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How to 3D print with filament: fused deposition modeling

Master fused deposition modeling with filament for 3D printing. Learn the techniques and unleash your creative potential
How to 3D print with filament: fused deposition modeling

How to 3D print with filament: fused deposition modeling 

When people refer to 3D printing in a general way, they often mean a specific kind of 3D printing: fused deposition modeling. 

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a 3D printing technology that uses a filament, or thermoplastic material, which is melted and extruded through a nozzle to create an object. The object is built up layer by layer from the bottom up. 

Also known as Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), this is an additive manufacturing process that builds one layer on another and is able to create shapes that were not previously possible with classic subtractive manufacturing.

FDM is often used for prototyping and low-volume manufacturing because it is relatively fast and inexpensive compared to other 3D printing technologies. FDM printers are available in a variety of sizes, with some capable of printing objects as large as a human being. 

One of the benefits of FDM is that it can use multiple materials and colors, which allows for greater design flexibility. FDM printers are widely available and more user-friendly every year, making them a good option for those new to 3D printing.

What are the Components of a 3D Printer

The three main components of a 3D printer are the build platform, the extruder assembly, and the controller electronics. The build platform is where the object being printed is constructed. The extruder assembly consists of the nozzle head and the filament feed mechanism. The controller electronics control the movement of the extruder assembly and manage the flow of material. 

Together, these three components work to create three-dimensional objects from digital models.

What is a filament, and what is it made of?

The filament is a type of 3D printing material that is used to create 3D objects. It is made up of a long, thin strand of material that is fed through a 3D printer. The printer heats the filament and extrudes it onto the build platform, where it cools and hardens into the desired shape. 

There are many different types of filament, each with its own unique properties. Common filaments include ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), PLA (polylactic acid), and PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol). 

Once you gain experience in 3D printing, you may well have applications for more diverse filaments. Filaments can be made from different materials, such as plastic, metal, or even wood. Some filaments are also infused with other substances, such as colorants or fillers, to give them specific characteristics. 

When choosing a filament for your project, it is important to consider the properties of the material and how it will interact with your 3D printer.

How to load filament into your 3D printer

Before you can start printing with your 3D printer, you need to load filament. Depending on the type of printer you have, there are different methods for loading filament, and you’ll need to check for your specific model.

However, the general steps are mostly the same. First, make sure that your printer is turned off and unplugged. Next, locate the filament spool and insert it into the filament chamber. Once the spool is in place, thread the filament through the guide tube and into the extruder. Finally, turn on your printer and feed the filament into the extruder until it reaches the melting chamber. At this point, you should be ready to start printing.

How to print with filament

3D printers use filament, a long strand of plastic, to create three-dimensional objects. The filament is fed into the printer through a spool and melted by the build plate. As the object is built, the filament cools and solidifies, creating a strong bond between layers. 

One reason 3D printing has become so wildly popular is that you can use almost any material as filament, including PLA plastic, ABS plastic, wood, metal, and even chocolate. 

However, not all materials are compatible with all printers. For example, some metals require a higher melting temperature than standard printers can achieve. As a result, it's important to choose the right filament for your printer before you start a print job.

To print with filament, start by loading the spool of filament onto your printer. Once the spool is in place, select the type of filament you're using in the printer's settings menu. 

Then, upload the model file you want to print onto your computer and send it to the printer. The printer will begin heating the build plate and extruding the filament according to the model file. 

Once the print job is completed, remove the object from the build plate and allow it to cool completely before handling it. With a little practice, you'll be able to produce high-quality prints using any type of filament. 

Normal challenges to 3D printing

Anyone who has ever tried to print with filament knows that it can be a bit tricky!

Following are some tips for when your 3D printing experience isn’t quite what you had hoped it would be. Remember, it’s normal to run into challenges when you’re first learning how to 3D print with filament.

Some of the common problems you’ll encounter include your filament getting tangled, layering issues, and even the 3D printer overheating. 

3D Printing with filament: tips and troubleshooting

Filament tangling

Check your filament for any knots or tangles. The filament can get tangled by not maintaining proper tension after you remove the spool from the 3D printer.  Store it on a filament rack and use a brace or clip to maintain proper tension. 

If your filament is tangled, it won't feed properly and could cause your print to fail. 

If you are unable to untangle it, you may need to carefully cut away any knots or tangles with a sharp knife. Once you've removed the knots, try feeding the filament through again to see if that fixes the problem.

Again, prevention is the best cure. Don’t store your spools on their side, as that will allow the loops of filament to loosen and fall over each other, becoming more likely to tangle when you reload them onto your 3D printer.

Slicer settings

Check your slicing settings. If you're using too much infill, your print will be heavier and more likely to fail. Likewise, if your object is too small or has too many intricate details, it might be more prone to failure. 

If you're not sure what settings to use, try experimenting with different values until you find a sweet spot. One of the benefits of 3D printing is the ability to iterate easily; don’t be afraid to make changes.

Level your build plate

Next, make sure that your build plate is level. An uneven build plate can cause your print to warp or distort, making it more likely to fail. You can usually level your build plate by adjusting the screws on the underside of the printer. If your printer doesn't have adjustable screws, you can try using shims or adhesive tape to level it out.

Layers failing to attach properly

Another problem that can occur when 3D printing is that the layers fail to attach properly. This can be caused by several factors, such as incorrect settings, poor calibration, or a dirty build platform. 

  • If the layers are not bonding correctly, it can cause the print to be weak or even fall apart. In severe cases, it can also cause the print head to become jammed. 
  • Changing the settings may be enough to solve the problem, as your temperature may be set too low for the filament, and a higher temperature will make a stronger bond. Decreasing your print speed slightly could also have a positive impact.
  • If the issue is due to poor calibration, recalibrating the 3D printer may be necessary, but this is too much to cover here, and will be its own topic for another blog post!
  • Finally, if the issue is due to a dirty build platform, clean the platform and apply new adhesive as necessary. 

Stringing or oozing

Stringing is one of the most common issues faced while 3D printing. Stringing (or oozing) occurs when small strands of filament are left behind between two extruded filament lines. The causes of stringing are manifold, but there are a few things that you can do to reduce the amount of stringing in your prints. 

  • First, make sure that your printer nozzle is clean and properly maintained. A clogged nozzle will cause stringing as the filament cannot be extruded evenly. 
  • Second, try increasing the temperature of your printer nozzle. This will usually reduce the amount of stringing, as the filament will be less viscous and will flow more easily through the nozzle. 
  • Finally, use a retraction setting in your slicing software to minimize the amount of filament that is extruded while your printer head moves between objects. By following these simple tips, you can hopefully reduce the amount of stringing in your 3D prints.

Overheating 3D printer

Another issue you may run into from time to time is your 3D printer itself overheating, and there are a few things you can do to fix the problem. 

  • First, check the fan to make sure it is working properly. If the fan is not working, the printer will overheat and eventually shut down. 
  • Second, increase the ventilation in the room where the printer is located. This will help to keep the air around the printer cool and prevent it from overheating. You might need to move it farther from the wall.
  • Make sure that the power supply is not overloaded. If the power supply is overloaded, it will cause the printer to overheat and eventually shut down. 
  • By taking these steps, you can prevent your 3D printer from overheating and improve its performance.

The main thing to remember as you get started with 3D printing is this: don’t be afraid to try. It’s a technology that is uniquely positioned for experimenting and learning. 


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