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3D Rapid Prototyping Technology

Layered part

3D Rapid Prototyping (3D Printing)

3D Rapid Prototyping is the technology to build objects layer by layer from a 3D representation. Each new layer fuses to the previous one and bit by bit a solid part is built.

This technology is also known by the names of "3D Printing", "Rapid Manufacturing", "Layered Manufacturing", "Additive Manufacturing", "Solid Freeform Fabrication".

With this method of manufacturing the object is built directly from the 3D model with very little manual intervention, thus ensuring an exact representation of the 3D model within the accuracy of the technology.

Build time and material cost is proportional to the actual volume of the model, and largerly independent of its complexity.


  1. Rapid Prototyping on Wikipedia
  2. Castle Island - Worldwide Guide to Rapid Prototyping
  3. STL Format on Wikipedia
FDM machine schematic

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Parts are built layer by layer in an additive process. Extrusion heads lay down a very fine bead of thermoplastics to create each layer. Each layer has a height of 0.25 mm (0.01 inches).

The system uses engineering plastics like ABS or Polycarbonate. Because of this FDM parts have high mechanical resistance, withstand high temperatures and exhibit very little ageing over time. See also our Materials page.

Surface quality is medium, but smooth to the touch.

Parts can be sanded, drilled, tapped and painted.

FDM machines are marketed by Stratasys Inc., which also holds the trademark "FDM".

Moving Parts

Multiple parts can be nested inside each other like a chain or an object inside another object. You can build parts that slide, rotate, gears that mesh or a ball joint as one piece. A minimal clearance of 0.3 mm (0.012 inches) is required. Hollow parts are allowed as long as they have at least one drain hole.

Technical Details

0.25 mm (0.01 inches)
Maximum envelope WxDxH:
203 x 203 x 305 mm (8 x 8 x 12 inches)
Minimum feature size:
0.5 mm (0.02 inches)
Minimum wall thickness:
1.0 mm (0.04 inches)
Minimum clearance:
0.5 mm (0.02 inches)


  1. Fused Deposition Modeling on Wikipedia
  2. Stratasys Inc.
  3. Materials