Materialise began its exploration of the FDM market in December 2003, starting with a capacity of one FDM machine. Aware of the growing demand for functional models and small series of production parts, Materialise decided to add Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) to its range. Due to the success of FDM, the FDM Center at Materialise now houses several FDM machines and is still expanding.

The Technology

The Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process constructs three-dimensional objects directly from 3D CAD data. A temperature-controlled head extrudes thermoplastic material layer by layer.
The FDM process starts with importing an STL file of a model into a pre-processing software. This model is oriented and mathematically sliced into horizontal layers varying from +/- 0.127 - 0.254 mm thickness. A support structure is created where needed, based on the part's position and geometry. After reviewing the path data and generating the toolpaths, the data is downloaded to the FDM machine.

FDM process

The system operates in X, Y and Z axes, drawing the model one layer at a time. This process is similar to how a hot glue gun extrudes melted beads of glue. The temperature-controlled extrusion head is fed with thermoplastic modeling material that is heated to a semi-liquid state. The head extrudes and directs the material with precision in ultrathin layers onto a fixtureless base. The result of the solidified material laminating to the preceding layer is a plastic 3D model built up one strand at a time. Once the part is completed, the support columns are removed and the surface is finished.