Bed adhesion is integral to getting great prints rather than unfortunate looking blobs or spaghetti monsters. Let’s walk through two important considerations for better adhesion- first layer adhesion and warping.
The first is getting that initial layer to actually stick. If your print bed isn’t calibrated correctly or your print surface isn’t up to par, your first layer can slide around and fail to stick entirely. The second thing we need to consider is that as plastic cools, it begins to contract which can pull the corners of your print inwards. This is a process called warping. Heated beds help to combat warping by slowing down the cooling process and keeping bottom layers of your print warm as they hit the print bed. In this post, we’ll focus on what you can apply to your bed to get your first layer to go down nicely and stay down. We experimented with five different materials, and this was our results with each!
We’ll be using PETG from Pushplastic to test each of the surface materials (check out our print contest to win a free roll!). PLA has almost no warpage and might work for all of the bed surfaces whereas ABS has very high rates of warpage and might not work for any of our surfaces. PETG is a nice middle ground and mixes relatively low warpage with very high strength prints.
4 Bed Adhesion Tools to Get Prints to Stick!
Default print surface
Many printers will come with a glass or aluminum bed surface by default which many users choose to print on it directly. If you’re going to print directly onto a smooth surface, it oftentimes helps to clean it with isopropyl alcohol to remove any dust or oils. Since glass and aluminum are smooth, your first layer doesn’t have many nooks or crevices to flow into which means your models are more prone to sticking or warping issues (as you can see in the picture above).
1) Painter’s tape:
Painters tape solves many of the issues with bare glass or aluminum. If you were to zoom in on painter’s tape, you would see a very rough surface that gives the molten plastic a number of different places to grab on to and adhere to. This does a great deal to combat warping and help your first layer stick well. We saw only very minor curling in the corner of our print using painter’s tape.
For this test, we’re using a product called buildtak which is made from PEI. Plain PEI sheets can be purchased and work similarly. This is a favorite for bed adhesion presently as it’s an upgraded version of our painter’s tape and has even more bumps and valleys for filament to grab on to. If you use PEI, you can print with many materials that would otherwise require a heated bed. Our part stuck well and didn’t warp on PEI and was relatively easy to remove.
Pure PEI sheets can be used as well and purchased from amazon and a number of 3D printing suppliers. Learn more about the advantages of PEI as a print surfaces from Omnexus.
3) Washable, all-purpose glue stick:
Washable glue-sticks are another favorite especially if you don’t want to attach anything to your bed. You can apply glue directly to your glass or aluminum build surface and wipe it off easily with water. This is one of the best bed adhesion solutions and works well with most materials, except for those prone to very high warpage like ABS and polycarbonate. Keep in mind that some glue will stick to the bottom of your part and can also be washed off with a bit of water.
We couldn’t write an article about bed adhesion and not experiment with Jell-o! We used a 10:1 mixture of Jell-o powder to water so in our case it was 10g of powder in 100ml of water. This could work well in theory as gelatin has a tendency to swell and get awfully sticky (it took over an hour to clean everything!). The Jell-o worked pretty well and was on par with the painter’s tape. Parts printed in Jell-o have the added bonus of being scented when removed from the bed.
If you ask ten makers what they use for bed adhesion, they may all have a slightly different preference. The tools you use depends on your printer and filament choice. Our findings in this article were that using a glue stick or PEI works perfectly. If you have another tool you use that works for bed adhesion, feel free to let us know!
Try out these tricks and submit your print to our Push Plastic Print Contest! You could win 1 of 40 rolls of filament like the one used in this article