For a long time, people wondered how easier their lives would become if they could merely print whatever they wanted. Now, we have plenty of access to that kind of technology. When it comes to 3D printing, many technologies allow us to 3D print something. One of them is the Fused Deposition Modeling, also known as FDM, which works with specialized 3D printers and production-grade thermoplastics to build stabilized, durable and strong parts. It is one of the best precision repeatability technology for any 3D impression.
The first 3D printer created used the SLA technology (StereoLithoGraphy), which uses a resin and solidifies it by using a laser. Created by Scott Crump more than twenty (20) years ago, FDM is a process that builds a material in a predetermined path layer by layer, being an additive manufacturing process. The process uses a melted material for adding those layers. Normally, the materials used are thermoplastic polymers that you can buy in a filament form. That type of technology is also cheaper, making the FDM 3D printers the most popular option available in the market.
To understand its importance, 3D printing is one of the pillars of the fourth industrial revolution. As we speak, many and many models for 3D printing, new technology for 3D printing, and new types of printers are born. It is constructing a new object coming from a printer, just like we have seen in Sci-Fi movies. From a 3D printer, you can print a chair, a piece of clothing, even a house or a human organ. That is what we are talking about.
Both the machine and the material used for 3D printing are cheap, either for companies or final customers. People can easily find high-quality 3D printers in the market for less than a thousand dollars. Not to mention that the 3D printer industries are developing even better machines and filaments. They are developing the best precision, speed, and usability of the printers while aiming to lower costs for the industry and their customers.
How does the FDM 3D printer work
As mentioned before, FDM 3D printing is additive manufacturing. We will get to the bottom of this process. In simpler words, the technology uses a polymer that comes as a filament, which is heated by a nozzle and is deposited on the printing surface. Layer by layer, the part is built. The FDM 3D printer produces many types of resin, ceramic, plastics, even human tissues, and food. It is interesting to note that FDM is the same as FFF (funded filament fabrication); however, FDM and Fused Deposition Modeling were registered by the Stratasys company in 1991, which demanded a second option how to call the technology. Still, the FFF term was minted by RepRap as they believed it would protect people from being legally constrained in its use. The patent on the FDM technology expired in 2009, and it opened possibilities in the commercial, open-source, and 3D applications areas.
There are some variations of the FDM 3D printing technology, like the common filament extruders, pellets extruders, chocolate extruders, and cole extruders. However, most of them work the same way, though their technologies might add or take one or more steps and materials for them to work.
However, let us tackle the more complex part of FDM 3D printing. First and foremost, a spool with the thermoplastic filament is attached and inserted into the machine. The filament movement is made by a tractor whose function is to take the material to the extruder. That extruder is made by a. a filament guide; b. a heat sink; c. a cooling fan; d. a Teflon tube; e. a heat break; f. a heater block with a resistor and a thermistor; and g. a nozzle.
The filament guide aims to guide the material to the extruder entering. Simultaneously, the heat sink makes sure that the material is only heated on the heater block. The fan cooler works to dissipate the thermal energy generated. Then, the Teflon tube is used to facilitate the filament passage in the extrusion canal. The heat break lets the material into the heater block, which heats the material to the fusion point. Finally, the nozzle directs the funded material. The printing time depends a lot on which type of object you are creating and the material, as well as the object’s size. It can take two hours to create a part of an object, for example, and you do not necessarily need to check it out all the time. The first filaments are the most important ones, so you need to check them out to be sure they come out as expected. If they do not, there is a great chance your part will come out wrong.
As mentioned, the filament is melted while the head moves under computer control, depositing the melted filament on the surface. The nozzle can be moved in the XY plane or, in other words, in the horizontal and vertical directions. The melted filament, also called a “road,” is deposited on the surface, solidifying very quickly. With that style of printing, the layers are generated in a rasterizing motion. The roads keep being deposited side by side. As the filaments are made, and layers are created, the platform is normally lowered in the Z direction to start the new layer.
It is important to mention that there are variants to the process of extrusion. In the hot extrusion of rods, the material is deposited in the form of a rod instead of a filament. As it is thicker than the filament, it can be pushed to the hot end by a piston or rollers, with a greater speed and/or force than conventional FDM. The cold extrusion of slurries, on the other hand, makes the material come as a slurry, clay, or a paste, a very dense suspension of thick powder particles. Then, the material is dried, being pushed towards the unheated nozzle. Normally, this technique is used on chocolate, ceramics, and other types of objects. Then, the hot extrusion of pellets makes the material come in the form of tiny granules of thermoplastic material or mixtures. It is pushed towards the nozzle, but the extrusion barrel is also heated.
