These are two among some of the most modern forms of 3D printing. They have similarities and differences, which make them suitable for different requirements. Let’s learn how!
What is FDM?
Using thermoplastic polymers in the form of filaments, FDM selectively deposits melted material along a specified route to construct parts layer by layer after the 3D modeling process. The most favored additive manufacturing method is fused deposition modeling (FDM). It has been used in the automotive sector for everything from model testing to the development of completely functional parts. FDM is frequently the most popular 3D printing technology for prototypes, jigs & fixtures, drill guides, and low-volume production demands because the bulk of their applications requires solid and durable materials.
FDM is a technology created by Stratasys Ltd., a manufacturer of 3D printers that obtained the term patent in 1991. It produces robust, resilient, and dimensionally stable components using production-grade thermoplastics and specialized 3D printers. The high-quality procedure provides the best precision and reproducibility of any 3D printing technique.
What is FFF?
FFF 3D printing, known as fused filament fabrication, is an additive manufacturing (AM) technique that builds items layer by layer by forcing thermoplastic material through a heated nozzle. Even while desktop FFF has its roots in a proprietary manufacturing process from the 1980s, it wasn’t until patents began to expire and initiatives like the open-source RepRap movement allowed for more innovation and affordability that it really took off. FFF technology is currently a less expensive option than other 3D printing techniques in terms of initial investment and ongoing costs. It is also recognized for being simple to comprehend and use, making it perfect for busy engineers and children in primary school. Over time, it has shown to be so dependable, accurate, and capable of creating durable parts that the majority of the top industrial, design and educational institutions in the world now rely on it to spur innovation.
FFF and FDM use the same method. It utilizes a heated nozzle or extruder to apply layers of filament on a flat printing bed. The absence of a heated print environment is the primary distinction between FFF and FDM. The heated chamber used in FDM aids in temperature control and lowers residual stresses in the completed object. The findings of FFF machines are less accurate and more likely to warp due to the unregulated temperature.
Where is FFF printing used?
- Manufacturing operations: FFF 3D printing is frequently utilized in manufacturing industries because it has shorter lead times than outsourcing and a larger selection of engineering materials. For optimal uptime and productivity on the assembly line, 3D printers quickly produce replacement parts and tools. Additionally, they are utilized to quickly generate final products such as customized quality gauges or small-batch first runs.
- Prototyping: FFF 3D printing is perfect for iterative design due to its affordable materials and quick print times. Prototypes made with 3D printing can be used to test the functionality of technical components or visualize ideas.
- Teaching and learning aid: Inexpensive and simple to use, FFF hardware makes a range of educational applications possible, from teaching STEAM fundamentals to younger students to enabling production laboratories for college and university students to work on engineering assignments and gain skills for the modern workplace.
Where is FDM Printing Used?
- Prosthetics: Traditional prosthetics are expensive and require much time to produce. However, FDM 3D printing technology makes the procedure quicker and less costly. Since they are more reasonably priced, prosthetics are now more widely available, improving both physical independence and the ability to deal with emotional distress. Additionally, 3D printing prosthetics make it simple to enhance and customize designs to properly fit the individual using them, lowering the cost and turnaround time.
- Architecture: The cost of building architectural models for stadiums, power plants, and apartment buildings was high. They make use of a variety of materials, including acrylic, polystyrene, and wood filaments. The materials are expensive and challenging to transport, which drives up their cost and lengthens the manufacturing process. Architectural models may now be 3D printed, transported, and put together on site thanks to FDM 3D printing technology.
- Novelty items and household items: FDM 3D printers can create everyday household objects such as plates, forks, frames, showerheads, and more, in addition to assisting businesses and engineers. Users can also use it to 3D print various tools, including simpler multitool pocket knives and scissors, pliers, and screws. Users can also create office products using FDM 3D technology, like organizers, stacking drawers, lighting, and pen holders. Additionally, it can be used for personal items like keychains, buttons, novels, and cell covers, to name a few.
- Industrial scale manufacturing: Strong and valuable products for end-use applications are produced by FDM 3D printing technology. Industrial 3D printers manufacture objects of a higher caliber than desktop FDM printers. The latter is intended to create parts for end-use applications in the manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, and medical industries.
What is the key difference between FFF and FDM? Does it make much of a difference?
As mentioned previously, FFF and FDM are similar in many ways, except for one aspect of the components of these printers. An extruder, nozzle, print chamber, and filament feeding system are all enclosed in a chamber in the case of FDM 3D printers. The material is brought to the extruder and heated past the melting point. The 3D printed model will then be produced when the melted filament is extruded from the nozzle onto the print chamber’s build plate. Typically, the procedure occurs in a secluded space with a temperature of about 90 degrees Celsius. The entire mechanical functionality of the material is preserved in the printed model.
To maximize value engineering and cost-effectiveness, print chambers were not included in the design of FFF-based machines. The material extruded into the heated bed typically experiences temperature fluctuations because of the chilly surroundings, although it is far less expensive than FDM. However, most inexpensive FFF 3D printers lack a heating build plate. The lack of a heated printing chamber limits the areas in which FFF 3D printers can be used. The application of FFF printers in industrial manufacturing is limited. It is used in instances that require manufacturing small components and tools. Industrial FDM printers are used to manufacture large and functional components. FFF printing is primarily used by hobbyists and smaller industries or for making prototypes.
This also makes a difference in the costs involved. FFF printers are cheaper when compared to FDM printers. Overall, the difference in terms of a heated printing chamber reduces the costs involved in operating an FFF 3D printer while also limiting its applications. This makes FFS suitable for smaller-scale operations when compared to FDM machines.
The fact that FFF and FDM type printers have different applications makes it difficult to define one type’s advantage over the other clearly. The features of each type make them tailor-made for their intended use. Although you can use an FDM printer to carry out the job of an FFF printer, the costs involved would be higher; this makes it better to choose an FFF printer for small-scale printing and an FDM printer for large-scale applications. Therefore choosing between the two is purely based on the requirement.
Which printer should you choose?
The answer is as simple as knowing what you require a 3D printer for. If you are a constructor looking for a suitable 3D printer to manufacture large, functional components, you should go for an FDM printer. However, if you are a small-scale manufacturer or a hobbyist looking for a 3D printer to make prototypes or small components, you should choose an FFF-type 3D printer. It is also essential to understand the costs involved in purchasing, operating, and maintaining the printer you require.
In conclusion, FFF and FDM printers are two different types of 3D printers based on the same principle of operation, which is the extrusion of thermoplastic material through a heated nozzle to form layers on top of each other, ensuing in a 3D object made by a process known as additive manufacturing. Although the basic principles are the same, FFF and FDM printers have different applications and operating costs. FFF printers are used by small-scale manufacturers and hobbyists, while large industrial manufacturers use FDM printers to make large functional components. Also, FDM printers are more costly to operate because of the more advanced features present in them when compared to FFF printers. The key difference between the two is that FDM printers have a heated printing chamber while FFF printers do not. This enables FDM printers to make stronger structures that could have functional uses in heavy equipment, vehicles, or even spacecraft. The lack of a heated printing chamber limits FFF printers to small-scale applications. Therefore your choice between the two is entirely dependent on your intended use. If all you need is the knowledge of 3D designing to start printing, visit SelfCAD and utilize the interactive tutorials featured there and learn 3D designing faster.