Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D Printing Service

FDM 3d printed appliance base using no support Stratasys Direct

What Is Fused Deposition Modeling?

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM or also known as FFF) is one of the most common and known methods of 3D printing. It is the one technology that offers the ability to use a wide variety of known engineering-grade thermoplastic materials commonly used in injection molding. This allows users to additively manufacture production parts with materials they are familiar with or test 3D printed prototypes using the same material they plan to use in injection molding. 

FDM Part Strength

FDM utilizes strong, engineering-grade materials like ABS, Polycarbonate and ULTEM™ 9085 Resin. FDM can create production parts and functional prototypes with outstanding thermal and chemical resistance and excellent strength-to-weight ratios.



How Does FDM Work?

FDM (Monikers: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), filament extrusion, fused filament deposition, material deposition) was invented by Stratasys and works by feeding material filament to a print head that then melts the material, drive wheels extrude the melted material onto the build sheet to form a single layer; The build platform then lowers in the Z-axis by small increments so that the print head can extrude the next layer of material onto the previous layer creating a 3D object. 

First we take the CAD or STL 3D file, and within the software we slice the file into horizontal layers based on the layer height that was chosen. As a note, the layer heights currently range from 0.005" inch (Z) to 0.020" inch (Z). Larger parts, such as bumpers for an automotive vehicle may be built in thicker layer heights to reduce the build time, whereas smaller geometries such as a cell phone case could be built in a smaller layer height to take advantage of the finer detail and smaller wall thickness capabilities.

Once the software has sliced the part into layers, it will then generate the support structure that will be used for the build. Support structures are always used on the bottom layers of the model to provide separation from the build sheet as well as for overhangs or areas of the geometry that do not have sufficient model material area from the previous layer. Finally, the tool path or "raster fill" for each layer is generated. We now have a part that can be sent to the printer.

Now it is time for lights-out manufacturing. We say this as machine operators can start the printing of the part, turn off the lights, and head home. Upon arriving the next day or after the build is completed, the build sheet containing the part(s) can be removed from the machine and placed on the rack for the next step in the process. This next step may be the manual removal of support materials for our higher heat materials such as ULTEM™ resin or could involve our hands-free support removal for various materials such as electrostatic dissipative ABS (ABS ESD7) which uses soluble support that is dissolved away in our Water Works process. 

fdm sparse fill

FDM Sparse vs. Solid Fill

Pictured to the left there are two parts that show the interior fill, one being solid and the other showing sparse. Solid fill allows for all sections of the model to be built solid when strength is the priority. Unlike other manufacturing methods like injection molding, solid fill allows for varying wall thicknesses in a single geometry without the worry of warping or sink marks.

Sparse fill is a build mode that alters the density of the interior fill.  There are a few default options for sparse fill such as sparse, double dense sparse, or hexagram to name a few. Our engineering team has the capability if needed to completely modify every layer of the model so that our customer can define every aspect of the print if desired such as specifying the exterior wall thickness, the air gap between passes of the interior fill, the direction of the extrusion, or even modifying sections of the fill to allow for embedded objects such as nuts, bolts, washers, or even RFID chips.

This results in sections of a 3D part being nearly hollow, but with the support needed to retain strength and rigidity. The exterior of either solid or sparse looks the same, while the sparse version greatly reduces the part weight when compared to its solid counterpart. Building in sparse also means a reduction in build time which means a lower cost and faster delivery times.

Sparse-filled parts can be finished with the same post-processes as solid-filled parts, such as sanding, painting, epoxy, or electroplating. 

FDM 3d printed fixture for metal part

What FDM applications can I make?

Being that FDM is arguably the most popular 3D printing process, there is no shortage of applications being developed for various industries.

  • Automotive interior parts
  • Bumpers
  • HVAC systems components
  • Drill guides
  • Paper-pulp tooling, hydroforming, thermoforming
  • Jigs & Fixtures
  • Sand casting
  • ECS ducting
  • Turbines, rotors
  • FAR 25.853 applications
  • Bio-compatible applications
  • Spare parts

The list goes on...

It is impossible to list out all of the applications, but one thing is for sure and that is that our in-house engineering staff is here to listen to what you need and can help you every step of the way. 

Materials for 3D Printing Parts with FDM

SDM Material


General use "go-to" material. Variety of color options. Good for parts 1" inch cubed to parts larger than 5' feet.

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SDM Material


Strong ABS thermoplastic compounded with carbon resulting in static dissipative properties

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SDM Material


Bio-compatible (ISO 10993; USP Class VI) NSF 51 Food-contact certification

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SDM Material


ABS material with 10% Chopped Carbon Fiber by weight. Increased stiffness, lightweight.

