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What is FFF 3D Printing: Definition, Characteristics & Comparison

June 25, 2024

20 minutes read

3D printing is changing thanks to Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). You might also hear it called Filament Freeform Fabrication or even Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). What does FFF do? It’s an additive manufacturing process to make physical things from digital designs, one layer at a time. The main material it uses is a type of plastic that gets hot and melts. People are using FFF in all sorts of places, like at home with personal printers, and even in the aerospace industry.

Brief History and Evolution of FFF Technology

The start of FFF technology dates back to the late 1980s, thanks to S. Scott Crump, the original inventor and founder of Stratasys. His initial patent started the journey for today’s 3D printers. Since then, FFF technology has greatly improved. It’s now more user-friendly and adaptable. Plus, new types of materials like PETG and TPU have made it even more useful.

What Is FFF 3D Printing and How Does It Work?

FFF 3D printing, a type of 3D printing technology, operates on a relatively simple yet ingenious principle. It involves extruding thermoplastic material, which is heated to a semi-liquid state and deposited in layers to create a three-dimensional object.

Key to this process is the controlled movement of the print head along the X, Y, and Z axes, allowing precise deposition of the filament.

The Anatomy of an FFF 3D Printer

An FFF 3D printer comprises several essential components:

  • Extruder Head: The part that heats and extrudes the filament.
  • Filament Spool: Supplies the printing material.
  • Print Bed: The surface on which the printer creates the object.
  • Build Chamber: Encloses the printing area to maintain optimal conditions.
  • Stepper Motors: Facilitate the movement of the print head and print bed.

This setup enables the FFF printer to translate digital models into physical objects with remarkable accuracy and detail.

Technical Specs and Characteristics of FFF 3D Printing

Understanding the technical parameters and characteristics of FFF 3D printing is crucial for professionals in various industries.

Below, we delve into the nuances of FFF 3D printing, offering insights into its capabilities, limitations, and applications.

What are the Technical Parameters and Characteristics of FFF 3D Printing?

What is the Print Speed of FFF?

Print speed in FFF 3D printing is a critical factor influencing the efficiency and quality of the printing process and final product. Print speed is measured in millimeters per second (mm/s) and varies based on the printer’s capacity, the complexity of the print job, and the extrusion material used.

Generally, FFF printers operate at various speeds, typically 30 mm/s to 150 mm/s, often adjustable based on the specific project requirements. Higher speeds might expedite the printing process but could compromise the detail and accuracy of the print.

What is the Dimensional Accuracy of FFF?

Dimensional accuracy in FFF 3D printing refers to how closely the printed item matches the dimensions of the digital 3D model. Accuracy is critical in tasks where precision is paramount, for example, manufacturing aerospace parts or medical devices. Typically, the dimensional accuracy of FFF printers is within a few tenths of a millimeter. However, this can vary based on factors like printer calibration, environmental conditions, and the type of filament used.

What is the Common Layer Thickness of FFF?

Layer thickness, often measured in microns, is a pivotal aspect of FFF 3D printing. It impacts both print quality and speed. The typical range for layer thickness in FFF printing is about 50 microns to 300 microns. Thinner layers contribute to higher resolution and smoother surface finishes but increase the print time. Conversely, thicker layers speed things up but may lead to more visible layer lines and less detailed prints.


Warping is a common challenge in FFF 3D printing, where the corners or edges of the print curl upwards off the print bed. This issue often arises due to temperature variations when printing materials like ABS with a high thermal expansion coefficient. Maintaining a consistent temperature in the build chamber and ensuring proper bed adhesion help mitigate warping issues.

Layer Adhesion

Layer adhesion describes the bond between each filament layer in an FFF 3D print. Excellent adhesion is essential for the structural integrity of the printed object. Influencing factors include the printing temperature, the type of filament, and the printing speed. Improper adhesion between layers can lead to delamination, where layers separate from each other, compromising the strength and durability of the print.

Support Structure Requirements

Support structures in FFF 3D printing are necessary when printing designs with overhangs or complex geometries. These provide temporary support during the printing process but removable post-printing. The design and placement of support materials are crucial as they must provide adequate support while being easy to remove without damaging the final print.

