Bed adhesion tips for 3D printing: Glue, Glass, Kapton, Painter’s Tape, Ultem

I wish I had this list before I started 3D printing. Honestly, if you don’t read anything else, know that these are the things you need to be successful.

Glue. I was reaching the end of my 3D printing rope, and my girlfriend asked me “have you tried glue?” Now let’s get this straight. She didn’t come up with this idea, but she googled the problem and found that simple kids’ glue keeps a print job from sliding. This is great for a beginner, but you’re eventually going to end up with glue buildup that you have to clean off. It will definitely mess up your calibration over a period of time. Some blogs will tell you to use denatured alcohol to remove it, but that only makes it goopy and almost impossible to remove, a pretty big mess. I found that the best way to remove glue is to soak a double layer of paper towels in hot water and turn your heated bed to about 40 degrees Celsius; cover the headed bed with the paper towels and use a razor blade to scrape it off. It will take a few layers, but eventually it comes off.

Glass. Having a piece of borosilicate glass on your printer bed is pretty handy because you aren’t going to mess up your bed surface. Also, borosilicate glass has very good heat retention on a heated bed and helps stabilize your bed temperature. Note: glass doesn’t work unless it has a rough, sanded finish; I recommend sanding it with 80-grit sandpaper for a few seconds, just to take the gloss off it.

Blue Painters Tape. A lot of 3D printing you will see on Youtube will be on Blue Painters tape (masking tape) the print actually sticks to the tape very well during heated printing and when it cools, comes right off. You can also add a little bit of glue stick to your surface on the tape and it will adhere even better. Remember, when 3D printing, your first layer or two are the most important ones. The biggest problem is that it bubbles up, it’s hard to put it on straight, you can see seams and its rough finish will show up in your print jobs.

Kapton Tape. LOL, this is the worst thing ever to apply, however it works really well. It is a super thin film with adhesive on the back. Issue with it is simple, air bubbles. No one wants a 3D print with bumps in the bottom of it. My work around for this is pretty straight forward. I heat my heated bed up to 60 degrees Celsius. Once the bed is at temp, the air bubbles will start to expand and you can really find the little ones as well. I take an exacto knife and gently pop the bubbles and push the tape down to squeeze all the air out of the hole that I created by popping it. Seems to work well for me on 3 different types of printers. Kapton, however, is very thin and easy to tear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve torn my film pulling a print off the bed.

PRO TIP…Ultem.  This is a thin plastic sheet, when it heats up it gets super sticky and when it cools, it’s not. This stuff is great and eliminates the need for tape and a lot of tools. However, inductive sensors don’t work well because it decreases its range of sense. Kind of a Catch 22, but good to know. The good news is the advent of the BL touch sensor can eliminate all of this. Bottom line, we recommend it, but it does cost a lot of money to do both. But this saves a lot of time and headaches.