FDM is the most common type of rapid prototyping due to it’s low cost. This is the type that you will be familiar with in school. FDM printers use a thermoplastic filament, which is heated to its melting point and then extruded, layer by layer, to create a three dimensional object.
FDM printers use two kinds of materials, a modeling material, which constitutes the finished object, and a support material, which acts as scaffolding to support the object as it’s being printed.
During printing, these materials take the form of plastic threads, or filaments, which are unwound from a coil and fed through an extrusion nozzle. The nozzle melts the filaments and extrudes them onto a base, sometimes called a build platform or table. Both the nozzle and the base are controlled by a computer that translates the dimensions of an object into X, Y and Z coordinates for the nozzle and base to follow during printing.
UPS’ experiment with in-store 3D printers apparently went off without a hitch — the shipping service has expanded the availability of 3D printing services from six test markets to nearly 100 locations across the US. While the hardware is still concentrated in a relatively small batch of cities, such as New York and Chicago, there’s now a much better chance that a shop near you has the gear for printing everything from prototypes to one-of-a-kind phone cases. There’s no word of any additional rollouts at this stage. However, it’s reasonable to presume that more stores will get on-the-spot object making if it proves popular with crafters nationwide.