What is the Most Common Type of 3D Printing?
The most common and famous 3D Printing technology is Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM). However, the widespread FDM 3D Printing does not mean it is the most versatile or the one with the most value. FDM 3D Printing became the most common due to factors like the open-source RepRap movement that started in 2005 and the expiry of the patents protecting the technology, which happened in 2009. Those events drove FDM 3D Printing to be widely available at very affordable prices. Today, FDM 3D Printers can be found in universities, local schools, libraries, makers spaces, and many homes.
What is Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D Printing used for?
Here are the major uses of FDM 3D Printing today:
- Preliminary Prototypes: FDM is widely used to build prototypes in the early stages of product development cycles. Given their relatively compact sizes and affordability, small and medium-size organizations have them in-house and use them for early-stage prototypes. More advanced prototypes can then be outsourced using other 3D Printing processes and technologies.
- Education: FMD 3D Printers are widely used in educational instructions within both primary and higher education to excite and train learners on 3D Printing and related subjects in design, engineering, entrepreneurship, and business.
- Production of final products: FDM 3D Printing technologies can produce functional parts for use in different applications. For example, FDM is used to produce plastic replacement parts in commercial aircraft like seat armrests end-covers. Also, many hobbyists use FDM print parts for home usages like hangers, fixtures, and toys.
What are the Disadvantages of Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D Printing?
The best way to evaluate a certain 3D Printing technology's disadvantages is to compare it to other technologies. As such, there are three major disadvantages for FDM:
- Resolution: One of the major disadvantages of FDM 3D Printing is that the prints' resolutions is not up to par compared to what can be accomplished with many of the other processes and technologies.
- Materials: FDM can only print using thermoplastic. Thus, metal 3D Printing is not an option.
- Design Constraints: When designing for FDM printing, you would need to consider overhanging structures and the support required to build them. While this might not be an issue for most applications, it makes it challenging to print certain internal structures or complete interlinked assemblies.
Where can I learn 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing?
3D Printing is a vast field and can involve many disciplines and areas of expertise. Thus, depending on what you are trying to learn, you might be heading in a different direction. Here is a breakout of some of the major 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing involvements and hints of where you can get related learnings:
- Operating industrial 3D Printers: You would likely be looking at a specific 3D Printing machine for this. You can get such training from 3D Printing machines manufacturers or their re-sellers. Thus, if you identify a specific machine you would like to learn how to operate, the best path of action would be to directly contact the manufacturer or their local re-sellers for any available training. However, there is a good chance that such training would be provided/sponsored by employers as such skills can be both job & machine specific.
- Operating a consumer-level FDM 3D Printers: Given the widespread FDM 3D Printers, operating one is becoming more common than before. Maker Spaces are one of the major and most common places where you would be able to get hands-on training on operating a consumer-level FDM 3D Printer. Maker spaces grew into an international phenomenon in recent years, so there is a good likelihood there is one in your city or close to it.
- Utilizing 3D Printing to generate unique value propositions: If you are to get involved with 3D Printing at a serious level to unlock sustaining value, it would be essential to understand the overall landscape of 3D Printing, its seven different processes, the different technologies, common application, and how can you use 3D Printing to generate tangible value to both your personal and professional endeavors. This knowledge is essential regardless of your technical specialty. For such learning, you can check out 3D Printing Opportunities and Applications course to get a strong head start in the field.
- Designing for 3D Printing: in many instances, you might be designing/building 3D Models to be 3D Printed. In this case, you might not be the one doing the actual Printing. Here, it will be beneficial to understand the 3D Printing landscape and the different processes you will design for them. It would be useful to have a good mastery of a 3D design software of your choice. Luckily, there is a good selection of courses online that teaches different 3D design software. If you aim to learn SOLIDWORKS, you can check our selection of SOLIDWORKS courses to guide you from a complete novice to an advanced level.
Is It Hard to Learn 3D Printing?