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3D Printer Build Plate Adhesion

I have been using glue stick most of the time during my journey into 3D printing. I tried all the other things and glue stick seemed the best of the bunch so I stuck with that. PLA is dead easy keep down with a glue stick. I have noticed, however that as temperatures start to rise glue stick dries out and doesn’t present the best possible medium to keep a big flat object held down.

I seem to be using more ABS and a few Nylon prints lately and I can see that glue stick isn’t really good enough and I need a new substance that will stick stuff to the print bed. Not lifting up during the final hour of the print (how annoying is that by the way). I have tried Magigoo and thought it was great but that’s a little pricey. So, I thought let’s see what else I could find.

The two other options I have are, hairspray and PVA (wood glue) I have used hairspray before for other jobs particularly the placement of parts before welding and it seemed to leave a residue that was difficult to get off so I decided to try PVA wood glue. That’s what I have been doing over the past few days. Testing wood glue mixed with water and this is what I found.

The first thing you need to look for if you wish to try this is the type of wood glue. Most glue has a D rating the ones you are interested in are:

  1. D2 = Interior areas, with occasional short-term exposure to running or condensed water and/or to occasional high humidity, provided the moisture content of the wood does not exceed 18%.

  2. D3 = Interior areas, with frequent short-term exposure to running or condensed water and/or heavy exposure to high humidity. Exterior areas not exposed to weather.

I have a D3 rated wood glue that I brought from a local DIY shop. My first test, I mixed it with one-part glue then added ten-parts water.

This was a very weak mixture and while it did work for say a calibration cube it didn’t really hold down a bigger, longer object. The object I was using for bigger, longer was just a 150 x 50 x 5mm shape I created in Tinkercad.

I kept adding more parts till I ended up with a usable mix that held the part down whilst still being easy to get off the build plate. It was one-part glue and seven parts water. You can play with that if you like, but 7to1 is pretty good.

All you have to do is mix the glue and water in a jar or something with a lid. You could screw the lid on and give it a good shake. Then when all the glue has been mixed and there is no more laying on the bottom of the jar get a two-inch paintbrush and get painting onto your build plate. Handy hint if you find the brush doesn’t fit in the jar? Get a smaller brush! ;O)

I know this jar is way too big but it’s all I had

You will want to heat up your build plate to about 60c then when it gets hot enough gently brush the solution across your heated build plate. Try for an even coverage, then when it’s all covered allow it to dry for a few minutes. You will be able to see it drying as the water evaporates leaving the dullness to the aluminium (correct spelling) or glass. Then when it’s all dried up do it again giving it another coat. You will notice on the second coat the brush will start to pull a little as you add a second coat, but don’t worry this is normal. Actually, it’s a good thing.

At this point, I should tell you, or at least remind you that you are going to be painting with water near the heated bed power connector. Please be careful, you don’t need to go really close as you will never print in that location anyway. Don’t be using lashings of water-based gluey glue near this part of the bed. Apart from that you’re good to go. Once its properly dried you are free to print.

I will take you through the process with clever use of video and still pictures. First of all heat the bed up to about 60c so that it allows the water to evaporate. Then, apply the glue solution as evenly as you can to the surface of the build plate.

Wait until it evaporates. You will see the water drying back and leaving a light haze on the build plate.

When it has all gone apply another coat again waiting till it drys to a haze.

When it has all gone you will want to see something like the above picture. When you get to that stage you have done. Don’t forget to clean the brush.

Right, time to do a print!

Just print as normal no need to apply anything else and in my tests I found the first layer adhesion was excellent. After the print finished I found the object has a really nice flat finish with no marking at all where it was stuck to the bed. Also, I allowed the print bed to cool and the part just pops off most of the time. If it doesn’t then use a thin blade which will definitely help get the more difficult objects off the plate.

As part of my testing, I kept printing different objects till they didn’t stick anymore or lifted in some way. What I found was that I could happily get six to nine prints from one application of the solution. One application is two coats by the way. I tend to print in one place (the middle) but should you decide to use different areas of your build plate I am guessing this would be good for 20 or so prints before cleaning and re-applying was required

So what if you need to apply another coat when things decide not to stick around?

You have two options you can wash the first lot off the build plate completely and start again which is my favoured option. Or you could happily apply another coat. The reason I would rather wash it off is that you know where you are. You know that you only have one coat to clean off. Because at some stage you are going to want to take it off and start again. It comes off really easy though all you need is a cloth and some warm water then a little rubbing for ten or so minutes and you have a sparkling clean build plate. Then you can apply two more coats and you’re all good to go.

Cleaning couldn’t be easier…

First of all you will want to get the solution moist again. You can do this by just laying a moist cloth over the print bed. Not soaking wet and remember turn your printer off at the power source before doing this. When you have softened the solution again just rub gently with a cloth and it will come off as easy as Larry.

It takes very little action to be able to lift this off of your print bed and get it all clean again.

When it’s all off allow to dry and maybe give it a rub over with some nail varnish remover or a little alcohol then when that’s dry and flashed off you are ready to apply a new coat of the solution. I was able to clean  my build plate and reapply a new coat in under 30 minutes.

After testing this for some time I would recommend you at least try it and see if you find it as easy as I am currently. It is cheap and because it’s water based it comes off really easy too. But by far the best thing is its ability to stick stuff to your build plate, whilst still managing to get the part off easily afterwards.

19/07/2018 A couple of  updates to the original post.

Update 1 I just wanted to update this post because I was having such great results and I wanted to update as to my on going findings. So, I was doing a print on my i3 clone and I wanted to get the first layer really stuck down when I was using a gold ABS filament. Anyway, long story short I got a little too low down and the nozzle just marked the PLA glue film right in the middle of the build plate. I was going to clean it all off and start again, but then I thought I wonder if i can do a spot repair to just that area and repaint that little bit. So, that’s what I did. I got one of those metal pan scourers and gently scrubbed off the part that was marked and then after letting it dry reapplied the solution to the heated bed as in the post above. It worked just fine

Update 2 Printing with ABS is really easy using this adhesive it sticks really well and works just like printing with PLA. The only difference in terms of use is that fact that the temperatures used when printing ABS tends to deform the adhesive layer somewhat more quickly than when only printing PLA or PETG. To that end, I have noticed that the only real difference is that instead of getting let’s say eight to ten PLA prints per application. With ABS a safer number would be five to six prints before a cleaning the build plate and reapplying.

I will keep this particular post updated as I work through some ideas I am working on. After a lot of testing and using different filaments and temperature ranges I still feel this is one of the best substances for keeping your object on the bed during the print process.

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