Extrusion Deposition or Fused deposition modeling (FDM) was developed by S. Scott Crump in the late 1980s and was commercialized in 1990 by Stratasys. With the expiration of patent on this technology there is now a large open-source development community this type of 3D printer (e.g. RepRaps) and many commercial and DIY variants, which have dropped the cost by two orders of magnitude.
Fused deposition modeling uses a plastic filament or metal wire that is wound on a coil and unreeled to supply material to an extrusion nozzle, which turns the flow on and off. The nozzle heats to melt the material and can be moved in both horizontal and vertical directions by a numerically controlled mechanism that is directly controlled by a computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software package. The model or part is produced by extruding small beads of thermoplastic material to form layers as the material hardens immediately after extrusion from the nozzle. Stepper motors or servo motors are typically employed to move the extrusion head.
Various polymers are used, including acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC), polylactic acid (PLA), high density polyethylene (HDPE), PC/ABS, and polyphenylsulfone (PPSU). In general the polymer is in the form of a filament, fabricated from virgin resins. Multiple projects in the open-source community exist that are aimed at processing post-consumer plastic waste into filament. These involve machines to shred and extrude the plastic material into filament.
FDM has some restrictions on the shapes that may be fabricated. For example, FDM usually cannot produce stalactite-like structures, since they would be unsupported during the build. These have to be avoided or a thin support may be designed into the structure which can be broken away during finishing.