Infill and Shell Thickness

Infill refers to the internal structure of a 3D printed object. And shell thickness determines the thickness of the outer walls. Both parameters significantly affect the strength, weight, and printing time. A higher infill percentage increases strength. But it also increases material usage and print time. In contrast, a thicker shell enhances the print surface quality and structural integrity.

Surface Finish Options

Surface finish in FFF 3D printing can vary from rough and layered to smooth and detailed, depending on the printer’s resolution, layer thickness, and the material used. Post-processing techniques such as sanding, painting, or chemical smoothing can significantly improve the finish quality, making FFF prints suitable for diverse applications, from functional prototypes to finished products.

The Complete FFF 3D Printing Process

Preparing the 3D Model

Creating a physical object using Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) starts well before the 3D printer begins its work. The first crucial step is preparing the 3D model. This stage involves several steps to ensure an optimal model for FFF 3D printing.

Steps in Preparing a Model for Printing:

  1. Design or Selection of the 3D Model: The process begins with creating a new 3D model using CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software or selecting an existing model. The model should align with the intended purpose and constraints of the FFF printer.
  2. Model Analysis and Repair: The next step is to analyze the model for errors. Holes, non-manifold edges, or other errors could affect the printing process. Tools are available to repair these issues, ensuring the model is watertight and print-ready.
  3. Model Optimization: Depending on the intended use of the printed object, the model may need further optimization for strength, weight, or aesthetic qualities. Optimization may involve adjusting wall thicknesses, adding supports, or modifying shapes to suit the FFF process better.
  4. Orientation and Slicing: The model is oriented for optimal printing results before it goes through slicing software. The software divides it into layers and generates the G-code, a set of instructions for the 3D printer.
  5. Material Selection: The final step is choosing the appropriate filament material. Options range from PLA (Polylactic Acid) to more specialized flexible materials like PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol) or TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane), each offering different properties like strength, flexibility, and heat resistance.

The Printing Process

The prepped 3D model moves to the actual printing process, where the FFF 3D printer brings the digital design to life.

Step-by-Step Printing Process:

  1. Printer Preparation: Pre-printing checks involve calibrating the print bed, ensuring the nozzle is clean, and loading the filament.
  2. Preheating Printer: The printer heats up to the required temperatures. The print bed and the extruder must reach specific temperatures suitable for the chosen filament.
  3. First Layer Adhesion: The first layer is crucial for the success of the print. It must adhere correctly to the print bed. Various adhesives or special surfaces often help achieve optimal adhesion.
  4. Layer-by-Layer Construction: The printer follows the G-code instructions to build the object layer by layer. The filament is extruded through the nozzle, solidifying quickly after being deposited.
  5. Monitoring and Adjustments: Throughout the printing process, monitoring is essential to ensure everything is proceeding correctly. Adjustments may be needed to address issues like warping or poor adhesion.
  6. Completion and Cooling Down: Once printing is complete, the object and the printer need time to cool down. Adequate cooling is crucial to maintain the integrity of the printed object.

Post-Processing Techniques

After the FFF 3D printing process is complete, post-processing techniques are often employed to enhance the quality and functionality of the printed object.

Common Post-Processing Methods and Best Practices:

  1. Support Removal: If the print included support structures, their careful removal is vital to avoid damaging the object.
  2. Surface Smoothing: Techniques like sanding, chemical smoothing, or using filler primers can be employed to improve the finish of the print.
  3. Painting and Sealing: Prints can undergo painting and sealing to enhance appearance and durability. Adding colors and finishes not available with the filament is also an option.
  4. Assembly and Integration: In cases where the final product consists of multiple printed parts, assembly is the final stage. Assembly might involve gluing, screwing, or snapping parts together.
  5. Quality Control: The last step involves checking the print for defects and ensuring it meets the required specifications and standards.

What Materials Are Used in FFF 3D Printing?

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) can utilize diverse materials to create three-dimensional objects. Each material possesses unique properties that make it suitable for specific applications within FFF printing.

