Filaments for Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) refers to the additive manufacturing process of using a melted thermoplastic polymer to build up an object in a layer-by-layer path [1]. Out of the various methods for 3D printing, FDM has been the most common technology since it was invented and patented in 1989 by Scott Crump, founder of Stratasys Ltd. [2]. FDM remains one of the fastest and most affordable techniques. Its popularity can be found in a variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, consumer goods, and healthcare, as companies use FDM for their prototypes, product development and sampling, and manufacturing process [3].

The most common filament materials used in FDM are:

 

In this article, you will learn about:

  • What fused deposition modeling is
  • What filaments are used for fused deposition modeling
  • What the advantages and limitations of these filaments are
  • How the market for fused deposition modeling filaments is growing
  • What would some future applications of FDM be

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What is fused deposition modeling?

FDM is an additive manufacturing process in which the melt extrusion method is used to place filaments of thermoplastic and polyacid materials following a certain pattern to produce a three dimensional (3D) physical model [1]. This process uses polymers as raw material (or filaments). Filaments are heated to a melted state and then extruded by the nozzle of a 3D machine or printer to deposit an object by superimposing layers [4]. The nozzle is controlled by computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software, and it can move in both horizontal and vertical directions. FDM is also known as fused filament fabrication (FFF).

What filaments are used for fused deposition modeling?

During the past three decades of research, scientists and engineers have presented a vast selection of materials to use as filaments for FDM. All materials offer both advantages and challenges for the user selection, as well as diverse levels of advancement in technology, hardware requirements, and best practices to succeed in the material selection of a specific project. Here is a brief description of some of the most common FDM filaments available on the market. 

Polylactic acid (PLA)

PLA is a biodegradable thermoplastic polyester made from naturally renewable sources, such as corn, sugarcane, wheat, or other high-carbohydrate sources. PLA is, at present, the most adopted material in 3D printing. Due to its eco-friendly features, it is well suited for food packaging applications and for surgical and medical applications [4][5].

Check out the different PLA materials currently listed on Matmatch.

Table 1. Advantages and limitations of PLA.

Advantages

Limitations

Can be extruded by low-energy and cost-effective 3D printers

High brittleness

Biodegradable

Low toughness and durability

Requires lower printing temperature and low shrinkage

Low service temperature

Available in the market in a variety of colours and textures

Cause for nozzle clogging

Non-toxicity

 

 

To overcome the limitations, researchers, over the last two decades, have investigated and blended PLA with other polymers, such as blends of poly L-lactide (PLLA) and poly D-lactide (PDLA) [5]. Blending PLLA and PDLA resulted in the formation of poly(lactide) stereocomplex crystallites (SC) [6]. The stronger interactions in SCs induced higher melting temperatures and increase crystallization speed; thus, improving the thermo-mechanical properties [6][7]. The result of these blends lead to the development of hot-fill packaging and microwave applications.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)

ABS is a thermoplastic polymer produced by the fusion of styrene and acrylonitrile in the presence of polybutadiene [7]. It is the second most common material used for FDM filaments after PLA. 

ABS is a suitable option for parts that need to resist cyclic loading and temperature changes [9]. Some typical applications of ABS filaments in 3D printing are surgical models, prototypes, toys, and kitchen appliances. ABS’s good mechanical characteristics that allow it to hold up for extensive usage and wear have made it an excellent choice for products like the LEGO building blocks.

Check out the different ABS materials currently listed on Matmatch.

Table 2. Advantages and limitations of ABS.

Advantages

Limitations

High impact resistance

Warping, curling, and cracking during printing

Good abrasion and strain resistance

Produces toxic gases

Good chemical resistance

Can be damaged by sunlight

Resistant to temperatures

 

Long service life

Good electrical insulating properties

Surface aspect and brightness offering a gloss feature

 

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

PET is a petroleum derivative thermoplastic from the polyester family. PET’s Glycol modified version, PETG, is among the most employed materials for FDM alongside PLA and ABS. Designers and engineers are taking advantage of its unique properties, such as transparency, moisture resistance, and chemical resistance, to create attractive applications for liquid containers, food storage, graphic displays, prototypes, and textiles [10].

