Fused deposition modeling (FDM)
There is a company using FDM theory to print houses out of concrete!!! Old news you say? That's what makes it so cool! Every day this technology is improving.
I'll get back to the whole "house printing" hook line shortly... First, I wanted to create a short article on FDM to supplement my entry on 3D Inkjet Printing and SLA.
While FDM is extremely interesting, it is much more widely known. Typically any home 3D printer will utilize FDM technology, since the process is relatively simple and developed.
While 3D Inkjet Printing and SLA utilize a photo-cured resin, FDM operates off of a spool of material that is fed into a print head or nozzle. The nozzle is able to move on an X-Y-Z access using small motors. The polymer/plastic is fed into the nozzle via a worm-drive and heated past its melting/glass-transition point. The polymer then hardens back into its original state without the help of the heated nozzle. The FDM process simply traces the product layer-by-layer from the bottom up, extruding melted plastic, which then hardens without the external addition of heat provided by the nozzle.
- Low cost is ideal for iterative runs and testing
- Few barriers to entry make it easy to find companies that can help you
- More flexible in terms of file formats and software
- Speed: this is the process that can get you your part in minutes or hours
- Material limitations
- Output size - typically these machines are not built for large sized products
- Poor resolution (roughly .2mm for FDM vs .025mm for SLA)
- Typically cooled by the air, FDM risks weak bonds and breakdown between layers
While this process may not seem as sexy as its UV sunbathing cousins, one incredible application of this process can be seen below. And heck, this is already 2 years old!
Have any questions? Feel free to send me a message and I would be glad to share/discuss any part of my experience you may be curious about.