3D Print Guides

[GUIDE] Choose the best printing bed – All options at a glance

In this very short guide I would like to illustrate the surfaces on which you can print in 3D, to help you choose the best printing bed “according to you”. The “according to you” is specially put, in fact there is not, at least not yet, a method clearly superior to the others, in all situations and for all materials, low-cost and that helps to economize during printing.
As we shall see in this review, every solution has its pros and cons. It’s all about choosing the best one for the characteristics we’re looking for. Whatever they are, of course it’s up to you! What do you want? Affordability? Versatility? Cleanliness? Beauty? Each of these and many more can be the characteristics. But let’s get this over with!

 

The original printing bed

best printing bedYour printer comes with a printing bed. And this is made of aluminium, sometimes covered with a rather resistant film. Since I wanted to put as many options on the bed as possible it seemed right to mention this one too, even if I don’t mind for this method, for several reasons listed below.

PRINTING BED 22×22: LINK
PRINTING BED 31×31: LINK

Pro

  • This bed is already present in the printer and we must not add anything.
    You can use Inductive sensors.

Cons

  • The original bed, both in aluminium and “covered”, certainly does not shine for adhesiveness, we have to integrate with other products, such as lacquer (Splend’or). So far so good, except it’s not extractable. For this reason, cleaning with water can create problems and, in the worst case scenario, even minor electronic/electrical failures. To clean the top of the lacquer I recommend this short video of ours!
  • In some cases the printers have beds with drawings and writings, even very beautiful. Printing on the direct plate with the passage of time ruins the plate itself and gives the machine a “used” appearance that can be characteristic but certainly does not help to preserve its value.
  • In printing, the grinding of the aluminium surface is relied upon. Very often the printing plans arrive already embarked or in any case embark very easily.
  • Last but perhaps most important point is the detachability of the pieces. It can happen that we exaggerate with the adhesion methods, maybe we are printing something that warpa and we don’t want to take the risk. So a splash of extra lacquer, a dozen degrees above the tips for temperatures, but also just print it a little more attached to the plate and the piece will struggle to detach. So all the efforts we make to detach the press will be reflected in the cart Y. If this does not do real damage, it will certainly help to lose the mechanical and sliding settings. It is always better not to apply excessive forces to the flowing parts.

The Blue Tape or Kapton Tape

The next step to the original printing bed is definitely the scotch. You can attach a beautiful mask on top of the aluminium protects the top as much as it takes. It’s a quick and clean solution. Even this, of course, is not without its faults. Many makers widely use blue tape for 3D printing, and is almost born for this use. The Kapton Tape is very similar both in substance and installation.
Both of these solutions are films, both tape and sheet, which you must glue to the original surface (even on glass).

Thanks to their design and composition, they contribute greatly to increasing the adhesion of the print. It can happen in rare cases, however, that a material that withdraws during cooling wins the arm wrestling with the glue of the scotch and detaches the latter from the bed. For this reason, you must attach these tapes with the utmost precision and care, taking care not to form bubbles or overlaps.

There is also a cheaper alternative, scotch paper. Obviously in this case you must be sure to take a good quality product. It can be very difficult to detach poor paper scotch from the plate, which may leave residues of glue or paper that will need to be cleaned.

BLUE TAPE: LINK
KAPTON TAPE: LINK

Pro

  • Fast method to have the bed covered and therefore less exposed to abrasion.
  • Can also use it in combination with lacquer for exceptional adhesion
  • Compatible with the use of inductive sensors, you only need to be careful to adjust the offset

Cons

  • Putting scotch on the surface is not easy, you must laid it with precision, without creating hollows, holes or overlaps.
  • Poor Scotch at the time of removal leave residues of paper or glue, which you must clean thoroughly because otherwise create annoying differences in level.
  • Blue tape is not exactly cheap, also considering that it is a consumable product. (Blue Tape Price – Kapton Ribbon Price)
  • In printing, the grinding of the aluminium surface is relied upon. Very often the printing plates arrive already embarked or in any case embark very easily, these tapes do not obviate the problem.

