3D Printer Bed: How To Choose The Best Print Surface

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Close up of the glass build plate on the Voxelab 3D printer scaled

A 3D printer bed plays a crucial role in ensuring successful prints and maintaining the quality of your projects. Choosing the suitable print surface for your 3D printer can be overwhelming. There are several choices on the market with different bed adhesion, print removal, cost, and texture considerations.

In this article, we’ll help you understand the importance of selecting the best 3D printer bed for your specific needs and guide you through choosing the best build platform.

Understanding Your 3D Printer Bed

Close up of 3d benchy printed on a cr m4

When it comes to 3D printing, choosing the right 3D printer bed is essential for successful prints. A 3D printer bed is the surface where filament adheres during printing. Various materials are used for 3D printer beds; understanding them will help you make an informed decision.

  • Glass: Glass is a popular choice for a 3D printer bed due to its rigidity, hardness, and smooth surface. It allows for even heat distribution and easy removal of prints, ensuring a high-quality finished product. However, you may need to use an adhesive like hairspray or glue stick to improve filament adhesion.
  • Acrylic: Acrylic is another option for 3D printer beds. It’s lightweight and cheaper than glass but can warp or scratch over time. The filament may also stick well to acrylic surfaces, but you might need to apply adhesion helpers for better results.
  • Metal: Metal printer beds, such as aluminum, provide excellent heat distribution, ensuring an even surface temperature during printing. However, metal beds might require additional surface coatings or adhesives to prevent the print from sticking too much or not enough.

Different compounds can be applied to your 3D printer bed to improve print adhesion. Bed adhesives improve print adhesion and reduce issues like warping.

Types of 3D Printer Beds

When it comes to 3D printing, the surface on which your creations come to life is crucial. There are many materials to choose from, each with advantages and disadvantages.

This section dives into five popular types of 3D printer beds: spring steel smooth PEI, spring steel texture PEI, glass, polypropylene, and G10.

Spring Steel Smooth PEI

A 3d benchy printed on a CR M4

Spring steel smooth PEI (Polyetherimide) print beds are popular for 3D printers because they are cheap, provide excellent bed adhesion, and offer a smooth first-layer texture.

This build plate is made from a spring steel base with a PEI coating. The spring steel build platform is ferromagnetic, allowing it to be removed easily from the print bed.

The magnetic build surface simplifies detaching and reattaching the plate to a printer equipped with a magnetic bed. The bed’s flexibility is beneficial for print removal; you can effortlessly bend the surface to release prints, and the steel effortlessly returns to its original shape.

The durable spring steel is long-lasting and can handle the repeated stress of heating and cooling without getting bent out of shape.

Comgrow Textured/Smooth Double Sided PEI Sheet
  • Compatible with the Neptune 3 Pro, Neptune 4, Kobra, Creality Ender 3, and more
  • Double-sided smooth and textured build surface.

The PEI surface on these beds is really good at making sure prints stick during printing.

For cosmetics, the smooth PEI gives the bottom of your prints a nice, smooth look. These beds are suitable for many materials, but some might need extra glue or spray to stick better.

However, there are some drawbacks. Steel spring smooth PEI beds are more expensive than others. And the PEI surface is prone to scratching or dents if you’re not careful.

You should avoid using a scrapper or other tools to remove prints to prevent bed damage. Scratches and dents can impact the bed adhesion.

Even if these build surfaces are more expensive, they can be worth the extra price because they don’t need to be replaced often.

In short, spring steel smooth PEI print beds are a good mix of working well and lasting a long time. They are a bit pricey, around $30 to $50. Just remember to take care of the surface so it stays in good shape.

Smooth steel PEI sheets are compatible with PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, and nylon.

Spring Steel Textured PEI

Printing the first layer on an Anycubic Vyper 3d printer with excellent bed adhesion using red pla

The textured PEI surface is coated on a flexible spring steel base like its smooth counterpart.

The textured surface leaves a unique pattern on the bottom layer of the print, giving it a professional and distinct look. Like their smooth counterparts, these beds are made of spring steel, so they’re good at withstanding temperature changes without warping.

And their flexibility makes print removal a breeze.

Comgrow Textured/Smooth Double Sided PEI Sheet
  • Compatible with the Neptune 3 Pro, Neptune 4, Kobra, Creality Ender 3, and more
  • Double-sided smooth and textured build surface.

I rarely need to use any tools to remove prints from textured beds. The textured surface allows prints to “self-release” after the bed”cools.

However, these beds can be a bit expensive, around $30 to $40.

The textured surface is tough and more durable than the smooth PEI, but it can still get damaged if you’re not careful when removing your prints.

Spring steel textured PEI sheets are compatible with PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, and nylon.

Glass

3d Benchy printed in Blue PLA on an Ender 3 V2

Glass build plates offer a sleek and smooth surface for printing. They provide a shiny surface on the first layer of prints.

Glass print beds are popular for their flatness and even heat distribution, providing a consistent and level printing surface. A flat surface is essential for good adhesion and a smooth finish. Glass beds are also pretty easy to clean, which is a nice bonus.

However, glass beds have some downsides. Glass takes longer to heat up than metal beds, and if they’re not heated evenly, they might not adhere. Also, glass can break if you’re not careful, especially if you remove finished prints or the bed is heated too quickly.

Creality Ender 3 Glass Bed
  • Compatible with most 3D printers.
  • The microporous composite coating on the surface shrinks as the hotbed cools, which greatly ensures that a complete small print can be picked up by hand without any tools.
  • The improved 3D printer plate provides a flatter and smoother build surface than magnetic beds, or PEI build plates.
  • The coating is long-lasting and easy to clean.

