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Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a free-form fabrication technology developed byStratasys.

Because it uses high strength ABS plastic, it is the favored technology for prototyping plastic
parts requiring strength. FDM is a layered manufacturing method that extrudes a thin bead of
plastic, one layer at a time. A thread of plastic is fed into an extrusion head, where it is heated
into a semi-liquid state and extruded through a very small hole onto the previous layer of
material. Support material is also laid down in a similar manner.

Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is an additive manufacturing technology commonly used

for modeling, prototyping, and production applications. The technology was developed by S.
Scott Crump in the late 1980s and was commercialized in 1990.


• 1 Process

• 2 Commercial applications

• 3 See also

• 4 References

• 5 External links


FDM begins with a software process, developed by Stratasys, 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 0.125 mm
(0.005") 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
acomputer-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 or servo motors 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 the RepRap project to give a phrase that would be legally unconstrained in its

[edit]Commercial applications
FDM, a prominent form of rapid prototyping, is used for prototyping and rapid manufacturing.
Rapid prototyping facilitates iterative testing, and for very short runs, rapid manufacturing can
be a relatively inexpensive alternative. [1].

FDM uses the thermoplastics ABS, ABSi, polyphenylsulfone (PPSF), polycarbonate (PC),
and Ultem 9085, among others. These materials are used for their heat resistance properties.
Ultem 9085 also exhibits fire retardancy making it suitable for aerospace and aviation
FDM is the second most widely used rapid prototyping technology, after
stereolithography. A plastic filament, approximately 1/16 inch in diameter, is
unwound from a coil (A) and supplies material to an extrusion nozzle (B). Some
configurations of the machinery have used plastic pellets fed from a hopper rather
than a filament. The nozzle is heated to melt the plastic and has a mechanism which
allows the flow of the melted plastic to be controlled. The nozzle is mounted to a
mechanical stage (C) which can be moved in horizontal and vertical directions.

As the nozzle is moved over the table (D) in the required geometry, it deposits a thin
bead of extruded plastic to form each layer. The plastic hardens immediately after
being squirted from the nozzle and bonds to the layer below. The entire system is
contained within an oven chamber which is held at a temperature just below the
melting point of the plastic. Thus, only a small amount of additional thermal energy
needs to be supplied by the extrusion nozzle to cause the plastic to melt. This provides
much better control of the process.
Support structures must be designed and fabricated for any overhanging geometries
and are later removed in secondary operations. Several materials are available for the
process including a nylon-like polymer and both machinable and investment casting
waxes. The introduction of ABS plastic material led to much greater commercial
acceptance of the method. It provided better layer to layer bonding than previous
materials and consequently much more robust fabricated objects. Also a companion
support material was introduced at that time which was easily removable by simply
breaking it away from the object. Water-soluble support materials have also become
available which can be removed simply by washing them away. The recent
introduction of polycarbonate and poly(phenyl)sulfone modeling materials have
further extended the capabilities of the method in terms of strength and temperature
range. Several other polymer systems as well as ceramic and metallic materials are
under development.

The method is office-friendly and quiet. FDM is fairly fast for small parts on the order
of a few cubic inches, or those that have tall, thin form-factors. It can be very slow for
parts with wide cross sections, however. The finish of parts produced with the method
have been greatly improved over the years, but aren't quite on a par with
stereolithography. The closest competitor to the FDM process is probably three
dimensional printing. However, FDM offers greater strength and a wider range of
materials than at least the implementations of 3DP from Z Corp. which are most
closely comparable.

Stratasys is the only western supplier. Similar technology has also been under
development in China.