Check out the different PET materials currently listed on Matmatch.

Table 3. Advantages and limitations of PET.

Advantages

Limitations

High chemical resistance

Possible curling during printing

Moisture resistance

Limited mechanical resistance, not suitable for structural applications

Good durability

Its relatively soft surface makes it prone to wear

Glossy and smooth surface finish

 

Minimal warping effect

 

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)

TPU is a very flexible, abrasion-resistant, and versatile thermoplastic that is used in diverse industrial applications. Due to its ability to stretch and bend, it can be considered as a bridge between rigid plastic and elastic rubber [11]. It is commonly used in automobile applications, sporting goods, power tools, and film and sheet applications.

Check out the different TPU materials currently listed on Matmatch.

Table 4. Advantages and limitations of TPU.

Advantages

Limitations

Very high flexibility and elasticity to create complex elastic designs or specific shapes

Relatively high difficulty during the printing process due to its flexibility

High durability and strength

 

High resistance to abrasion

 

 

Poly-ether-ketone (PEEK)

PEEK is a high-performance, semi-crystalline, thermoplastic polymer, and a member of the Poly-aryl-ether-ketone (PAEK) family. This material has a special combination of engineering properties that makes it ideal for metal (aluminium or steel) replacement applications, particularly in the aerospace, automobile, and healthcare industries. Good examples of applications are metal implants and the manufacturing of out-of-earth replacement parts, such as those used in the International Space Station (ISS) [12][13][14].

Check out the different PEEK materials currently listed on Matmatch.

Table 5. Advantages and limitations of PEEK.

Advantages

Limitations

Chemical and biological stability

Poor resistance to UV radiation

Superior thermal resistance

Difficult to process due to its semi-crystalline structure

High mechanical performance

Requires high levels of expertise to limit printing issues

Can be sterilised (ideal for surgical and dental applications)

Limited equipment suitable to process

 

Polyphenylsulfone (PPSU)

PPSU is a high-temperature sulfone polymer. PPSU’s high performance allows it to be used in applications for healthcare, smart devices, energy storage, and aerospace [14].

Check out the different PPSU materials currently listed on Matmatch.

Table 6. Advantages and limitations of PPSU.

Advantages

Limitations

Excellent thermal, chemical, and impact resistance

Requires high levels of expertise to limit printing issues

High gamma-radiation resistance and flame resistance

 

Sterilization capability

 

High strength and high modulus, even at high temperatures

 

 

Other FDM filaments

Several additional filaments available for FDM are listed below [15]. 

  • High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS): HIPS is a lightweight material that is dissolvable and is mainly used as a support structure for ABS models.
  • Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate (ASA): ASA is a polymer with similar characteristics to ABS and high UV resistance, which makes it a great option for outdoor applications.
  • Carbon-Fibre Filled Filaments: These are tiny fibres infused into the base filament (PLA or ABS) to improve strength and stiffness properties. Some filaments can be acquired with carbon fibre fills, including PLA, PETG, Nylon, ABS, and Polycarbonate.
  • Wood-Filled Filaments: These are filaments with a composite such as cork or wood dust, to produce the aesthetics of real wood.

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The market for FDM filaments

The market for 3D-printing filaments was set at USD 1.41 Billion in 2018, and its potential to grow is forecasted to reach USD 9.47 Billion by 2026. This accelerated growth is projected to be led by the manufacturers who have been developing technologies for multi-property filaments to use for prototyping, product design, product sampling, modeling, and manufacturing processes.

Applications for healthcare, aerospace, and defence are expected to grow at the highest rates close to 27%. North America is the region that accounts for the largest share, but, in general, all other regions are expected to play important roles in the growing demands from their end-users [16].