Understanding these materials is essential for selecting the best filament for a given project, considering factors like strength, flexibility, heat resistance, and aesthetics.

PLA (Polylactic Acid)

PLA, or Polylactic Acid, is a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources like cornstarch or sugarcane. It’s one of the most commonly used materials in FFF 3D printing and is easy to use and environmentally friendly.

Main Properties and Suitability for FFF Printing:

  • Biodegradable and Eco-Friendly: Ideal for users looking for sustainable printing options.
  • Low Melting Point: Easy to print with minimal warping, suitable for beginners.
  • Wide Range of Colors and Finishes: Offers creative flexibility in design aesthetics.
  • Good Tensile Strength: Suitable for non-functional prototypes and decorative items.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

ABS is a petroleum-based thermoplastic. It’s popular in FFF 3D printing for its durability and strength. And a top choice in automotive applications, toys (like LEGO bricks), and consumer electronics.

Main Properties and Suitability for FFF Printing:

  • High Durability: Ideal for parts that require toughness and impact resistance.
  • Heat Resistant: Suitable for objects exposed to higher temperatures.
  • Can Be Smoothed with Acetone: Allows for a smoother finish, enhancing the aesthetic appeal.
  • Flexible When Compared to PLA: Offers a balance between rigidity and flexibility.

PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-Modified)


PETG is a modified version of PET (used in water bottles), enhanced with glycol to reduce brittleness. It combines the ease of use of PLA with the strength and durability of ABS, making it increasingly popular in FFF printing.

Main Properties and Suitability for FFF Printing:

  • Chemical and Moisture Resistance: Suitable for functional parts exposed to harsh conditions.
  • Good Impact Resistance and Durability: Ideal for both mechanical parts and everyday objects.
  • High Clarity and Gloss: Offers visually appealing prints with a smooth, glossy finish.
  • No Hazardous Fumes: Safer for indoor printing environments.

TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane)

TPU, or Thermoplastic Polyurethane, is a flexible, rubber-like material. Its elasticity and resistance to abrasion make it ideal for a range of products, from phone cases to auto parts.

Main Properties and Suitability for FFF Printing:

  • High Flexibility and Elasticity: Perfect for printing objects that require bending or stretching.
  • Abrasion and Tear Resistant: Ensures durability in high-wear applications.
  • Variety in Hardness Levels: Hardness can be chosen based on the flexibility required for the print.
  • Resistant to Oils and Greases: Suitable for industrial applications.


Nylon, a synthetic polymer, is renowned for its strength, flexibility, and durability. It has excellent mechanical properties. Diverse industrial applications and consumer goods use nylon.

Main Properties and Suitability for FFF Printing:

  • High Strength and Durability: Great for functional parts that require toughness.
  • Flexibility Without Being Brittle: Useful for parts that need some flexibility.
  • Resistant to Wear and Chemicals: Ideal for parts in demanding environments.
  • Can Absorb Moisture: Proper storage is essential, but nylon offers excellent layer adhesion.

PC (Polycarbonate)

Polycarbonate is a high-performance thermoplastic with exceptional strength and heat resistance. It’s commonly used in bulletproof glass, electronic components, and other products that require transparency and toughness.

Main Properties and Suitability for FFF Printing:

  • Exceptionally Strong and Impact Resistant: Suitable for protective gear and robust parts.
  • High Heat Resistance: Does not deform in high-temperature environments.
  • Optical Clarity: With a frosted glass-like appearance, polycarbonate is ideal for applications that require partial transparency.
  • Stiff and Stable: Ensures dimensional stability in printed parts.

PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol)

Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) is a synthetic polymer, best known as a water-soluble material. In FFF 3D printing, PVA is primarily used as a support material for complex structures rather than as a material for the final object itself.

Main Properties and Suitability for FFF Printing:

  • Water Solubility: Easily dissolvable in water, making it ideal for easy-to-remove supports.
  • Compatibility with Other Materials: PVA adheres well to plastics like PLA and PETG, providing reliable support for overhangs and intricate designs.
  • Non-toxic and Safe: As a biodegradable material, it’s safe for the environment and to use in various settings.
  • Good Thermal Stability: Allows consistent material extrusion without degradation during printing.