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SDM Material


General use FDM "go-to" material. UV-stable with a variety of color-fast color options

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SDM Material


Accurate, rigid, stable

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SDM Material


Superior strength & heat resistance of PC with flexibility of ABS

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SDM Material


Accurate, rigid, stable; Bio-compatible (ISO 10993; USP Class VI)

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SDM Material

ULTEM™ 1010 resin

Rigid, highest heat resistance; FST certified; Bio-compatible; Food contact certified

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SDM Material

ULTEM™ 9085 resin

High strength, high heat resistance; FST certified per "14 CFR/FAR 25.853" & "ASTM F814/E662"

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SDM Material

ULTEM™ 9085 resin CG

Low coefficient of variance and increased mechanical properties vs. the standard ULTEM™ 9085 resin. FST certified per "14 CFR/FAR 25.853" & "ASTM F814/E662"

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SDM Material

Nylon 12

High elongation at break, fatigue resistance; Resistance to moderate solvents, alcohols, chemicals

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SDM Material

Antero 800NA (PEKK)

Antero™ 800NA PEKK-based thermoplastic combines FDM's design freedom and ease of use with the excellent mechanical properties and low outgassing characteristics of PEKK material

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SDM Material

Antero 840CN03 (PEKK)

Antero™ 840CN03 is a PEKK-based FDM thermoplastic combining the excellent physical and mechanical qualities of PEKK with electrostatic dissipative (ESD) properties. The material is filled 3% by weight with carbon nanotubes.

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SDM Material

TPU 92A Elastomer

FDM® TPU 92A is a thermoplastic polyurethane with a Shore A value of 92. FDM TPU 92A brings the benefits of elastomers to FDM 3D printing and offers the capability to quickly produce large and complex elastomer parts.

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Fused Deposition Modeling Applications

Fused Deposition Modeling Production Parts

Production Parts

FDM has proven to build durable production parts for low-volume and short-run production applications. It is also effective for high volumes of components when the designs are too complex for conventional manufacturing to execute.

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Fused Deposition Modeling Jigs Fixtures

Jigs & Fixtures

With fast lead times and lightweight possibilities, our advanced manufacturing solutions allow for custom operator and applications like jigs and fixtures.

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Fused Deposition Modeling Functional Prototypes

Functional Prototypes

FDM parts are mechanically, thermally and chemically strong, making it an ideal technology for challenging plastic applications.

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FDM 3d printed vent hood

Proven Expertise with FDM

Making a precision FDM part takes more than just a machine. It takes process controls, quality audits, registration (ISO9001, AS9100, and ITAR), and the responsive team behind the technology working to validate the materials and processes. Our team of engineers won’t rest until your requirements are met for precise part manufacturing and success. 

FDM from the Pioneers of 3D Printing

Being a part of the family that invented FDM technology means we’re backed by Stratasys’ strong commitment to R&D. Our in-house FDM experts are constantly exploring new applications and possibilities alongside the Stratasys team. With 30 years in the manufacturing business means we have the technical know-how, experience, processes, and capabilities to serve those in any stage of the development or production stage of manufacturing. 

General questions? Engineering questions? Need help with your design?

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3d printed FDM vehicle bumper Stratasys Direct

Frequently Asked Questions About Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

What is the difference between FDM and FFF?

FDM was invented by Stratasys, pioneering this method of 3D printing. The main difference is a heated build chamber which is needed to control the temperature and stress of the printed part. Without a heated chamber and build plate, materials would cool too quickly during the build, or in other words, during the printing process layers at the bottom would be a significantly different temperature than layers at the top of the model, resulting in the possible warp, curl, or other. 

How thick or how thin can walls be in FDM printed parts?

Thickness is up to the user and is only limited by the build envelope, so producing a solid part that is 36" inches (914mm) long/thick is no issue. Although we have our recommendations for how thin a wall or feature should be, a discussion with our engineering team at no cost to you would be recommended. Technically, an example using our ABS-M30 material could produce a wall thickness of 0.016" inches  (0.40mm).

Can items or hardware be added to an FDM part? 

Common items such as washers, nuts, bolts, threaded rods, or even RFID chips can be inserted mid-build by technicians without secondary operations. The capability to program a pause into the build allows us to insert a variety of items if needed into the part. After a part is done building, we also can heat stake Dodge inserts, tap threads, or insert helicoils. 

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9085, 1010 and ULTEM™ trademarks are used under license from SABIC, its affiliate or subsidiary.