Future applications

We are living in an era of a major technology revolution in manufacturing. 3D printing is already used at unprecedented scales, and the market for FDM applications is growing and evolving at incredible rates. Diverse areas would require further innovation and research to include the capability of cost-effective printing or large volumes, the capacity to print multiple materials from the same equipment, and the expansion of the range of filaments with unique and powerful properties [17]. The next generation of FDM applications would most likely be seen in: 

  • The medical industry with bioprinting, prosthetics, and drug applications 
  • The automotive industry with various components and parts
  • Prototyping for the aerospace industry 
  • A variety of applications in consumer electronics

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Sources

[1] Walker, J.L. and Santoro, M., Processing and Production of Bioresorbable Polymer Scaffolds for tissue Engineering, In Bioresorbable Polymer for Biomedical Applications, 2017, [Online] Available: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/materials-science/fused-deposition-modeling

[2] Pei, E., 2019, Progress in Additive Manufacturing, Editorial PIAM October 2019, 4, 355-356, Springer, [Online] Available: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40964-019-00103-8

[3] Palermo E., 2013, Fused Deposition Modeling: Most Common 3D Printing Method, LiveScience, [Online] Available: https://www.livescience.com/39810-fused-deposition-modeling.html

[4] Madaraka Mwema F., Titilayo Akilabi, E., 2020, Fused Deposition Modeling: Strategies for Quality Enhancement, Springer Briefs in Applied Sciences and Technology, Manufacturing and Surface Engineering, Springer Nature, 2020

[5] Nofar M., Sacligil D., Carreau P.J., Kamal M.R., Heuzey M-C, 2019, Poly (lactic acid) blends: Processing, properties and applications, International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, Volume 125, Pages 307-360

[6] Lih-sheng Turng, 2021, Improvement in Mechanical Properties and Heat Resistance of PLLA-b-PEG-b-PLLA by Melt Blending with PDLA-b-PEG-b-PDLA for Potential Use as High-Performance Bioplastics, Advances in Polymer Technologies, Volume 2019, Available: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/apt/2019/8690650/ (accessed February 1, 2021)

[7] Polyscience, Inc. 2021, Poly(lactic acid) (PLA, PDLA, PLLA), [Online], Available: https://www.polysciences.com/default/catalog-products/polymers/biodegradable-polymers/poly-dl-lactic-acid

[8] Rodríguez-Panes A., Claver J., Camacho A.M., 2018, The Influence of Manufacturing Parameters on the Mechanical Behavior of PLA and ABS Pieces Manufactured by FDM: A Comparative Analysis, Materials (Basel) 2018 Aug; 11(8): 1333. Published online 2018 Aug, Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6119930/

[9] Singh S., Prakash, C., and Singh R., 2020, 3D Printing in Biomedical Engineering, Materials Horizons: From Nature to Nanomaterials, Springer Nature, 336p

[10] Hohimer C., Christ J., Aliheidari N., Mo C., and Ameli A., 2017, 3D Printing Thermoplastic Polyurethane with Isotropic Material Properties, Behavior and Mechanics of Multifunctional Materials and Composites, 2017, Ed. Goulbourne

[11] Zanjanijam, A.R., Major, I., Lyons, J.G., Lafont, U., and Devine, D.M., 2020, Fused Filament Fabrication of PEEK: A Review of Process-Structure-Property, Polymers (Basel), 12(8): 1665

[12] Garcia-Leiner M., Ghita O., and Mckay R., 2019, Additive Manufacturing of Polyaryletherketones, PEEK Biomaterials Handbook, Elsevier, Inc.  Available: https://www.google.com/books/edition/PEEK_Biomaterials_Handbook/SimLDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=PEEK+filament&pg=PA95&printsec=frontcover120

[13] Solvay, Additive Manufacturing Filament, Processing Guide, Specialty Polymers, Available: https://www.solvay.com/sites/g/files/srpend221/files/tridion/documents/180424-Solvay-launches-AM-ready-filaments-and-e-commerce-site-EN.pdf.pdf

