Getting 3D printed objects to stick to the build plate can sometimes be a chore. However, with our handy guide you'll understand more about bed adhesion and how to get your 3D prints to stick.
Bed adhesion is the ability of 3D printed plastic to “stick” to the build plate while printing. When 3D prints do not stick to the build plate, you can get curled, shifted, and disastrous results. Makers use varying types of 3D printing surfaces to get objects to stick to the plate while printing.
Most commonly, 3D printers use aluminum, stainless steel, glass, Buildtak, kapton tape, PET tape, masking tape, or PEI film. But there is not a single bed type that works best for the adhesion of every type of filament. So let’s discuss what the important factors are influencing bed adhesion.
Bed adhesion comes down to three factors:
Wetting the Bed
Wetting refers to the ability of a liquid to conform and stick to a solid surface. When filament is extruded onto a build plate, it tries to conform to the build surface during printing. Ideally, the plastic will stick to a build surface that has a high surface area between it and the plastic. For large parts, the surface area contacting the build plate is large. Therefore, the ability of the print to stick to the build plate is usually quite large. This is why brims are often added to the base of prints in order to increase the contact surface area. This improves adhesion significantly.
Thermal expansion describes the change in dimensions of an object at various temperatures. Temperature differences between the bottom of a print and the top can cause the edges of an object to peel up during 3D printing. This is problematic for materials like ABS that require heated build plates for printing. Unfortunately, there is a delicate balance between thermal expansion and 3D printing. Plastic layers must cool down somewhat in order to build a 3D object at all, but not so much as to cause this edge-peeling, also known as warping.
All of that said, thermal expansion can be dealt with as long as appropriate precautions are taken during printing.
The temperature of the bed and the enclosure are both important aspects of bed adhesion. This sets the temperature of the bottom layers and the temperature of the surrounding air to reduce thermal expansion. A uniform temperature during 3D printing makes warping less likely and better adhesion will be obtained.
To adhere filament to the bed, it is important that the nozzle is a consistent and reasonable distance from the build plate. There is a distance where the filament is close enough to the build plate that it will stick to it. However, too close and the nozzle will rip previously printed materials off the build plate. This is further elaborated upon in our troubleshooting guide.
There are many things you can do to create a good surface for 3D prints to stick to:
Adding a Heated Bed
Higher bed temperatures ensure that the printed filament stays molten for a longer time. This helps the filament stick to the bed by giving it more time to do so.
However, too much heat and the print can lose dimensional stability. This occurs when the weight of higher layers squish lower layers before they have cooled sufficiently. If a print is warping off the build plate, increasing the bed temperature 5 degrees at a time can help. If the print “looks melted” when finished, try decreasing the bed temperature by 5 degrees.
Coating the Bed
These techniques essentially “glue” the print to the build surface.
If you’ve tried the above methods and still can’t get your prints to stick, here are two unorthodox methods of getting prints to stick that should help you save some large and unruly prints.
Roughing Up the Bed
In addition to increasing visible surface area using a brim, microscopic surface area (i.e. roughness) can be increased on a build plate via sanding to improve 3D printing adhesion. This method led to makers printing with frosted/roughened glass beds for print adhesion.
Typically, it is enough to use a fine grit sandpaper (600 or above) to lightly scratch the glass. This creates microstructures for the print to stick to without harming the glass in the long term. This method results in a slightly more matte finish than printing directly on polished glass.
Duct Tape During Printing
If you have an otherwise perfect print that keeps peeling up halfway through, use duct tape! You can pause the print and tape the brim edges that are warping back to the build plate. As strange as this sounds, it works – though it may not be a long-term solution.
Feature image source: airwolf3d.com
License: The text of "3D Printer Bed Adhesion – All You Need To Know" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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