HIPS (High-Impact Polystyrene)

High-impact polystyrene (HIPS) is a versatile and economical material known for its strength and ease of use. It’s similar to ABS but offers better impact resistance, making it a popular choice for hobbyists and professionals.

Main Properties and Suitability for FFF Printing:

  • Impact Resistance: Provides robustness to printed objects, suitable for functional parts.
  • Solubility in Limonene: Like PVA, HIPS will dissolve, but it requires d-limonene, making it an ideal support material.
  • Easy to Print: Exhibits less warping than ABS, allowing a smoother printing process.
  • Paintable Surface: Easy to finish with paints and primers for aesthetic purposes.

ASA (Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate)

Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate (ASA) is a thermoplastic that offers similar properties to ABS but with added weather resistance. It’s known for its durability and is a top choice for outdoor applications.

Main Properties and Suitability for FFF Printing:

  • UV and Weather Resistance: Ideal for outdoor use where resistance to sun and weather elements is crucial.
  • High Durability: Maintains its properties over time, making it suitable for long-term applications.
  • Good Thermal Stability: Offers a stable printing process with less warping than ABS.
  • Versatile Finishing Options: Sanding, painting, or gluing creates diverse post-processing finishing possibilities.

Specialty Materials

Composites and Specialty Filaments:

  • Carbon Fiber Infused Filaments: Provide increased stiffness and strength, ideal for structural components and functional prototypes.
  • Wood-Infused Filaments: Create parts with a wood-like appearance and texture, suitable for decorative items.
  • Metal-Infused Filaments: Allow for prints with metallic aesthetics and increased weight, used in jewelry and decorative arts.
  • Glow-in-the-Dark and Color-Changing Filaments: Offer unique visual effects for creative and artistic projects.


  • Aerospace and Automotive: Carbon fiber filaments are ideal for creating lightweight yet strong components.
  • Art and Decor: Wood and metal-infused filaments provide a natural or luxurious finish to decorative pieces.
  • Functional Prototypes: Specialty filaments like conductive or magnetic materials are perfect for prototyping electronic components or tools.
  • Education and Research: Glow-in-the-dark and color-changing filaments feature in educational models and interactive art installations.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of FFF 3D Printing?

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), also known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), is a popular 3D printing technology. It offers many benefits and has a few limitations. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages is crucial for professionals and hobbyists to make informed decisions about employing this technology in projects.


  • Cost-Effectiveness: FFF printers are generally more affordable than other 3D printing technologies, making them accessible for personal use and small businesses.
  • Material Diversity: A wide range of materials can be used, from common plastics like PLA and ABS to advanced composites, offering versatility in applications.
  • Ease of Use: FFF printers are user-friendly, making them ideal for beginners and educational purposes.
  • Rapid Prototyping: Allows for quick production of prototypes, facilitating faster development cycles in design and manufacturing.
  • Customization and Complexity: FFF or FDM machines can produce complex geometries and customized parts without expensive tooling.
  • Accessibility: Widely available, with a large community for support and a vast body of shared knowledge and resources online.
  • Material Efficiency: Generates less waste than traditional subtractive manufacturing methods.
  • Flexibility in Design Changes: Easily change the digital model before printing new iterations, enhancing the product development process.
  • Reduced Lead Times: Significantly shortens the time from design to production.


  • Lower Surface Quality: Often requires post-processing to achieve a smooth finish, as layers are visible in the final product.
  • Limited Strength and Durability: FFF parts may have anisotropic mechanical properties, making them less robust than those made with traditional manufacturing methods.
  • Size Limitations: The printer’s build volume may restrict the print size.
  • Noise and Ventilation: FFF printers can be noisy during operation and may emit fumes, requiring proper ventilation, especially when printing with certain materials.

Applications of FFF 3D Printing in Various Industries

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printing, a transformative technology in manufacturing, has infiltrated various industries, revolutionizing the way products are designed, prototyped, and manufactured. Its versatility allows for its application in multiple sectors, each leveraging the technology to suit specific needs and objectives.

