3D Printing Acronyms Explained: FDM

Keeping up with the evolution of 3D printing is tough. The more the technology becomes sophisticated, the more the vocabulary used to define the processes, materials and components becomes wide and complicated.

In this series of blog posts, we’ll analyze all the different 3D printing related acronyms give you a quick, yet exhaustive explanation.

In the first post of this series about 3D printing acronyms we talked about SLA, or Stereolithography, and its applications.  In this post we’ll take into consideration one of the most popular acronyms – and process – in the industry: FDM.


FDM: Fused Deposition Modeling

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is the most widely adopted 3D printed method.

Unlike SLA, where the objects are formed by solidifying resin with a laser beam, FDM relies on the extrusion of melted material.

In simple terms, FDM 3D printers take a spool of plastic filament, melt it and selectively extrude it on a tray in a predetermined oath, layer-by-layer to build an object from the bottom up.

Here’s a suggestive video that will help you understand how the process works.

This is by far the most popular method among DIY makers as FDM 3D printers are relatively affordable and easy to use.

The process, however, is becoming widely adopted also in the manufacturing industry, as manufacturers in a variety of industries are increasingly using FDM throughout their product development, prototyping and production processes.


Characteristics of an FDM 3D printer 

FDM 3D printers, like aby other type of printer, come in different sizes and shapes.

However, no matter how complex the machine is, the following sections will always be present in a FDM 3D printer:


– A spool of thermoplastic material that will be fed and melt into the extruder. The most typical materials used in FDM printing are acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polylactic acid (PLA), high-impact polystyrene (HIPS), thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and aliphatic polyamides (nylon).

– A 3D printer head, or 3D printer extruder. It’s the raw material melting and forming it into a continuous profile. The extrusion head is attached to a 3-axis system that allows it to move in the X, Y and Z directions.

– The build platform, or bed, where the melted material is extruded and solidifies.


Pros and Cons of FDM 3D Printing


– FDM 3D printers tend to be more affordable than any other type of printer

– Ease of use. FDM 3D printers are easy to set up and use

– Scalability: Unlike other methods, objects printed with FDM can be easily scaled to any size

– Material flexibility. On any FDM printer, a wide variety of thermoplastic materials and exotic filaments can be printed with relatively few upgrades and modifications, something that cannot be said of other styles where a material must be a resin or fine powder.



– FDM has the lowest dimensional accuracy and resolution compared to other 3D printing technologies, so it is not suitable for parts with intricate details.

– FDM parts are likely to have visible layer lines, so post processing is required for a smooth finish.


This quick introduction to FDM 3D printing is far from covering all the different, more technical aspects of the process, but it helps to understand a little bit better how the technology works, what you can do with an FDM printer and when it’s a good idea to use it. You can read more about

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Categories: Design & Process