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The world of 3D printing has undergone a massive expansion in the past decade. Now, many of the best 3D printers are affordable enough for hobbyists and small-time production. But first, you must understand the varying types to choose the best printer. Below, we’ll discuss two popular 3D object prototyping methods that often get mistaken for one another: FFF vs FDM.
If you want a look into more 3D printer processes, you can check out some of our other articles. For example, we have one comparing DLP vs LCD 3D printers. And we have another broader that explains the differences between injection molding and 3D printing.
If you’re looking to make professional-grade products, it is likely better to use an FDM printer instead of an FFF.
At this point, there are many types of 3D printers, but the types of printers vary based on the materials they use to form objects. FDM and FFF printers are very similar because they both use the process of melting a plastic filament and laying it on it to create a 3D object. Everything is the same regarding the type of 3D printing material, navigation system, and creative style.
So, what, then, is the difference?
The answer is that there is no difference. Because terms describe the same process, which prompts another question: why two names?
And the answer to the second question is that two terms explain the same thing for trademark reasons.
FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) and FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) is perhaps the most common form of 3D printing. However, when 3D printers were first invented in the late 1980s and early 90s, the company Stratasys trademarked FDM, meaning no other company could use that term to describe their technology.
So, later on down the road, when other companies attempted to make similar technology, they couldn’t use the name most commonly associated with that specific style of printing, so the term FFF came into common use.
However, although FDM and FFF do the same thing, there are some differences to be aware of, given that one particular company is responsible for FDM, and FFF is a more general term.
If you finish this and want to keep exploring various printer types, check out our article on FDM vs SLA printers.
Always use your FDM or FFF printer in a room with suitable ventilation, as the fumes from thermoplastic material are toxic.
While this is in no way an absolute rule, FDM printers are usually considered higher quality. This is because Stratasys is a well-known, higher-end FDM printer manufacturer. So, while there are high-scale FFF, most are cheaper and produce prints that aren’t as high resolution or as durable.
Again, this isn’t a binding rule, but FFF printers are often more affordable than FDM printers. FFF printers range from around $100-$1,000. On the other hand, FDM units start closer to $200 and can reach upwards of $5,000.
STAT: The FDM printer was first invented in 1989 and patented in 1991. (source)