  • Aerospace: Making complex or lightweight components. Prototyping new designs, manufacturing tools, and jigs.
  • Automotive: Fabrication of custom parts, prototyping, tooling, and fixtures for assembly lines.
  • Healthcare and Medical: Producing patient-specific models for surgical planning. Custom prosthetics and orthopedic implants.
  • Architecture and Construction: Making architectural models. Complex structural component prototyping and custom design elements.
  • Education: Teaching aids and student projects. Research Prototypes in engineering and design courses.
  • Consumer Goods: Custom accessories, home decor items, and innovative product design and development.
  • Fashion and Art: Unique fashion accessories, custom jewelry, and art installations.
  • Robotics and Electronics: Prototyping and creating parts for robots, drones, and custom electronic enclosures.
  • Entertainment: Custom props and models. Intricate set pieces for movies, theatre, and exhibitions.

How much does an FFF 3D Printer Cost?

  • Hobbyist Printers: Ranging from $200 to $1,500, these are ideal for personal use, education, and small-scale prototyping. Such printers are generally smaller in size and offer a variety of features suitable for beginners and enthusiasts.
  • Industrial Printers: Prices range from $2,000 to over $20,000, catering to businesses and professional applications. These printers offer larger build volumes, higher precision, and advanced material compatibility. They also feature more robust hardware to handle continuous, high-demand printing.

How to Design Effective 3D Models for FFF Printing?

Designing for FFF 3D printing requires a nuanced understanding of the technology’s capabilities and limitations. Effective 3D models for FFF printing must consider factors such as material properties, printer resolution, and the end-use of the object. Adhering to specific design guidelines can significantly improve the success rate and quality of 3D printed parts.

Design Considerations Specific to FFF Technology

  • Wall Thickness: Ensure the wall thickness is sufficient for the material selected. Super-thin walls may not print correctly, while overly thick walls could lead to material wastage and increased print time.
  • Overhangs and Supports: Design to minimize overhangs beyond 45 degrees to reduce the need for support structures, which can affect surface finish and increase post-processing work.
  • Orientation for Printing: Consider the print orientation to optimize layer adhesion and minimize supports. Vertical orientation may be ideal for strength, while horizontal orientation can be better for surface finish.
  • Layer Height and Resolution: Match the layer height and resolution with the detail level in the model. Higher resolution increases print time but can achieve finer detailing.
  • Top and Bottom Layers: Ensure adequate top and bottom layers to prevent holes and gaps in flat surfaces.
  • Infill Percentage and Pattern: Adjust the infill percentage and pattern based on the required strength and weight of the object. Higher infill provides more structural strength but uses more material.
  • Thermal Properties: Consider the thermal properties of the molten material to prevent warping and shrinking, especially in larger prints.
  • Joint and Connection Design: If assembling multiple parts, design joints and connections with tolerances that account for printer accuracy.

Troubleshooting Common Issues in FFF 3D Printing

Successful FFF 3D printing often involves overcoming various challenges specific to the technology. Recognizing and resolving these issues is essential for producing high-quality prints.

  • Warping: Use a heated print bed, apply adhesives (like glue or hairspray), and ensure the print environment is draft-free to reduce warping, especially with materials like ABS.
  • Layer Adhesion Problems: Increase the extrusion process temperature, decrease the printing speed, and calibrate the printer to improve the melted material layer bonding.
  • Stringing and Oozing: Optimize retraction settings and reduce the printing temperature to prevent stringing.
  • Nozzle Clogging: Regularly clean the nozzle, use a high-quality filament, and ensure the correct printing temperature for the material to avoid clogs.
  • Poor Surface Quality: Calibrate the printer’s bed leveling, adjust the print speed, and ensure optimal extruder temperature for improved surface finish.
  • Inconsistent Extrusion: Ensure the filament is of good quality, the extruder gear is clean, and the filament diameter settings in the slicer software match the filament used.
  • First Layer Not Sticking: Use a heated build plate, raft, or brim, level the print bed accurately, and adjust the nozzle height for better first-layer adhesion.

How to Choose the Right FFF 3D Printer?

