One of the issues that people face when 3D printing is getting their prints to stick to the build plate. If a print does not stick to the build plate properly, then it could move during the print process which will cause it to fail.
Manufacturers have, of course, devised remedies for this. Ultimaker 3D printers have a heated build plate for better bed adhesion and reduced warping and curling (the heated plate stops prints from cooling down rapidly, avoiding contraction). Some manufacturers have taken a simpler route, though – MarkForged recommends people use an Elmer’s Glue Stick to create a sticky layer on the build plate.
The simple truth of bed adhesives – whether they are cheap glue or expensive tapes – is that all of them have the same aim: to prevent warping, curling, print failure and to reduce waste. It is important to point out though that not all materials require a bed adhesive to stick to the build plate. PLA, for instance, adheres well to a heated build plate without adhesive. However, when glue or tape is used, the risk of warping and curling is reduced considerably.
How do bed adhesives work?
Simply put, bed adhesives work by forming a stickier layer for prints to adhere to. In the case of heated build plates (which are necessary for printing materials with a higher melting point than PLA), hard materials like ABS and CPE can warp even with support structures. The reason for this is the smooth glass plate with the introduction of heat; the print material sometimes doesn’t cool quickly enough to be strong. By introducing a layer of glue, print-bed adhesion is improved, and the glue also acts as a layer of protection for the glass.
Adhesives also eliminate the risk of print movement. If a print moves just a little during the print process, then it will fail. We regularly receive questions from people asking why their prints keep failing, and it is more often than not because they aren’t using an adhesive on their build plate.
Are there alternatives to external adhesives?
It is possible to print a ‘brim’ with your print, which is a thin platform around your print that helps ensure successful adhesion. These work because your part or model will be printed on a layer of filament, rather than directly on the build plate itself. Cura, Ultimaker’s software, allows you to create a brim quickly and the brim itself can simply be cut away afterwards. However, even with a brim, we still recommend using a bed adhesive to protect the build plate.
What are the best adhesives?
We are of the belief that what works best for manufacturers and the 3D printing community will work best for you.
So, here’s a list of products and who uses them:
Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Stick – Recommended by MarkForged and other brands
Cheap and effective, Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Stick is used by pros and hobbyists alike to improve print bed adhesion.
UHU stic- Recommended by the 3D printing community
If you can’t get hold of an Elmer’s sick, the UHU stic is the next best thing. It works just as well, and like Elmer’s stick, it can be used with PVA support material.
Makerbot Build Plate Tape – Recommended by Makerbot.
Makerbot’s Build Plate Tape is designed for Makerbot printers, but it can be used with any printer. The textured surface improves adhesion and lasts for several prints.
Blue Painter’s Tape – Recommended by 3D Platform
If you don’t want to use glue, the textured surface of blue painter’s tape lends itself well to bed adhesion. It can be used with PLA, ABS and high-temp thermoplastics.
Essentium’s 3D Printing Bed Adhesive – recommended by Essentium
Essentium 3D Printing Bed Adhesive is for printing nylon filaments. It works with nylon filament and other high-temp materials, formulated to reduce contraction.
Out of the above adhesives, we have had excellent results with Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Stick, the UHU stic, and blue painter’s tape. Blue painter’s tape can be picked up at any hardware store, or even your local supermarket. It can be pulled away from a glass build plate easily, without leaving any residue behind, and the grippy surface is ideal for ABS and CPE. Glue sticks are another excellent option, and they don’t cost very much either.
Just be careful with what glue sticks you use. Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Stick and the UHU stic are tried, tested and proven. We tried the Original Pritt Glue Stick but didn’t get good results and this sentiment is echoed by most people who’ve tried it.
Also, remember to calibrate your build plate periodically. Today, most 3D printers will do this for you, but you will need to calibrate manually if you have manual levelling. Having a level build plate is crucial for good bed adhesion, print quality and reliability.