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5 Things to Know When Buying an FDM Printer

Rob Levesque Senior Marketing Content Manager
Robert Levesque 3월 29, 2024
3월 29, 2024

5 Things to Know When Buying an FDM Printer

3D printing is a manufacturing technology that’s become widely available to everyone from leaders in manufacturing to at-home hobbyists. For industrial-grade applications, FDM (fused deposition modeling) technology is sought for its precision, reliability and repeatability. Stratasys pioneered additive manufacturing with the invention of FDM technology in the late 1980s. Over the years, we’ve seen customers big and small transform their manufacturing operations with the help of our growing range of Stratasys FDM technology printers.

With a wealth of printer manufacturers and models to choose from, determining where to even start your purchasing journey of selecting the right FDM printer can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this buying guide of 5 things to know and consider when researching FDM printers.

  1. Application Requirements
    Above all, your application requirements will drive the selection of the specific FDM printer model. What types of objects will be manufactured? What are their volume, size and performance requirements? Stratasys FDM printers are suitable for advanced conceptual models, functional prototypes, manufacturing tools and production-grade parts, offering a range of part accuracy tolerances and material options.

    Just look at how Graco Inc. utilizes the F370CR and Nylon-CF10 to solve their tooling challenges.

    Factors such as build quality and the reliability of the 3D printer are paramount so let’s drill down into two mechanical features that contribute to build quality:

  2. Avoiding Filament Contamination
    Many printers use an open filament spool, meaning filament can absorb moisture from the air and be coated in contamination (like dust). Your printer should have rubber gaskets around the spool chambers. These gaskets are used across all Stratasys printers.

  3. Servo Motor vs. Stepper Motor
    Depending on your application requirements, printers with stepper motors may render an inferior build quality. Stepper motors measure the position of the printer head by a process usually referred to as “dead reckoning”: the motor simply counts the number of steps the motor has moved the head. This means there is no midway-point to check if the head moved the requested amount. As such, especially when cheaper bearings start to fail or there are model errors the print head will "drift" during the print.

    On the other hand, selecting an FDM printer that uses a servo motor ensures a better, faster build with greater print precision. Servo motors feature encoders that measure the head position, so you always know the printer head location and distance moved. This allows the printer operator to adjust for it in a closed loop control manner — no shifting layers mid print. Servo motors also operate at a faster speed than stepper motors.

    Next, these elements often get overlooked or aren’t assessed thoroughly in the selection process:

  4. Software
    In addition to the 3D modeling software you use, you also need software to efficiently manage the printing process. Stratasys GrabCAD Print is our core print preparation software that allows users to work within their native CAD system and print directly from CAD files without converting and fixing STL files, avoiding data loss and inaccurate prints.  Every Stratasys FDM printer comes with free access to GrabCAD Print which streamlines the CAD-to-print workflow with features such as notifications, collaborative tools, and 3D slicer technology that allows designers to create and modify 3D models before going to print. We also offer enhanced solutions such as GrabCAD Print Pro with even greater functionality.

  5. Ease of Use, Training Guides, and Resources
    There is a learning curve to 3D printing and becoming an expert takes time. The good news is FDM technology is one of the easiest 3D printing technologies to learn and operate. And Stratasys makes it even easier when you purchase a Stratasys FDM printer. Users receive access to our expansive network that includes training videos and documentation, software updates, and service support to keep your printer at optimal performance.

    As this guide suggests, not all 3D printers are created equal. Stratasys offers a full range of FDM printers that can tackle some of the toughest industrial-grade production challenges not met by conventional manufacturing methods or other 3D printing technologies. Our FDM printers are built for efficiency to meet today’s production demands with the scalability you need for tomorrow.

 

Learn more about our full line of FDM printers here.

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