A build plate is a core part of any 3D printer. Without a print bed, there would be nowhere for the print to go. If this was a print bed’s only purpose though, anything would do. Print beds also provide as flat a surface as possible. This sets up the print to be even, it also helps to set up the final purpose of the print bed, adhesion. The print is intended to adhere to the print bed for the duration of the printing process. This lets the printer know where everything is and just assume it’s ok to continue printing, rather than having to track the position of everything with a series of cameras, lidar, or other sensors.
Glass is generally the most popular print bed. One of its advantages is how smooth it is. This results in a smooth underside for all prints, which can be otherwise difficult to achieve. The low thermal conductivity does make glass slow to heat up. It also means that it heats evenly, which is actually a positive. Glass offers good adhesion without any additives. It’s also a good surface to which you can add adhesive aids such as glue, tape, or PEI sheets.
The BuildTak FlexPlate is a spring steel plate that is designed to be covered with another adhesive aid such as painter’s tape. The key advantage here is how easy it is to remove your prints once they’re done. You can just remove the print bed with the print still attached, and then bend it. Bending the print bed will just pop the print right off. The resulting underside surface quality depends on the adhesive aid used but won’t be as smooth as you used glass. Some other flexible print beds can’t be heated as well.
Polypropylene print beds are fairly cheap and don’t require any adhesive aids to print with. The surface also doesn’t come with a pre-applied adhesive surface or need the addition of adhesive aids as the material itself provides enough adhesion. This means that you don’t need to worry about the pre-applied adhesive aid wearing out over time or about having to constantly apply and remove other adhesive aids. Unfortunately, you have to be careful as the sheet is rather soft-wearing and can be stretched or otherwise damaged relatively easily. It’s also important to avoid printing with polypropylene on a polypropylene build surface as the two will permanently bond and be almost impossible to separate.
When choosing a build surface, it’s important to be aware of its advantages and drawbacks. Generally, you want something hardwearing that you can – but don’t have to apply adhesive aids to – and that can be heated. Glass is so popular because it fits these requirements. There are legitimate reasons to use alternatives, especially if too little or too much adhesion is an issue you face.
What print bed do you use on your 3D printer? Let us know down below.