Selecting the right Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printer is crucial for achieving desired results in 3D printing projects. The choice between desktop and industrial printers, and factors such as size, quality, and price, significantly impact the output and efficiency of 3D printing projects. This guide will explore these considerations, including insights into prominent brands like Raise3D.

Do You Need a Desktop or Industrial FFF Printer?

  • Desktop FFF/FDM Printers:
    • Typically smaller in size, suitable for home or office environments.
    • Ideal for beginners, educators, and hobbyists.
    • Lower cost than industrial printers.
    • Suitable for smaller-scale projects, prototyping, and learning purposes.
    • Generally feature lower print speeds and smaller build volumes.
  • Industrial FFF/FDM Printers:
    • High-speed printing.
    • Greater build volume.
    • Suitable for manufacturing and professional use.
    • Higher precision and can use a wide range of materials.
    • Many have advanced features like heated chambers and high-temperature extruders.
    • Higher cost reflects advanced capability and durability.

What are Key Factors to Consider When Selecting an FFF 3D Printer?

Selecting the best printer is crucial for achieving desired outcomes in Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printing. This decision encompasses various factors, each influencing the printer’s performance and suitability for specific tasks.

Build Volume

  • Maximum Object Size: The build volume defines the largest object you can print. For larger projects, a printer with a substantial build volume is essential.
  • Flexibility in Printing Sizes: A larger build volume offers more flexibility, allowing for small and large prints without needing assembly.

Print Quality and Resolution

  • Layer Resolution: Measured in microns, the layer resolution affects the print’s detail level.
  • Surface Smoothness: Higher resolution printers can produce smoother surfaces, ideal for intricate designs and detailed models.


  • Budget-Friendly Options: Affordable models are available for beginners and hobbyists, though they might lack advanced features.
  • Investment for Quality: Higher-priced printers often come with enhanced features, durability, and precision, suitable for professional use.

Material Compatibility

  • Diverse Material Handling: Some printers are versatile enough to work with many materials, including PLA, ABS, PETG, and specialty filaments.
  • Specialized Printers: Certain printers are designed for particular materials, offering optimized performance.

Ease of Use

  • Intuitive Software: User-friendly software and interfaces make printing more accessible, especially for beginners.
  • Setup and Maintenance: Consider printers that are easy to set up, calibrate, and maintain over time.

Reliability and Durability

  • Consistent Performance: A reliable printer ensures consistent quality over repeated use.
  • Longevity: Durable construction and quality components contribute to the printer’s lifespan and long-term performance.

Support and Warranty

  • Manufacturer Support: Access to responsive and knowledgeable customer support can be invaluable, especially for troubleshooting.
  • Warranty Period: A comprehensive warranty reflects the manufacturer’s confidence in their product and offers peace of mind.

Community and Resources

  • Online Communities: Active user communities can provide valuable insights, tips, and shared experiences.
  • Learning Resources: Access to tutorials, guides, and other educational materials can significantly enhance the user experience.

Additional Considerations

  • Print Speed: Balancing speed with quality is essential; faster printers can increase productivity but may affect detail.
  • Noise Level: A quieter printer can be a significant advantage in home or office environments.
  • Connectivity Options: Consider printers with versatile connectivity options like Wi-Fi, USB, or Ethernet for ease of use.
  • Auto-calibration Features: Printers with automatic bed leveling and calibration features save time and reduce the learning curve for new users.
  • Heated Print Bed: A heated bed improves adhesion and reduces warping while using materials like ABS or Nylon.
  • Dual Extrusion Capabilities: Printers with dual extruders can print with two different materials or colors simultaneously, expanding creative possibilities.
  • Enclosed Build Chamber: An enclosed chamber maintains consistent temperature and reduces external interference when printing temperature-sensitive materials.


Raise3D offers a range of professional and industrial 3D printers, such as the DF2, Pro3 Series, E2CF, E2, Pro2 Series, RMF500, and the MetalFuse System for metal 3D printing.

