How to Prototype Like a Pro with FDM 3D Printing


If one has encountered 3D printing, it was most likely FDM or Fused Deposition Modeling. This technique is popular amongst printing services and with good reason. Companies looking to prototype their products can do so quickly and easily with FDM. Like any other production process, FDM 3D printing has various advantages and limitations, so here’s some basic information about this popular technique.

How Does it Work?

FDM printing begins with filament, commonly made of plastic. Once the machine reaches the correct temperature, the loaded filament goes through the extrusion head and nozzle so that it can melt. This part is important, as temperature inconsistencies or damage to the nozzle could result in burnt plastic or melted blobs ruining a print. Once a print design has been loaded to the printer, the filament is deposited in thin layers over the build platform. Thanks to the 3-axis system, printers can move easily in several directions to achieve complex geometric shapes. The thin layers help the print to cool relatively quickly, though some systems also employ the use of cooling fans.

Benefits and Limitations

As far as limitations, one of the most important for businesses looking for prototypes to consider is the build size and layer height, since these parameters will directly impact prototype size. A 3D printing service like 3D Hubs will be able to accommodate a larger variety of sizes as well as suggest changes to designs. Warping is another common limitation, though experts should be able to control this defect with a few minor adjustments, like the temperature of the machine and filament material. The dimensional accuracy of FDM is not as high as other methods of printing, which could impact more intricate design elements, and the layers of filament often require sanding and finishing after the print is completed. This method is also not suggested for mechanical parts.

As for the benefits of FDM, there are many. With customizable infill, a printing service can cut down on print time while still preserving the strength of the prototype. A large variety of materials can help businesses customize the desired properties of a prototype, like flexibility or chemical resistance. FDM is a fast method for 3D printing, and is also extremely cost-effective, which is perfect for the prototyping process. A 3D printing service like 3D Hubs can help guide businesses through this process with their years of expertise, making prototyping a quick, easy, and affordable undertaking.

3D Hubs have created this 3D printing YouTube series based on The 3D Printing Handbook. The series consists of 10 minute long episodes covering all the main 3D printing technologies. To learn everything you need to know about FDM 3D printing check this out: