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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.

So you bought a 3D printer…now what?

We bought one. It took about two days to put the 3D printer together and we anxiously awaited the first print. Yeah, that was a big blob of filament mess. It’s not easy and we’re not sure why manufacturers sell them and market them as out-of-the box solutions. Make no mistake, they are not easy and you need a little help (ok a lot of help) getting started without-of-the box printers, and that’s where we can help. Don’t get me wrong, 3D printing is awesome, and we use it from fixing household items to creating household decor. But unless you can get your 3D printer humming along, it’s not going to work out of the box and it’s going to be super frustrating. See our blog about how We Bought a 3D Printer to fix a 3D printer. Yeah, we had to do that because there were just too many issues with the design of the first printer we bought. Trust me, we’ve made all the mistakes when it comes to 3D printing and can help you with yours.

The reality is that you can buy a $200 3D printer kit, and it will turn into a $500 3D printer inabout two weeks because there is just not information and the quality is not good. You have to know so much about the intricacies, the programming and the math behind all of it. We also found out you have to know a little (sometimes a lot) about coding, and that’s just not what you would expect if you buy an out-of-the box solution. It’s just supposed to work. But trust me, it doesn’t. A lot of people give up on it, and I understand why. Who has that kind of time? We learned the hard way, and I spent a ton of hours, even though I have the experience to know what to look for. I still got caught up with issues that took me days to solve. We are hoping you can learn from our mistakes. We started out doing this for fun and quickly realized we could help people by opening up a community forum about it.

One thing that vexed us was bed leveling. It’s a must. And unless you have about 3-5 uninterrupted hours to spend fixing, testing, trying, retesting and fixing — again and again — it will drive you crazy. It’s easier to call somebody whose already made ALL the mistakes. My girlfriend likes to keep examples of the worst prints I’ve ever made, and I just want to throw them away. Here is one of the better examples.

3D Printed Mess

Transforming table from meh to yeah! with epoxy

So… we tried out reclaiming an old outdoor glass table and turning it into our own creation. I am going to start out by saying “AWESOME” but give you the details of our adventure. Total time to do this was about an hour and about 100 dollars in material to start. (I don’t meant total, we still have roughly 3/4 of the epoxy left) We bought some copper powder from amazon and 1 gallon of epoxy resin (1/2 gallon epoxy 1/2 hardener), and 50 grams of glow in the dark powder(green).  Here is what it looked like when we started.

Original Table

We had a ton of fun doing this project, We had no idea what we were doing but if you scroll through the pics, it actually came out exactly the way we thought it would.. Unexpected phenomenally so. 

We had to work through some issues: First… Level your workpiece LOL. OMG this was the bane of our existence after the fact. When working with epoxy it levels itself. If your workpiece isn’t level, your finished product will not be. Duh!!!!!

Equipment… The brushes we used to tamp things down a bit and work the material were cheap. Our suggestion is to use better brushes that won’t leave hairs in the way or possibly use sponge brushes. We’re going to test sponge brushes on our next run to see if they don’t devolve when you mix the epoxy/hardener. We will update this post as soon as we have more info on that! I’m a little concerned about air bubbles in the epoxy using sponge brushes, but they are super cheap. We’ll see!

Taped table

The first thing we did… protect what we didn’t want getting covered in resin. We didn’t feel like we needed to change the finish on the table, so we just covered it with painters tape. Resin…. the stuff doesn’t die, never use it, meh….. It’s like the puppy dog we have, Logan AKA #CaninusDestructus.. Horrible dog, but we can’t get rid of him. (girlfriend keeps saying no… Don’t want to get rid of her so the dog stays put.. /sigh)

UPDATE December 7th, 2017: Well, hmmm.. It seems that epoxy needs a warmer temperature to cure than what is in the house. It has been a little cold here lately and we don’t usually turn the heater up past 72 deg. Still a little tacky after a few days of curing, But it still looks great. It seems as though I may have been a little aggressive with the torch in one spot and I see some curling in the finish, but nothing a little sand paper and compound couldn’t take care of.

Up close of epoxy treatement