Standout features include:

  • High-quality, easy-to-use printers suitable for office and manufacturing environments.
  • Capable of printing a variety of filaments with free slicing software and cloud platform.
  • Excellent technical support.
  • Industrial models like the RMF500 for high productivity and repeatability in demanding applications, including automotive and aerospace.

Raise3D printers offer cost-effective solutions for various manufacturing needs, from jigs and fixtures to quick prototyping, mass customization, and spare parts production.

Comparing FFF with Other 3D Printing Technologies

Understanding how FFF 3D printing compares to other technologies, such as Stereolithography (SLA), is crucial for choosing the right approach for specific projects. This section will delve into the nuances of these technologies, comparing them based on various critical factors.

FFF vs FDM: Understanding the Differences and Similarities

Despite common misconceptions, FFF and FDM essentially refer to the same 3D printing technology.

The terms are often used interchangeably, although FDM is a trademarked term by Stratasys, while FFF is the more general term for the same technology.

Nowadays, FFF and FDM 3d printers are basically the same type of machines, both coming with a heated chamber, a feature that only fused deposition modeling units used to have in the past.

FFF vs DLP: Understanding the Differences and Similarities

FFF and DLP are quite distinct in their approach to 3D printing. As we have already discussed, FFF 3d printing builds objects layer by layer using thermoplastic filaments.

Conversely, DLP employs ultraviolet (UV) light to cure and solidify a photopolymer resin. It involves projecting UV light onto a vat of liquid resin, hardening it layer by layer.

DLP is known for its accuracy, allowing for intricate details and smooth finishes, which is particularly advantageous in applications requiring high-resolution output.

DLP excels in printing smooth surfaces and fine details in dental and jewelry fabrication and similar tasks where precision is paramount.

Comparison Table

Comparison Factor FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) DLP (Digital Light Processing)
Material Compatibility Extensive range including PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, wood, metal-infused, soluble supports Primarily photopolymer resins; limited variety, specialized for detail
Product Applications Functional parts, prototypes, jigs, fixtures, home use, educational models, low-volume manufacturing Jewelry, dental models, miniatures, prototypes requiring high detail
Print Volume Generally larger, accommodating diverse project sizes Smaller, focused on precision
Surface Finish Visible layer lines; often requires sanding or other surface finishing techniques for a smooth surface Smooth finish with minimal post-processing; fine details are clearly visible
Cost Lower machine cost; consumables and filaments are relatively inexpensive Higher machine cost; consumables (resins) are more expensive, leading to higher operational costs
Print Speed Average speed varies; around 30-50 mm/s, translating to approximately 18-30 mm³/h Faster in terms of intricate details; approximately 35-75 mm³/h, depending on the complexity
Precision and Accuracy ±0.5 mm generally, depending on the printer and settings. Suitable for moderate detail; finer details may lack sharpness ±0.1 mm typically, offering higher precision. High-resolution capabilities, ideal for detailed and complex designs
Layer Thickness Can vary but has limitations in achieving ultra-fine layers Capable of achieving extremely thin layers for finer details
Color Options Allows multi-color printing with specific printers Typically limited to the color of the resin used
Operating Noise Tends to be noisier due to mechanical movements Operates more quietly
Heat Generation Generates more heat, requiring cooling systems Minimal heat generation
Environmental Factors Less sensitive to environmental factors Requires controlled lighting and temperature conditions
Part Strength Generally strong, especially with certain materials like ABS or PETG; suitable for functional parts Less strong compared to FFF; more suited for aesthetic or non-functional parts



Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) operates on fundamentally different principles when compared to FFF.

SLS 3d printers selectively fuses powder particles, layer by layer, to build up objects. This technique allows for the creation of intricate and mechanically robust parts, making it an excellent choice for functional prototypes and end-use applications in industries where strength and precision are critical.

While SLS offers better mechanical properties and freedom in design, it generally comes with higher operational costs and requires more sophisticated equipment and handling compared to FFF.

