[Complete Guide] Fused Deposition Modeling – FDM 3D Printing Method

In this guide, we break down the fused deposition modeling method for 3D printing to help you understand it better even if you’re not too technical.

This is one of the printing methods very common for 3D printing at the entry and pro levels.

What Is Fused Depositions Modeling?

FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) is also known as fused filament fabrication (FFF). This print method simplifies the workflow and provides flexibility and more control over how they make products and push to the market.

The 3D printer extruder then melts the material and forms it into a continuous profile.

The benefits of FDM are:

  • Bring proof-concept prototype to testing faster
  • Fast prototyping lead time
  • Many entry level FDM printers are available for only a few hundred bucks
  • Medium fidelity prototyping before going all in
  • Wide range of theromplastics flexibility
  • Doesn’t require too much cleaning
  • No post processing for simple design
  • Scale up manufacturing processes

Material Selections

FDM 3D printers work with a wide range of thermoplastic filaments such as:

  • ABS – Very common household plastic, but strong odor
  • PLA – Great surface quality and it’s the easiest material to print
  • Various ABS and PLA blends
  • Nylon
  • PETG
  • PA
  • TPU
  • PEEK

FDM 3D Printer Core Components

A basic SLS printer consists of the following:

  • Printing plate (Bed)
  • Bed leveling
  • Hot end
  • Filament coil
  • Extrusion head (extruder)
  • Nozzle
  • Idler gear
  • Thermistor
  • Cooling fan
  • Threaded rods & belts
  • Stepper motor
  • Motion control (Cartesion, CoreXY or Delta)
  • Printer frame

Basic FDM 3D Printing Process

3D Model Design

A talented 3D drafter will draft the model first, then the slicing software divides the model into a number of layers and outputs a G-code file for the printer.


The FDM 3D printer extrudes thermoplastic filaments through a heated nozzle and the melted materials are applied to the build platform. (usually on a heated plate so the part can come off the plate later).

Layer by layer, the part is built until completion.

Post Process

Once the part is complete, all parts requires the following steps:

  • Remove insoluable support parts is the most common action step for FDM printed parts (Some areas are harder to remove unless using a dual extruder 3d printer to build soluable supports)
  • For soluable support, HIPS & PVA materials are two most common materials. ABS dissolves in D-limonene & PVA dissolves in water
  • Sanding is the easiest way to smooth the surface. Click here to Learn more about 3D print smoothing
  • Welding ABS parts together for large builds (Welding in this case is not metal welding)
  • PLA and PETG materials are easily to glue together using super glue
  • Priming the surface for epoxy coating, electroplating or paint
  • Hydro dipping (Optional)

When To Use FDM Method To Print 3D Parts?

Use FDM 3D printing method for:

  • Proof concept prototyping
  • Early development design

Already-Proven FDM 3D Printing Applications

  • Education
  • Rapid prototyping on demand
  • Manufacturing replacement parts
  • Custom parts
  • DIY Hobbies including cosplay

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