up – one layer at a time.FDM works on an "additive" principle by laying down material in layers. A plastic filament or metal wire is unwound from a coil and supplies material to an extrusion nozzle which can turn the flow on and off. The nozzle is heated to melt the material and can be moved in both horizontal and vertical directions by a numerically controlled mechanism, directly controlled by a computer-aided manufacturing(CAM) software package. The model or part is produced by extruding small beads of thermoplastic material to form layers as the material hardens immediately after extrusion from the nozzle. Stepper motors orservo motor are typically employed to move the extrusion head.

Several materials are available with different trade-offs between strength and temperature properties. As well as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)polymer,polycarbonates,polycaprolactone, polyphenylsulfones and waxes. A "water-soluble" material can be used for making temporary supports while manufacturing is in progress, this soluble support material is quickly dissolved with specialized mechanical agitation equipment utilizing a precisely heated sodium hydroxide solution.

The term fused deposition modeling>and its abbreviation to FDM are trademarked by Stratasys Inc. The exactly equivalent term, fused filament fabrication (FFF), was coined by the members of theRepRap project to give a phrase that would be legally unconstrained in its use. It is a new model.


CAD Lab, Department.of Mechanical Engineering,
IIT Kanpur