Fused Deposition Modeling ………….don’t be scared, it’s just a name.

Today we are going to discuss the most common form of 3D printing.  It should be noted that the Zelda Fan Art Miniatures were not printed using this method.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)- The principle behind this type of 3D printing is more simple than its name. Material usually a type of a plastic is extruded from a heated nozzle. The temperature of the nozzle is computer controlled to allow for even extrusion. The nozzle then moves relative to a platform, this allows the nozzle to draw thin essentially 2D layers of the material one atop another until the object is complete. Because the material exits the nozzle with a liquid like consistency it sticks to the previous layer. The movement of the nozzle and the platform varies depending on the printer, but accomplishes the same result.

The drawing below shows the major parts of this type of 3D printer


1. Heated Nozzle 2. The material being extruded  3. The Platform

The guy in the video below uses a hot glue gun analogy to explain it.

This video shows a time-lapse video of a miniature city scape being printed in the plastic PLA on a Makerbot Replicator 2 using the FDM 3D printing method.

There are limitations to printing with FDM. A model with an overhang that is greater than 45 degrees cannot be printed without a support.


The object on the left can be printed without support the one on the right cannot.

Most 3D printers use the same material for this support, which has to be manually removed after the print is complete.

Here is an example:

This cat was printed with support material. After the print was completed the support material was removed.


Some machines solve this problem by printing the supports in a material that can be removed easily, more about this when we discuss specific materials.

Multiple Nozzles: Some machines are able to print in more than one color or material by adding multiple nozzles to the printer. The maximum number that has been achieved is three.

The RepRap project was founded in 2005 with one goal. Create a 3D printer that is composed of mostly 3D printed parts. Since this was an open source project. Many companies have used the designs to create commercially available printers.  Here is there Tricolour Mendel from RepRapPro. It can print in three colors or materials.

RRP_Colour_Mendel_front_01TriColour_Dice_display_large Traffic_cone_display_large Love_Sculpture_display_large

While there are many materials that can be used in FDM. The most common are two types of plastic.
PLA – Polylactic acid is a biodegradable plastic. The starting ingredient to manufacture this plastic is corn starch, making it a renewable resource. We’ll get into the specifics of how this plastic is made when we discuss printing in PLA

ABS- Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is a plastic derived from compounds found in oil (fossil fuels). It is the same plastic Legos are made of. Unlike PLA it is not biodegradable or a renewable resource. It is however more flexible than PLA, making it stronger for applications that require more strength.

We will discuss printing materials in later posts in detail.
FDM printer prices can range from $500 to about $22,000.
We will be discussing specific FDM printers in later posts.

You are new to 3D printing and cannot wait for more posts and you want to buy a 3D Printer right now.
Ok my advice.
1.    Choose a machine that comes assembled, unless you enjoy and have experience assembling complex equipment and calibrating it.
2.    Choose a machine that has only one nozzle. More nozzles more problems.
3.    Choose a printer that prints only in PLA. Why? PLA warps less when printed than ABS. ABS requires a heated platform PLA does not, more on this when we discuss materials.
4.    Choose a machine between $500 and $2500 dollars. Any higher and you are getting ripped off. Any lower be prepared for more maintenance work. Make sure if you buy near the top end of the range, you are getting a printer that is significantly more reliable than the lower end ones. (Check the company’s troubleshooting forums)

There are so many to choose from so do your research!

Join me on Wednesday for a post on another Zelda item.
See you then!


Posted on May 20, 2013, in 3D Printing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: