“3D printing” is itself a very general term. The media, especially mainstream marketing, portrays 3D printing to be a magical technology of the future capable of replicating complex objects. But that makes it hard to put a finger on what exactly 3D printing is, technically speaking. In reality, there are many different 3D printing technologies, but FDM, on which this article is focused, is the most common one.
Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is a 3D printing technology that prints parts using thermoplastic filament, which is basically a cord of material capable of being melted, selectively deposited, and cooled. Parts are built by adding up layers on top of each other.
FDM was created because its creators wanted a way to rapidly prototype parts. Even today, rapid prototype production is one of the biggest benefits of FDM and 3D printing in general. Nevertheless, 3D printing is also slowly becoming a potent manufacturing solution.
Before we proceed with the details of how FDM works, there’s one more thing worth mentioning. In case you already did some research on FDM, you may have noticed that some sources use the term “FFF”, which stands for fused filament fabrication, instead of FDM when referring to the technology. Well, that’s because FDM is a term originally trademarked by Stratasys, and the other abbreviation is more of a general one. Remember, it’s the same technology, only the names are different.
Which is the best 3D printer for beginners?
If you’re dying to jump right in: The market is filled with tons of cheap 3D printers which all seem to be ideal for beginners. But the best way to wrap your head around it is to check out our list of best beginner 3D printers.