Best printing bed – Glass Plate

best printing bed

The glass plate is one of the most used solutions in 3D printing. The trusted glassmaker/ironmonger cuts a 3 or 4 mm thick piece of glass of the required dimensions and positions it above the bed using paper clips. I remember that it is always good to ask for the grinding of the sides, the cut glass is very sharp and certainly you would risk hurting yourself.
In the worst case, however, you can grind it yourself with sandpaper or even a sharpening stone.

This solution is my favorite. Personally I use it because I can sprinkle the top of the lacquer and print (the PLA) with the plate off, saving on the bill. After a lot of prints when the glass is very dirty, just remove it and put it 2 minutes under the tap and it will clean itself. If you, like me, are far from the water supply I recommend this article, where you can see how to easily clean a glass without tap and without effort.

GLASS PLATE 22×22: LINK
GLASS PLATE 31×31: LINK

Pro

  • Very cheap, the costs vary from area to area and from shop to shop but you hardly pass the 10 euros.
  • Easy to clean from lacquer/glue thanks to simple removal
  • It is very difficult (if not impossible) to find a crooked glass that creates evident differences in level of the plate

Cons

  • Everything depends on the printer in use, but thick and heavy glass, depending on the printer in use (especially if with the movable plate in x or y) can create phenomena of vibration and ghosting.
  • Not compatible with inductive sensors, only with touch sensors

 

Best printing bed – Pirex Plate (Borosilicate Glass)

The same is true of glass, also because pyrex is a glass. Only it resists much more to high temperatures. Normally I recommend this type of plate only if you plan to print only materials that need the plate at more than 100°. So ABS, ASA, Nylon etc. Normal glass, even at high temperatures (11°+), does not undergo alterations and is perfectly usable. Only it can suffer, with time, minor damage. Some skimmed nothing more. Considering that the price difference between glass and Pyrex is narrowing the latter may be a good choice. Of course you can fix this plate, like the glass, on top of the existing plate by means of simple clips.

GLASS PLATE 22×22: LINK
GLASS PLATE 31×31: LINK

Pro

  • Very resistant to high temperatures. We could bring the plate to 150 degrees without damaging it in any way, even twice as much.
  • Easy to clean from lacquer/glue thanks to simple removal
  • It is very difficult (if not impossible) to find a crooked glass that creates evident differences in level of the plane
  • A 20×20 pyrex glass, is not as cheap as normal glass but prices have dropped a lot lately!

Cons

  • They can create vibration and ghosting phenomena to exactly the same extent as normal glass.
  • Not compatible with inductive sensors, only with touch sensors

Best printing bed – Metal plate (Stainless steel)

It is not the most popular of the printing plates that can be used. I used this plate for a period on a printer with the inductive sensor, where I did not want to use glass.
The stainless steel plate, if you extract it from a sheet of excellent quality is perfectly flat. It can be satin-finished with coarse-grained sandpaper to increase the adhesion of the plastic, and sprayed with lacquer at will. Obviously, you can easily remove and clean it under water, as you can fix it to the surface with some metal clips.

The particular hardness of this material means that a minimum thickness is enough to maintain its non-deformability, one millimetre is enough. Even inductive probes will recognize this material from a distance and without errors. More easily than aluminum, so you’ll have to adjust the offset properly. The only drawback of this solution is its weight. In fact, it is not very suitable for printers with the bed moving in X and Y. The movements of the bed can lead to Ghosting and vibrations given by this mass that goes back and forth. On the contrary, I recommend it for corexy, Hbot and others of this category with the plate moving in Z. The weight in this case will not be a problem and you can benefit almost only the pros.

best printing bed

A plate of the necessary size in stainless steel is not easily available, only knowing a good blacksmith we will be able to get in possession of it. Alternatively, we can use a slightly thicker, lighter aluminium sheet, although it can be boarded more easily.