Comparison Table

Comparison Factor FFF 3D Printing SLS 3D Printing
Material Compatibility Extensive range including PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, wood, metal-infused, soluble supports. Limited to powdered materials, typically nylon, TPU, and other sinterable polymers.
Product Applications Functional parts, prototypes, jigs, fixtures, home use, educational models, low-volume manufacturing. Functional parts, complex geometries, high-strength applications, aerospace and automotive components.
Print Volume Generally larger, accommodating diverse project sizes. Can vary, but typically smaller than FFF due to the enclosed nature of the print chamber.
Surface Finish Visible layer lines; often requires sanding or other surface finishing techniques for a smooth surface. Smooth, consistent surface finish with minimal post-processing; capable of fine details.
Cost Lower machine cost; consumables and filaments are relatively inexpensive. Higher machine cost; powder materials can be expensive, leading to higher operational costs.
Print Speed Average speed varies; around 30-50 mm/s, translating to approximately 18-30 mm³/h. Slower overall build speed but capable of producing complex parts in a single build without supports.
Precision and Accuracy ±0.5 mm generally, depending on the printer and settings. Suitable for moderate detail; finer details may lack sharpness. High precision, typically within ±0.1 mm. Ideal for complex and intricate designs.
Layer Thickness Can vary but has limitations in achieving ultra-fine layers. Capable of very fine layers, often around 0.1 mm, depending on material and machine.
Color Options Allows multi-color printing with specific printers. Limited to the color of the powder used; often grey or white, can be dyed post-printing.
Operating Noise Tends to be noisier due to mechanical movements. Relatively quiet, with most noise coming from the sintering laser and supporting equipment.
Heat Generation Generates more heat, requiring cooling systems. High heat required for sintering, but typically contained within the print chamber.
Environmental Factors Less sensitive to environmental factors. Requires controlled temperature and humidity for optimal powder handling and storage.
Part Strength Generally strong, especially with certain materials like ABS or PETG; suitable for functional parts. Parts are dense and strong, suitable for high-strength and functional applications.

Future Trends and Developments in FFF Technology

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) technology, a cornerstone in the world of 3D printing, continues to evolve, driven by advancements in materials, printer capabilities, and expanding applications. As we look towards the future, several emerging trends are set to redefine the scope and efficacy of FFF technology.

Emerging Materials, Printer Advancements, and Potential Future Applications

Innovative Materials

  • Advanced Composites: Incorporation of carbon fiber, glass, and other reinforcing materials into filaments for enhanced strength and lightweight properties.
  • Eco-Friendly Filaments: Development of biodegradable and recycled materials, aligning with global sustainability efforts.
  • High-Performance Thermoplastics: Introduction of materials with superior heat resistance, durability, and chemical stability for industrial applications.

Printer Technological Advancements

  • Faster printing: Innovations accelerating print times without sacrificing quality.
  • Better Precision and Resolution: Improved nozzle technology and motion control systems produce finer details and smoother finishes.
  • Scalability: Development of printers with larger build volumes to accommodate large-scale projects and batch production.
  • Automation: Incorporation of AI and machine learning for predictive maintenance, quality control, and streamlined workflows.

Future Applications

  • Medical and Dental: Custom implants, prosthetics, and surgical models tailored to individual patient needs.
  • Aerospace and Automotive: Lightweight, durable components contributing to fuel efficiency and performance.
  • Construction and Architecture: On-site printing of architectural elements, potentially revolutionizing building processes.
  • Customized Consumer Goods: Personalized products, from wearable technology to home decor, tailored to individual preferences.


FFF 3D printing is leading a technology transformation. It’s shaking up sectors from medicine to aerospace with advanced materials, improved printers, and countless uses.

How does it work? FFF 3D printing uses heat to convert a plastic string into a 3D object. The process requires designing a 3D model, picking materials, and preparing the printer. The printer then heats up and starts building the desired object in layers. Afterward, the object can undergo processes like painting and quality checking.

FFF 3D printing is easy to use and has many applications, from creating everyday items to fabricating parts for spaceships.

For us at Raise3D, this opens up a world of opportunities. By harnessing these advancements, Raise3D is expanding what’s possible with 3D printing, sparking innovation across many industries.

Ready to join this journey? Contact Raise3D today, and we’ll help you unlock the full potential of FFF 3D printing. Together, we can mold the future and make the unimaginable happen.

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