Stratasys FDM, or fused-deposition modeling, is a popular form of 3D printing used by both hobbyists and large-scale industries alike. The process can be described as controlling a hot glue gun on a flat plane to selectively deposit thermoplastic material onto a flat build plate layer-by-layer. Many FDM printers have multiple nozzles configured to specifically print model or support material. This article takes a brief look at the top 5 industries that benefit the most from FDM 3D printers:
Automotive EV Industry
Electric Vehicles (EVs) are the next generation of consumer vehicles. As is the case with most consumer product manufacturers, time-to-market is essential to putting your company in front of your competition. Manufacturers like Tesla, Cadillac and BMW are using engineering-grade thermoplastics for selective brackets, electronic housings and other parts that can variably change in their design before a final mass-production vehicle design is set in stone. 3D printing these parts using FDM technology allows the manufacturer to quickly bring their vehicle to the public’s eye without making major financial investments in mass production. It gives them the flexibility to change their design and increase the complexity of their systems before committing to mass-production and shipping of their final product.
The private spacecraft industry is (literally) taking off thanks to reusable rocket technology. Industrial scale FDM machines can produce large, complex geometries that are useful in maximizing the strength to weight ratio of parts and systems. Every pound of weight removed from a rocket saves thousands of dollars in fuel costs alone. High-temperature and high-strength thermoplastics such as ULTEM 1010, ULTEM 9085, Nylon 6, and Nylon 12 are rigorous enough to withstand the harsh conditions of space travel. FDM 3D printing also allows astronauts and engineers the ability to create the custom tools they do not have but need in order to complete unforeseen tasks.
Seen as a big part of the 5th industrial revolution, FDM 3D printing augments mass-manufacturing facilities that use AI, Big Data, and the Internet of Things to streamline the efficiency of their manufacturing process. Whether they use FDM to build jigs and fixtures for their workers, produce end-of-arm tooling, or are looking to produce end-use parts, manufacturers making any number of products can benefit from the versatility and consistency of FDM printers. There are a wide variety of materials available on FDM printers such as ABS, ASA, Nylon Carbon Fiber, Antero, ULTEM, PC, and more. Pictured here is an example of end-of-arm tooling that was redesigned to take advantage of FDM’s unique attributes!
Medical Device Industry
One of the greatest strengths of FDM 3D printing is customization of your parts or systems. This is incredibly helpful in the medical device and healthcare industries as each patient may quickly require solutions that are unique to their injury. Prosthetic arms, hands, and fingers need to be lightweight, strong, durable and easily interface with the patient. The patient may also require multiple prosthetic devices for different situations rather than a single, universal solution. FDM 3D printing can quickly iterate the entire design and production process to bring the best solution to the patient as quickly as possible. This is especially useful for children who need replacement parts for their device as they grow older to accommodate their height, weight, strength, and wear over time.
Advertising, marketing, and social media are important avenues for companies to use to reach wider audiences and learn where to apply their R&D. Many new products fail each year because there is a disconnect between the actual final product and what the public would be interested in purchasing/using. FDM 3D printing allows a company to create cheap, sturdy models of their product to put into people’s hands at trade shows, conferences or internal meetings. Software such as Insight can customize the internal filling of the product to better control qualities such as strength and weight. Companies that create products or models entirely digital can now bring their models to life!
Want to learn more? Watch our on-demand webinar "Understanding the Potential of Additive Manufacturing - FDM Technology".