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FDM 3D Printing

I’ve covered the manufacturing processes known as 3Dprinting for a while now. I’ve covered how 3D printing is impactingindividuals, certain industries, and specific demographics. I haven’t reallyjumped into each individual branch of 3D printing just yet, so I’d like tocover a process of 3D printing which is referred to as FDM, or Fused DepositionModeling.  This form of 3D printing was created by Stratasys, acompetitive 3D printer manufacturing company. What is FDM? Fused depositionmodeling is one of the simpler forms of this technology. It is simple comparedto other methods, but is still pretty crazy if you ask me. Typically, 3Dprinting refers to a layer by layer assembly of a product, and this is nodifferent. FDM goes something like this. As always, since all forms of thismanufacturing involve CAM, or computer-aided-manufacturing, a CAD file has tobe developed for a product to be manufactured. After the file is created, itwill then be sent to the intelligent computer on the 3D printer. The printerwill then control the jet, which shoots out material on to a designated area onthe machine. The jet which spits out small amounts of material is heated to avery high temperature. FDM 3D printing processes use materials with lowermelting points such as ABS, polycarbonates, or waxes. These materials will bein wire form and drawn from a coil into the heated jet. Think of fuseddeposition modeling processes as a computer aided hot glue gun. The coil ofmaterial serves as the glue, and the jet of the printer serves as the heatednozzle on a hot glue gun. Melted material will be placed on to the build table,and will end up becoming the final product. As I mentioned earlier, the 3D printing method known asfused deposition modeling is a style of computer aided manufacturing, or CAM.Think of the hot glue gun analogy; imagine that the hot glue gun was held up bya machine, but controlled by a precise CAM system. This means that the jet willshift up, down, left, or right in the manor that it needs to in order to createthe model. The 3D printer will take into account the 3D model provided by adesigner or engineer, and it will move the ink jet where it needs to be as itspits out small increments of material. Just like traditional methods of 3Dprinting, it will be done in quite a few layers, as each individual is verysmall. Other methods of 3D printing cover the entire build envelope with layersof powder, and only certain parts of the powder are fused for the product. Inthese forms such as selective laser sintering (SLS), or direct metal lasersintering (DLMS), the powder is vacuumed back up into the machine and recycled,but some powder will always escape the machine which will lead to a “dusty”environment, and a minor waste of material. This powder lost is pretty trivial,but I felt it should be mentioned. With FDM processes, 100% of the material isused within the model, and none is wasted. However, the downside to FDMprocesses would be the lack of resolution. FDM processes just aren’t quite asdetailed as 3D printing other methods. At the same time, it isn’t as fast asother methods either.

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