One of the earliest and most common methods of making parts one layer at a time is extrusion, also known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM, trademarked by Stratasys) and Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). In extrusion, material is extruded through one or more nozzles. The nozzles move across an X-Y plane, depositing the material layer by layer. Once done, the 3D printer’s build table shifts along the Z-axis, and another layer is extruded (deposited) onto the previous layer. This process is repeated until the desired object is built.
The earliest company to develop extrusion 3D printers was Stratasys. Once certain patents expired, extrusion 3D printers exploded onto the maker scene, beginning with the RepRap and then the MakerBot printers. Soon after, extrusion-based 3D printers became the dominant form of 3D printing.
Extrusion-based 3D printers are available in build sizes that range from 5 in. x 5 in. x 5 in. (some in the jewelry industry are smaller) to more than 36 in. x 36. In. x 36 in.
The major players in this industry are:
3D Platform—the company makes large platform-style extrusion-based systems.
BigRep—This company builds systems that make very large objects, beyond 3 ft by 3 ft by 3 ft
Desktop Metal—this company offers extrusion systems that work with metal materials
Lulzbot–Now a part of FAME 3D, a service provider that purchased the company in Nov of 2019. Lulzbot systems are smaller, more desktop style extrusion 3D printers.
Markforged—this company offers extrusion systems that work with metal materials.
Rize—This company makes 3D printers with FFF and Augmented Polymer Deposition (APD), the company’s patented hybrid process that combines industrial material extrusion and functional ink jetting.
Stratasys—the originator of the extrusion-based technology is calls Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). The company makes extrusion printers in a range of sizes. MakerBot, now owned by Stratasys is also one of the makers of extrusion-based 3D printers.
Ultimaker—This company makes desktop-style extrusion 3D printers.
There are a number of other companies that make extrusion style printers. These other systems tend to be priced at less than a couple of thousand dollars and are geared more towards the artistic and hobby markets.