Understanding the Elements of FDM 3D Printers

Filament-based 3D printing requires the use of different materials and components, let’s find out together the common components needed for printing

Printers that use filament are popular because they’re affordable, versatile, and pretty easy to use.

In this post, we’re going to talk about the important parts that make these 3D printers work. We’ll start with the 3D printer and the filament, which is what the printer uses to make your designs real. We’ll also talk about the nozzle that pushes out the filament and the printing plate where your design gets built.

We’ll cover the power supply, which is what keeps your printer running, the LED lights that help you see what’s happening, and the cooling fans that stop the printer from getting too hot and help the filament harden correctly.

We’ll also talk about the printing software. This is a program like Cura, Slic3r, or others that tells your printer how to build your design. We’ll explain what a print limiter is and how it helps control your printer.

Finally, we’ll discuss the solvent for media removal. This is not a part of the printer, but it’s a liquid you use to clean your prints or remove extra bits after printing.

By the time you finish reading this, you’ll know a lot about how filament 3D printers work. Let’s get started!


When diving into this innovative technology, you may come across various terms that can seem confusing. Two of these terms are Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).

Although they may seem different, they actually refer to the same process. To clarify this common confusion and help you better understand these terms, let’s take a closer look at FDM and FFF, their origins, and how they’re used in the 3D printing industry.

Here’s a comparison table to help outline the similarities and differences:

TermFused Deposition Modeling (FDM)Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)
OriginsThe term FDM was coined by Scott Crump, the co-founder of Stratasys, one of the pioneers in commercial 3D printing.The term FFF was created by the RepRap community (an open-source 3D printing movement) because Stratasys had a trademark on FDM.
ProcessFDM uses a thermoplastic filament, which is heated to its melting point and then extruded, layer by layer, to create a three-dimensional object.FFF also describes the process of laying down melted thermoplastic filament layer by layer to form a 3D object. The process is identical to FDM.
UsageThe term FDM is often used by commercial and industrial 3D printer manufacturers.The term FFF is typically used by open-source and desktop 3D printer manufacturers.

To put it simply, while the terms FDM and FFF may sound different, they refer to the same 3D printing process. The difference lies in who uses which term, based on historical and trademark reasons. No matter if a 3D printer is labeled as FDM or FFF, the underlying technology is the same.


3D printer

This is the main component needed for 3D printing. There are many types of 3D printers available on the market, so it is important to research carefully to choose the one that will meet your needs.


Filament is the material that is used by the 3D printer to create the printed object. There are many types of filament available, such as polycarbonate, PETG, nylon, ABS, and PLA.

Printing plate

The printing plate is the surface on which the printed object is placed during the printing process. It must be carefully leveled to ensure that the printed object has a firm, well-fitting base.


The nozzle is the component of the 3D printer that releases filament during the printing process. Nozzles can be manufactured in different sizes and materials, depending on the user’s needs.

Power supply

The power supply is needed to provide power to the 3D printer.

Printing software

Printing software is used to prepare the 3D model for printing and send commands to the 3D printer. There are many printing software available, both free and paid.

Print limiter

A print limer is a tool used to remove sharp edges or burrs from the printed object.

Solvent for media removal

During the printing process, some models may require the use of media to ensure the stability of the object during printing. A media removal solvent can be used to easily remove media once the object has been printed.

LED lights

Some 3D printers may include LED lights to illuminate the printing area during the printing process.

Cooling fans

Cooling fans are used to keep the temperature of the 3D printer at optimal levels during the printing process.

Example of FDM / FFF 3D printers

When it comes to filament 3D printers, there are many options available on the market. I would like to clarify that I have no affiliation with the manufacturers of these 3D printers; the information presented below is merely to provide illustrative examples.

Creality Ender 3: this is a very popular 3D printer among beginners due to its affordable price and ease of use. It offers great print quality and a solid user community for support.

Prusa i3 MK3: this 3D printer, produced by Prusa Research, is widely recognized for its excellent print quality, reliability, and rich support ecosystem. Although the price is a bit higher compared to other options, many users find the investment worth it.

Ultimaker S5: this is a high-end 3D printer, known for its reliability, precision, and ease of use. It is particularly popular among professionals and businesses that require top-notch print quality.

Anycubic i3 Mega: this 3D printer is another popular option for beginners due to its reasonable price and ease of use. While it does not offer all the features of high-end printers, it can still produce good quality prints.

Remember, the choice of a 3D printer depends on multiple factors, including your budget, your printing needs, ease of use, desired print quality, and level of community support. I hope these examples help you start your search to find the perfect filament 3D printer for you!

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