FFF Technology

3D printing

3D printing (additive production, spatial printing) is the general name for incremental production methods that differ in several ways: how the subsequent layers are applied, the materials used, the dimensional accuracy, the finishing quality and the processing requirements.

FFF 3D printing technology

FFF, or Fused Filament Fabrication, is one of the 3D printing techniques known for its versatility. This method of production is used to create prototypes, tools and final products; it is used in the automotive, molding, industrial design, industrial automation and medical sectors as well as others.

In FFF technology, thermoplastics such as PA and ABS are used. The material is released in in the form of a strand. The printing process consists of applying layers of material up to the full height of the model. The material is applied in a plastic state, heated to its melting point as it is forced through the nozzle.

Traditional production methods and FFF

In the case of traditional methods (CNC), the production of an object involves processing a block of material removing unnecessary parts. This involves a lot of waste. FFF is an additive (incremental) method, which means that subsequent layers of material overlap gradually until a three-dimensional model is formed. The only waste is the supports that are necessary to maintain the model’s geometry and are removed after the print is completed. Consumption of raw materials is therefore limited.

Other differences with FFF technology include the lack of need to plan different stages of processing and the project can be produced in one step (3D printing). There is no obligation to choose the right tools for different stages of production, as is the case with CNC. The role of the operator is also limited – after loading the project and turning on the device, the only thing to keep in mind is to ensure enough filament when printing large items.

The advantages of FFF compared to other 3D printing technologies

The main advantages of FFF compared to other additive production methods (SLA, SLS, MJ/MP) are primarily the optimal cost of implementing technology in business, as FFF machines are affordable for short series production.

Another advantage is that there are no special guidelines for setting up a 3D printer. The machine can operate in the machine room, on the production line, but also in the design office or in the prototype room. For normal operation, simple ventilation is sufficient.

Another advantage of the technology is the ease of use of the devices. One day of training is enough to become familiar with the operation of the machine and to understand how the 3D printer works. Other 3D technologies are more complex and require more knowledge, experience and qualified staff.

Another important aspect is the durability of prints. 3D models are printed in plastic such as ABS, PC-ABS, ASA or PA, which allows high-strength models to be obtained that are also resistant to high operating temperatures.

FFF is a technology that does not require complex machining. Apart from the detachment of supports (if present in a given project), no other work is required to be able to start using a 3D-printed object.

FFF and FDM™

Technologically, there is no difference between FFF and FDM™ and these concepts can be used interchangeably. FDM™ (Fused Deposition Modeling) is a proprietary name.

FFF technology step by step

The printing process consists of the following stages:

  1. Computer 3D model
  2. Preparing the file for printing
  3. Configuring the 3D printer
  4. Printing
  5. Post-processing (optional)

In order to be able to print any object in 3D, a 3D model created in CAD is needed. Any model can be drawn by a designer, but it is also possible to scan it in 3D.

The next step is to prepare the file for printing. This process is carried out with software compatible with your printer (e.g. Simplify3D). The 3D model created in a computer program is transformed into G-Code, the software language for each command given to a 3D printer. For models with complex shapes, the software generates support – because the material cannot be applied in the air.

Printer configuration involves turning on and performing basic calibration tasks that take place automatically. The right amount of filament on the spool should also be ensured and the working table should be prepared.

The entire printing process is automatic and does not require an operator. The engineer can only control whether or not to add filament (for large models). When the process is completed, the printer stops and the model gradually cools.

When the bolts are opened, the operator removes the print and manually removes the printed supports – the elements necessary to maintain maximum 3D fidelity. If required, the engineer will subject the model to further processing, e.g. grinding or painting.

Production materials

FFF is 3D printing using filaments.

Filaments are thermoplastic materials commonly used in the plastics industry such as ABS, ASA, PET-G or PA.

The materials differ from each other in terms of impact resistance, tearing resistance, elasticity, temperature resistance, scratch resistance, and UV resistance. Selecting the right filament depends primarily on the type of 3D print. Other properties will be needed for final items and spare parts, and others for forms, gauges or prototypes. Other requirements will be also necessity in the food industry (filaments for food contact) and consumer electronics (electrostatic dissipative).

OMNI3D offers a complete palette of filaments based on customer needs and expectations: PA-6/66 HD, ABS-42, PC-ABS-47, ASA-39, PET-G-32, HIPS-20, PET-G-32 ESD.

Find out about the materials used by OMNI3D!

Industrial applications of FFF technology

Stable technology, a professional 3D printer, and a wide range of print materials make FFF technology the ideal choice in many industries, with more applications available each day.

However, it is worth noting that not every 3D printer is designed for industrial use. Small desktop 3D printers have many limitations – their work area is unsuitable for creating a series of products in one print or large functional models, and the lack of a heated chamber leads to the shrinkage of thermoplastic materials.

Factory 2.0 Production System is an industrial 3D printer that has one of the largest work areas on the market (500 x 500 x 500 mm), two extruders, a enclosed and heated chamber and automation functions. These features allow for the most complex printouts with support and large prints of durable thermoplastics while maintaining the highest precision.

Case Studies