[14] Soloman S., 2018, 3D Printing and Design, Khanna Publishing House, India. Available https://www.google.com/books/edition/3D_Printing_Design/6XQDEAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=petg+filament+properties&pg=PA202&printsec=frontcover

[15] Reports And Data, GlobeNewswire, 3D Printing Filament Market To Reach USD 9.47 Billion By 2026,  August 20, 2019,  [Online] Available: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/08/20/1904252/0/en/3D-Printing-Filament-Market-To-Reach-USD-9-47-Billion-By-2026-Reports-And-Data.html

[16] Bar-Cohen, Y., 2018, Advances in Manufacturing and Processing of Materials and Structures (Biometrics), 1st Edition, CRC Press, October 2018

Applications

Seals

Closures

Housings

Automotive

General Automotive Parts

Gears

Road Vehicle Systems

Transmissions

Rotary-Reciprocating Mechanisms

Fluid Systems

Fluid Power Systems

Cylinders

Valves

Gate Valves

Pressure Regulators

Pumps & Motors

Hvac

Compressors

Vacuum Technology

Energy

Heat Pumps

Transmission

Steering Components

Body Structure

Bumper

Auto Electronics

Car Electronics

Braking Systems

Car Interior Components

Combustion Engines

Control Systems

Valve Train

Other Components & Systems Of Internal Combustion Engines

Aerospace

Bearings For Aerospace

Textile Industry

Textile Machinery

Textile Machinery In General

Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing

Fused Filament Fabrication (Fff)

Consumer Goods

Sports Equipment & Facilities

Outdoor Sports Equipment

Environment Health Safety

Protective Equipment

Foot Protection

Material Handling

Continuous Handling

Conveyor Parts

Construction

Water Management

Electrical Engineering

Electronics

Display Devices

Oil & Gas Industry

Healthcare

Electronic Devices

Medical Equipment

Medical Equipment General

Dentistry

Dental Equipment

Hospital Equipment

Head Protection

Other Protective Equipment

Hinges

Pipelines

Plastics Fittings

Hand-Held Tools

Hand-Operated Tools

Chisels

Other Hand-Held Tools

Components For Electrical Equipment

Other Components For Electrical Equipment

Electrical Accessories

Electrical Housing

Sockets

Other Electrical Accessories

Lamps & Related Equipment

Lamps

Communications

Telecom Equipment

Mobile Phone

Paging Equipment

Audio & Video

Speakers

Other Audio

Video & Audio Visual Equipment

It

Office Machines

Panels

Car Accessories

Commercial Vehicles

Buses

Passenger & Cabin Equipment

Packaging

Food Packaging

Spools

Containers

Bottles & Jars

Cans & Tins

Cases

Boxes

Crates

Clothing Industry

Eyeglasses

Eyeglasses Frame

Clothes Fastenings

Agriculture

Agricultural Machines & Equipment

Plant Care Equipment

Lifestock Equipment

Forestry Equipment

Aquaculture

Fishing Equipment

Wood Technology

Woodworking Equipment

Woodworking Tools

Rubber & Plastic Industries

Rubber & Plastics Products

Rubber & Plastics Products In General

Composite Industry

Composite Reinforcements

Other Materials For The Reinforcement Of Composites

Building Elements

Elements Of Buildings In General

Doors

Windows

Installations In Buildings

Ventilation & Air-Conditioning Systems

Sanitary Installations

Lighting

Interior Lighting

Defense

Weapons

Decorative Applications

Domestic Electrical Appliances

Kitchen Equipment

Kitchen Utensils

Kitchen Furniture

Furniture

Small Kitchen Appliances

Cookware

Cutlery & Flatware

Other Kitchen Equipment

Cleaning Appliances

Shop Fittings

Shelving

Trolleys For Supermarket Purposes

Technical Products

Cosmetics

Miscellaneous Domestic & Commercial Equipment

Entertainment

Musical Instruments

Camping Equipment & Camp-Sites

Toys

Gadgets

Fused Deposition Modeling (Fdm)

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