Pro

  • Very cheap, you only have to go to a blacksmith, you will hardly pay more than 10 €.
  • Satinable with abrasive paper and if not enough also sprayable lacquer for maximum adhesion.
  • In case of difficulty in detaching the pieces we can switch to strong manners without hesitation.
  • Place it on top of the plate and fixed with clips, this makes it easy to remove and clean
  • Excellent compatibility with inductive probes

Cons

  • Although very thin the weight of this material can compromise the prints, causing problems of ghosting and vibration.
  • If only cut and without chamfering the corners can be dangerous to handle, as can glass.
  • You need to find a blacksmith who will handle this material and be available to cut a piece for us.

Best printing bed – Ultrabase (Anycubic)

best printing bedAnycubic’s patented Ultrabase aims to eliminate adhesion problems by offering a microporous surface, which once heated firmly any type of plastic.  Obviously, each material has a different range of operating temperatures. It ranges from 50°/70° for PLA and PETG up to 100°/120° for ABS, Nylon, ASA and other plastic filaments.
The Ultrabase also allows easy removal of the print from the plate just waiting for it to cool down. Even soft and flexible filaments such as TPU adhere and release evenly. Even the cleanliness has its own why, rag with a little alcohol and back as new. You can fix this metal surface  on top of the existing surface by means of simple clips. Really an excellent solution this ultrabase.

ULTRABASE 22×22: LINK
ULTRABASE 31×31: LINK

Pro

  • Excellent adhesion because the Ultrabase is covered with a microporous coating.
  • Easy to remove models by hand just waiting for the top to cool down.
  • Having a glass base has an excellent flatness
  • Easy to clean: Ultrabase is easy to clean with alcohol / water.
  • It is very compatible, in fact it exists in 2 versions, 22X22 and 31×31 cm, to adapt to the standard dimensions of most printers on the market such as Prusa and Cloni and CR10 and cloni. (Check that you have chosen the right size before purchasing!)

Cons

  • It does not have a prohibitive cost, but it is not as cheap as the other bases dealt with so far. The best price you can find is €.
  • The low cost is also related to the use, this is because even for the PLA we have to heat the Ultrabase from 50° to 70°.
  • It is not compatible with inductive sensors, as it is composed of glass. If we want to use a sensor we can use a touch sensor

PRO TIP: If you don’t want to wait long for the natural detachment of the object when the temperature drops, you can help the cooling. All you have to do is provide it with compressed air and spry 3 or 4 sprays around the object and let it come off immediately!

Best printing bed – PEI SHEET

Recently the PEI has become very popular, this is because it offers various advantages. A first advantage is that it is a surface to which the plastics stick firmly. And this combined with a very durable surface. If we place a thin sheet of PEI on a printing bed this will take a long time, provided you handle it appropriately. The PEI surface is rather rigid, which makes it much easier to apply to a printing plate than the Kapton or Bluetape. It is not unusual to see bubbles, overlaps or other growths when it comes to paper tape on the printing plate. And these imperfections certainly do not help to have a good first layer.

Fortunately, thanks to its rigidity, we can forget about this kind of problem with the PEI. The PEI sheet can be fixed with staples or adhesive and then glued to the printing surface.
This material is actually a plastic, even printable at high temperatures. Despite this, it is not damaged by the hot extruder.

 

PEI SHEET 22×22: LINK
PEI SHEET 31×31: LINK

Pro

  • Maximum adhesion of the printing surface
  • Its rigidity makes it easy and fast to install without bubbles or folds
  • It is durable and can last a long time if treated “properly”.
  • Compatible with the use of inductive sensors, you only need to be careful to adjust the offset

Cons

  • With some materials, when printing very close to the bed, detachment can be very difficult.
  • Although it is durable and resistant, some uses may damage it and therefore it has to be replaced.
  • Although it is affordable for all budgets, it is recommended to treat it with care, because it is not exactly for free.