Nevertheless, FDM 3D printing is not as easy as it sounds. There are other important topics to be covered when 3D printing. The first of them is being very thoughtful when designing your object in CAD Software. Keep in mind that you should think ahead of which will be the surface your design will be printed into, its angles and inclination, etc. Also, you need to choose which will be the material to be used on your object; it is primordial. There are projects that you will need a material more resistant, others with better elasticity, some with mechanical resistance. If you do not plan your printing very thoughtfully ahead of time, you might even need to reprint it, which means loss of time and materials. Also, remember that the design must be cut into layers on your CAD Software before going into printing. Normally, CAD Softwares or 3D printer Softwares already have that technology to ensure your 3D printing will go as smooth as needed.
When to use the FDM printer
The FDM printer is a cheap one to own and operate, being the most common and bought commercially or for those interested in 3D printing things at home. There are many techniques for making 3D printing more rapid and cheaper. Interestingly, there are many open-sourced community projects, as they believe 3D printing should be for everyone. RepRap is one of them, which aims the desktop category.
As mentioned, an FDM 3D printer can be used in many projects, and you can print almost everything with that technology. Consider that the FDM 3D printer can help you in many ways, as you can resize the object as you please. The only restriction might be your printer and/or the surface the layers will be deposited. Naturally, as technology advances, printers are becoming bigger and cheaper, which solves many problems when it comes to printing sizes. The main disadvantage of FDM 3D printing is, however, the quality or detailing of the object. As it must be extruded by layers. It has a certain thickness determined by the nozzle size, sometimes it is difficult to be fully accurate in complex detailings, sometimes demanding attention to the object after processing it so it can have an appearance more polished and professional.
Normally, the FDM 3D printing is considered when there is a need for rapid prototyping, low-cost models, experimental designs or when there is no need for a polished and professional appearance of the object.
What can I print using FDM technology?
The FDM 3D printing technology is as versatile as it can be. It means it can print mostly whatever you would like to 3D print. Name it. It probably has a design already on point to be 3D printed. There are many materials to choose from, such as biodegradable filaments made from algae, or filaments made of a mixture of wood and plastic, or even human cells.
Let us start with the most interesting projects that have been made with 3D printing technology. Have you ever heard of biological material for creating filaments? That is correct. Many researchers are looking for alternatives to plastic made of petroleum. Curiously, they are achieving it as fast as possible. First, we will talk about one of the main filaments used in 3D printing, which is already biodegradable. PLA is a bioplastic. It means that PLA is made from compostable material, without toxic elements. That type of filament can be used in objects containing water or food. For example, it takes less energy for the filament to become ink, generating less toxic fumes when printed. The best thing out of it? It is a hundred percent recyclable. And that is not all of the eco-friendly options for filaments. There are projects all around the globe that aims to recycle plastic from many sources to PLA filaments, such as wasted water bottles, and car parts. Not to mention that there are fully functional filaments that contain wood or iron in their composition.
From that type of filament, you can use the FDM 3D printing technology for many projects. You can print objects for your home, like chairs, tables, keychains. One of our favorites is a plant because its technology can help the plant be always watered as it needs without the possibility of creating mosquito nests as they can be manageable and closed. Door locks, LED panels, shelves, tape guns. All of them can be easily printed by a 3D printer. Not only can you print gadgets, but you can print toys. Did you know that the Mattel company is launching a 3D printer for kids? Well, that is completely true. Inspired by the new technologies out there, Mattel has decided to launch its own 3D printer. Paying homage to their bug toymaker from the 80s, Mattel is naming it ThingMaker, which allows the kid to choose a toy design from their app or even create their own toy. That is correct. Do you want to print that missing LEGO part for your construction? Now you are allowed.
Moving on to other functionalities, FDM 3D printers can also print human clothes and jewelry. Do you not believe it? There are many fashion clothing made by 3D printers, all of them tailored to the wearer’s body type. A very good example of an accessory tailored to the wearer was Angela Basset’s headpieces in the movie Black Panther. She wore hats made for the character, all of them 3D printed. And the technology has already been used in the runways. If you guessed more recent fashion shows such as 2018 or 2019, you would be wrong. In 2013, Iris van Herpen debuted 3D printed wearable fashion pieces at Paris Fashion Week.
