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3D Printer Glass Bed – What to Consider & Which to Buy

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The ideal build plate for the job typically depends on the materials you are printing. However, if you're in search of a perfect first layer and effortless print removal, a glass print plate is exactly what you need. Read on as we look at the benefits of a 3D printer glass bed and what to look for when shopping for your own.

The Glass Bed

Thermal Glass for 3D Printer Platform
Thermal Glass for 3D Printer Platform Source: amazon.com

A 3D printer glass bed is arguably the best option when aiming for a flawless print bottom. Not only that, it’s remarkably easy to remove prints from glass (providing your bed was clean before the print).

In fact, around the 3D printing community, the joke goes that removing a print from a glass platform is so easy that your print risks sliding along your glass bed, should your printer accidentally get knocked.

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3D Printer Glass Bed: The Benefits

Removing a print from the build plate
Removing a print from the build plate Source: ultimaker.com

It’s widely accepted that no one build plate is best; selecting a print bed largely depends on what you want to print. Glass as a bed for your 3D printer, however, gives many benefits that are worth considering.

Here are the characteristics and advantages of glass that you should keep in mind when in the market to replace your print bed.

  • Flatness – Print beds need to be flat throughout printing to avoid running into errors. Glass has a high modulus of elasticity and is thermally stable. Therefore, it remains flat and will ensure your bed’s leveling remains consistent throughout. After all, the tedium of leveling and calibration are never fun.
  • Smooth Finish – Designers want the bottom of their prints to be as soft as possible; glass guarantees such a finish, giving a mirror-like, glossy base that cannot be achieved by most bed surfaces. Having a rough bottom is frowned upon because the imperfections can be transferred to other parts of the print.
  • Cost – A bed should save on expenses in the long term. This means that the printer should not require a replacement or reapplication on a regular basis, or after every print. In the longer term, a 3D printer glass bed will save you money and hassle from replacement and reapplication.
  • Easy Clean-up – Beds end up with grease, dust, and unwanted plastic fragments that result in an uneven print surface. Therefore, they require occasional wiping to ensure they remain clean before prints. Unlike most beds, it is easier to spot dirt on a glass platform because of its glossy nature. This makes it easier to clean a glass bed with acetone or a regular glass cleaner.
  • Easy Removal – No one wants to use force when removing a print from a bed surface because the print is stuck. The energy can cause damage to the item and waste hours of print time. Therefore, designers should opt for beds that don’t stick too much to the print.
  • Durability – A good number of surfaces cannot stand repeated use because of the heating and contraction. Plastic or acrylic bases, for example, will require replacement after a few prints because the surface will start to peel off. But glass rarely needs replacement because it hardly wears out and it can be used for several prints without the need for a replacement. Durable glass like tempered glass will not easily shatter or crack when exposed to high strains because it is manufactured to be more tolerant.
  • Thermal Conductivity – There are instances where the build platform needs to be heated to prevent warping and to improve print quality. Warping takes place when the hot plastic does not cool evenly, and, therefore, the shrinking is not uniform. Heated beds solve this problem by keeping the print warm, leading to uniform shrinkage. Therefore, your glass bed needs to have low thermal conductivity. Low thermal conductivity means you have a thermally stable platform that will not be affected by sudden rises or drops in temperature.
  • Scratch Resistance – Beds like acrylic can easily get scratched and become a nuisance when printing. However, tempered glass tends to be scratch resistant and is not susceptible to abrasive or chemical damage. When you use something like a washable glue stick, or any other type of cheap adhesion sticker, you may want to scrape the entire bed clean using a scraper or a razor when your sticker gets worn out. While the scraping may be a problem on a plastic or acrylic bed, glass beds suffer no such issue.
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3D Printer Glass Bed: Things to Watch For

Build plate almost coming into contact with print head
Build plate almost coming into contact with print head Source: youtube.com

Here are the factors to take consider when replacing or buying a glass bed:

Optimal Thickness

As long as glass is not subjected to shock, it is stronger than most people think. Therefore, if you are using a standardized bed, a 3-4mm glass plate should be fine. This thickness is sufficient to maintain strength and spread heat.

If you opt for a very thin glass plate (for example, 1mm), it will be vulnerable to cracking from the high temperatures or accidental contact with the hotend. Thickness should increase with an increase in the print bed size. For a massive print bed, you may want to consider 6mm thickness.

Thermal Shock Resistance

The glass should be highly heat resistant. A glass plate that will crack or shatter when exposed to rapid changes in temperature would not be ideal for 3D printing. You want a glass that will retain its original shape and structure when heated up to 200°F and plunged into 40°F of water. Such durability is known as thermal shock resistance, and it goes a long way in ensuring that a glass plate remains usable for an extended period.

Tempered glass can sustain high temperatures thanks to its high thermal shock resistance.

If a glass plate can endure temperature changes as high as 1000°F down to 40°F without thermal shock damage, then it stands to reason that damage through regular 3D printing use would be impossible, even when using the hottest of extruders.

Size

While this may sound obvious, your glass plate should match your print bed size. You want that ‘snug fit’ between the glass plate and the print bed to avoid having a plate that wobbles during printing. After all, how are you going to use the build plate clamps when your glass plate is too big or too small in comparison to the print bed size?

Thermal Fatigue Resistance

Repeated heating and cooling means that even tempered glass will lose its strength eventually. However, ceramic glass, like NeoCeram, can be used for extremely high temperatures and don’t get affected by the heating and cooling cycles. The strength of ceramic glass remains consistent throughout and qualifies this glass as an excellent material for a print bed when you want to use high temperatures.

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3D Printer Glass Bed: Which to Buy

Heated Bed Borosilicate Glass Plate
Heated Bed Borosilicate Glass Plate Source: tehnologika.net

3D printing uses extreme temperatures both on the heating bed and on the molten printing material. Therefore, you need a glass bed, like borosilicate glass, which has a low coefficient of thermal expansion.

Borosilicate, which is made up of boron trioxide and silica, is resistant to thermal expansion and thermal shock, and will rarely undergo any physical changes when subjected to high temperatures. This feature prevents it from warping when under use and enables it to deliver prints with smooth base layers.

Remarkable thermal properties and the near indestructibility of borosilicate glass make it ideal for use as a 3D printer bed.

License: The text of "3D Printer Glass Bed – What to Consider & Which to Buy" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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