Best printing bed – BuildTak

BuildTak is a revolutionary bed, someone dared to call it, the “ideal 3D printing surface” or the best printing bed. It is a thin sheet of durable plastic that adheres to the printing surface and offers an optimal printing surface for 3D objects. The full version of the BuildTak proposal also includes a rigid sheet on which to glue this plastic film. Glueing the BuildTak on a rigid but foldable surface can allow us to detach the prints, simply by folding the top and waiting for a “natural” detachment. This helps a lot, especially in cases of dishes that are not easily removable. He’s got only a few clips.

The BuildTak also produces a very special spatula, created to remove prints, you can see it here.

Various option:

10″x10″: LINK
12″x12″: LINK
16″x16″: LINK

best printing bed

Pro

  • Much better adhesion
  • The full version of the BuildTack consists of several layers to maximize adhesion and facilitate detachment
  • Compatible with the use of inductive sensors, you only need to be careful to adjust the offset

Cons

  • The cheapest version is the 10x10cm is actually 20×20 while the standard plates are 22×22. This is solved by not completely covering the plate. Although it has no influence with regard to the printing aesthetically is not the best. Perhaps the best solution is to buy the 25×25 cm version and cut a piece of it. This is if you don’t want to spend more on the 22×22 version.
  • The complete version, made up of several layers, has an important cost.
  • The Buildtack sheet can be damaged by the difficulty of removing the print and still lasts more than 10 prints only to those who have “the grace and kindness worthy of a little Lord”. This number of uses can be doubled if you only print PLA with a cold plate.
  • Being plastic, it can be easily melted if the nozzle presses against the surface or crawls on it for poor calibration.

PRO TIP: Before using the BuildTak remember to read the instructions. It may seem very simple but some steps are essential. The most important for example is to double the light between the nozzle and the plate, at the cost of throwing away a sheet just installed. So once installed you will need to level the bed again and set a higher offset. If you don’t know how to do it, you can follow our guide about it!

Best printing bed – Zortrax Plate

The Zortrax has special printing plates, which ensure maximum adhesion. This metal surface can be fixed on top of the existing surface by means of simple clips. The special feature of zortrax printing plates is that they are perforated. You have read it correctly, they are composed of a sheet of metal completely drilled sa holes of the order of magnitude less than a millimeter.

This irregularity of support ensures that the molten and deposited plastic does not move but on the other side of the coin you can not print directly on this plate if we want the base of our print to be smooth. That is why we will always have to set up a raft. The raft, as already seen in this article, is a “raft” that constitutes the first layers of printing. The desired object will be printed on top. If it is true that raft helps adhesion it is also true that going to detach the object from the raft can be difficult and can create scars on the prints, at least until you find the perfect settings.

ZORTRAX PLATE 20×20 : LINK

Pro

  • Perfect adhesion to any type of material thanks to the micro-holes
  • Detachable for proper cleaning
  • Compatible with the use of inductive sensors, remember to adjust the offset

Cons

  • This plate has a substantial price, not for every budget.
  • The raft must be used for printing, and this in addition to increasing the material needed can also leave marks of detachment from the raft on the printed object.

Here I wanted to show you only the best known and best performing printing beds. Talking to various makers about it, I learned that everyone has experimented and tried to really print on anything! They range from wooden boards, to tops with glued jeans fabric, cutting boards made from Ikea placemats, various types of acrylic.

PRO TIP: The various acrylic surfaces are coloured and can give a good effect to those who have to take pictures or videos of the printer at work!

Basically any flat and thin surface! The perfect printing bed for all materials and situations does not exist, so…we continue to experiment and print on any material!

If you have already found the perfect material, maybe even just for some particular situation, please let us know in the comments!
What do you think is the best printing bed?

 


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