If that is not incredible enough, let us move on to medical advances in 3D printing. There are people who are 3D printing prosthetics. And they are fully functional. Prosthetics are not something new to the world, as one of the oldest prosthetic human parts dates to 3000 BC when a prosthetic toe made of wood was found on a mummy. But the 3D printing started when people were printing extensions of body parts for cosplays and costuming. One of them was Ivan Owen, who created functional extensions to his fingers back in 2011, which went viral and inspired a carpenter in South Africa who had lost his right hand’s fingers due to an accident. Richard, the carpenter, learned that a single prosthetic finger would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and asked Ivan for help. Working together, they created the first prototype. But it did not stop there. After successfully creating a prosthetic hand for Richard, a little kid who was born without fingers also was the subject of the Ivan project. That led them to create the e-Nable project, which helps countless people worldwide with prosthetic limb designs and 3D printing for free.
And if you thought that would be it, you are wrong. Scientists are developing bio-ink containing human cells. That is correct. Using human cells in a mixture with PLA, they have been developing ears, noses, bones, and other human body parts. With much analysis, they are discovering that the printed cells have been able to reshape themselves and develop veins, cartilage, and nerves. In a very short period, medical engineering will be able to 3D print fully functional human organs. That medical advance can save hundreds of thousands of lives each day. It is fantastic.
How can SolidFace help?
Nevertheless, any type of 3D printing demands great 3D modeling software, also known as CAD Software. SolidFace is a CAD Software aimed to help those who want to adventure into 3D printing. Our software allows the user to document, draw, document, edit, share, and much more. SolidFace comes with many features for our users as well. It is user-friendly and intuitive, with so many built-in tools ready to help the designer to come up with whatever they have in their minds, with a guaranteed experience.
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We improve how our users execute and draw their designs dramatically. And those who 3D design know that it is a huge deal to have a potent tool at the lowest cost. Our software offers design, simulation, manufacturability, cost estimation, checks, and so much more. Explore new possibilities without affecting your team’s work while collaborating in real-life, following any changes. SolidFace delivers the best CAD Software in the market. Take a look. You will not regret it.
Collab: enable others to cooperate in your ideas either you want it or need it. And you can determine whether they can see the design or help you style, edit or delete any part of your project. As it follows every move, everyone can see any modifications that occurred in real-time. You can share them with teammates, users, clients, or friends. Assign tasks to anyone with our tools, keeping everyone on track.
Data management: this feature allows the user to manage and guide their designs without another PDM system. It reduces the team’s costs, as they will always be able to access the latest data. If a teammate modifies something on the design, that change will be recorded and tracked. And not only that, but the modifications will be open for auditing and remodeling. Draw, redraw, modify your design in your free will without missing track of it. Our feature also allows blending many ideas to be formed.
3D parts: our software has very powerful features. You can produce simple or complex models with vast methodologies. Top-down or bottom-up. Include as many parts to your drawing as you wish. Our software gives sturdy parametric capabilities, so you can design your model quick and simple.
3D part library: access online part archives with more than a million parts from many manufacturers. Actually, you can work with norms such as NF, ANSI, GB, ASME, and ISO.
3D assemblies: construct your designs with uncomplicated and intuitive built-in standards. Link tools and parts; use our libraries. Simulate and experiment with a collision if needed. There is also the chance of renewing parts in-context efficiently.
Drawings: Trace your designs in easy and interactive ways with parametric sources in modeling. Developed in-house, this module is fully integrative with 3D. Showcase your ideas, unite them with geometric tolerances, balloons, dimensions, datums. Showcase it with weld symbols and cover finish, sheets, notes, callouts, tables, and other configurable features. It supports DWT, DSF, and DWG formats.
Parametrization 2.0: Our most important power source is present in every particular design step. Animate its motion, and it will be updated simultaneously with the action. Our software allows you to reproduce even in 2D mechanisms created in 2D or 3D sketch.
Support: Our team is ready for free entry-level demands via e-mail, tickets, or website chat. Check our YouTube channel, which offers self-paced tutorials with training.
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SolidFace offers full 3D printing adaptability. It creates files STL® and OBJ®. Our software also offers a history building tree, with references such as the center of circles and arcs, endpoint, midpoint, and direct command editing. Using our 3D Exploded View, you can create 3D model designs, showing the assembly’s order of different parts of their connection. Visualize components like elements and subassemblies, all of them with established displacements. Enable or disable it at any time.
Nevertheless, SolidFace allows you to build real 3D simulations with collision and clash tests. As the action occurs, our software refreshes your scenario simultaneously. It is also possible to simulate 2D devices, either in a 3D sketch module or 2D drawing. We communicate with Windows through our Windows app communicator, allowing our subscribers to create 3D family parts using TXT table files or CVS formats. And, finally, our users can customize their software interface. Play with color, positions, themes, toolbars. Split your screen up to 16 windows to work with various parts.
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