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Open source projects: the fused deposition modeling

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In this article we will see one of the best-known 3D printing techniques, its spread is due to the proliferation of desktop printing and open source projects that concern: the fused deposition modeling.

The operation of this technology takes place thanks to a system which enmaables the extrusion of the material (substantially works some varieties of plastics) in a selective way. This allows you to create the desired object through the construction of subsequent layers.

The FDM machine is composed of a working chamber in which the object is built, the extruder, a computer which pass the input to the processing and the plastic material to be extruded which is collected in coils. The extruder, which has a diameter equal to that of the lead of a pencil, must be capable of delivering the material in molten state to allow adhesion with that extruded in the previous layer. For the supports holding the piece during production, you can use the same extruder or, as some models, is used an extruder that extrudes different brittle materials or soluble (easy to remove).

The materials are currently workable ABS, polycarbonate and PLA; are used also some variants of these materials, but the most specific to the medical or industrial use.

The steps that constitute a processing means FDM are:

  • As with all other techniques necessary to pass input a CAD model already made;
  • The management software of the machine processes the design foreseeing: as will be placed the workpiece during machining, as will be extruded material that will form the piece, in which way it will be extruded support and other parameters. You can also produce multiple components if the size of the working chamber allow.
  • The machine builds the piece;
  • The piece is withdrawn from the working chamber paying attention to the removal of media.

As already mentioned the FDM was the star of the spread of some open source projects for the realizations of desktop printing housewives. This is because it was possible to use the technological knowledge no longer protected by patents but also because it is a very safe technique and therefore usable in the home. Among the open source projects you can quote the RepRap, the Fab @ Home, the Makerbot (the latter currently owned by Stratasys, a giant in the industry) and others. It is to recognize that thanks to them has spread and known 3D printing and developed further the culture of the Makers, ie individuals who prefer to design and manufacture as if what they want (this philosophy is also called Do It Yourself).

According to some scholars, thanks to these technologies, you are in a new industrial revolution that is shaking the world of manufacturing.

Edited by Salvatore Orlando, BEng Management Engineering.

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