FDM with Invisible Seams

While there are a huge number of variations on the basic design of 3D printers, most printers either use an extruder to distribute the material onto a build plate, which is known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or use a high-powered device to fuse together liquid particles of material in a build tank, called stereolithography (SLA). Regardless of the method of production, both types of printers produce pieces layer by layer. While layers are clearly visible with FDM, however, you get a much smoother finished product with printers that use SLA technologies. If the recent patent filing by Stratasys comes to fruition, this might be about to change.

The Debate

Since nearly the beginning, 3D printers have chosen their side in the debate between FDM and SLA. FDM fans love that the machines produce less mess and SLA advocates believe that the process makes stronger parts without the visible seams found in FDM. If, however, an FDM process was able to produce the solid exterior found in SLA prints, this could upend the entire debate.

The Patent Filing by Stratasys

In Stratasys’ recent patent filing, the company proposes technology that would hide the seams of an FDM printer. According to 3dprint.com, the filing explains,”The method includes generating a contour tool path that defines an interior region of a layer of the 3D model, where the contour path comprises a start point and a stop point, and where at least one of the start point and the stop point is located within the interior region of the layer.” Essentially, this means that the printer would print two layers at the same time, one along the other edge and another on the inner edge, which would eliminate the appearance of seams. On the surface, this seems like an elegant and simple solution to one of the most frequently cited complaints of FDM printers.

What are your thoughts on this possible new technology? Do you think that, without layers, FDM is the clear leader in printing technology? Let us know in the comments.

If you want to see the power of 3D printing for yourself, let us print you a sample part on our Stratasys uPrint SE or MakerBot Replicator.