Glass beds are usually cheaper than spring steel PEI beds, making them a good budget option. You can find glass beds for around $20 to $40.

It’s essential to handle with care to avoid cracking or scratching them. And you must be careful when using tools like scrappers, which can scratch or dent the glass surface.

Glass build platforms are best for PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, and nylon.

Polypropylene

A polypropylene 3d printer bed on a Crealtiy Ender 3
(Source: Aliexpress)

Polypropylene build plates for 3D printers are known for their flexibility and good adhesion properties. These plates are great because they can bend, making it easier to remove prints once they’re done.

However, polypropylene can wear out faster than metal or glass beds, so they might need to be replaced more often.

Polypropylene is also prone to scratch easily. You’ll want to take extra when removing prints to avoid damaging the surface.

Polypropylene Build Plate
  • Compatible with ABS, PLA, PETG, nylon, wood and many other types of filament
  • Made from a durable, rigid material with a long service life.
  • Strong adhesion properties firmly hold your parts to the bed while printing.
  • When your print is complete, and the build plate has cooled, parts can be removed by hand.

They can also be tricky to use with some materials, as not all filaments stick well to polypropylene.

In terms of cost, polypropylene build plates are relatively cheap, at around $20. They don’t need much special care aside from cleaning. And be careful you don’t damage them when taking off prints.

Polypropylene build surfaces can be used with PLA, ABS, PETG, PC, TPU, nylon, and polypropylene.

G10

A blue G10 print surface with a small 3d printed model in black abs filament
(Source: u/Gulian_rdgd)

G10, also known as Garolite, is a fiberglass composite material that delivers an incredibly strong and durable surface for 3D printing.

Made from a type of fiberglass laminate, G10 beds are tough and can handle high temperatures, making them great for various printing materials.

G10 3D Printer Build Surface
  • This 2mm-thick Garolite 3D printer build plate is made of Garolite, a composite and semi-flexible material made by curing fiberglass and epoxy under high pressure. G10 offers a smooth surface, and hassle-free print removal.
  • Easy print removal and excellent bed adhesion.
  • Works well with PLA, PETG, TPU, nylon, and high temperature materials like ABS and ASA

G10 print surfaces work well with difficult filaments like nylon and other high-temperature filaments.

G10 is the cheapest build plate on our list, at only $10 to $20.

One downside is that a G10 build platform is rigid, so they aren’t as forgiving when removing prints.

G10 can be used with PLA, ABS, ASA, PET, PETG, TPU, and nylon.

How to Choose a Build Plate

When selecting a build plate for your 3D printer, there are several factors you need to consider to ensure compatibility, durability, and easy usage.

Here’s a simple guide to make an informed decision when choosing a 3D printer build plate:

Material Compatibility

It’s crucial to consider the types of filament material you will use for your prints since each material requires different build plate settings and adhesion techniques.

For example, PLA works well on glass build plates, whereas ABS is more suited for PEI surfaces. Ensure your build plate is compatible with the materials you most frequently use.

Surface Finish

The build plate’s surface finish directly impacts the final appearance of your 3D prints. Different surfaces, such as smooth and textured finishes on glass beds on powder-coated PEI sheets, provide varying results.

It’s essential to decide what finish you want for your prints and choose a build plate that can deliver the desired outcome.

  • Glass beds: Provide a smooth, glossy underside finish.
  • Smooth PEI sheets: Offer a smooth matte finish.
  • Textured surfaces: Have a texture similar to the print surface.

Cost

Your budget is vital when choosing a print bed. While some build plates can be expensive, they may provide better performance and versatility.

On the other hand, more affordable options might still deliver satisfactory results without breaking the bank. Striking a balance between the cost and the desired features is critical when choosing a 3D printer build plate.

Adhesion Aids

An ender 3 printing a flexible lizard in green pla on a glass build plate with blue painters tape

Achieving strong bed adhesion is essential for successful 3D printing. A few adhesion aids can make a considerable difference in getting that perfect first layer to stick to your printer bed surface. Let’s explore some common adhesives:

  1. Glue Stick: Glue sticks are convenient and widely used bed adhesive in 3D printing. It’s beneficial for materials that tend to warp, like ABS. Applying a thin layer of glue directly to the print bed increases the grip of the first print layer. The glue is washable, making post-print cleanup straightforward.
  2. Hairspray: Hairspray is a popular choice for increasing bed adhesion due to its ease of use and effectiveness. It forms a thin, sticky layer on the print bed, which helps hold the print’s first layer in place. The spray is especially effective for materials like ABS and PLA. It’s easy to clean, readily available, and cost-effective.
  3. Blue Painter’s Tape: Blue painter’s tape is a favorite for printing enthusiasts, especially for printing with PLA. The tape provides a textured surface that increases adhesion without the mess of liquid adhesives. It’s easy to apply and remove and doesn’t leave residue after removal. Its texture can also impart a unique finish to the bottom layer of the print.
  4. Kapton Tape: Kapton tape is known for its high heat resistance, making it ideal for printing with high-temperature materials like ABS. It creates a smooth surface that enhances adhesion and helps evenly distribute heat across the bed. This tape is a bit more expensive and requires careful application to avoid bubbles and wrinkles. Still, its durability and effectiveness in preventing warping make it a valuable tool for more advanced 3D printing applications.
Marcello De Lio
Marcello De Lio

Marcello co-founded 3D Print Mentor to share his love of 3D printing. Marcello used to own an online 3D printing company, where he sold unique designs and customized novelty gifts. After closing the business, Marcello’s new passion is 3D printing replica movie props and cosplay items.

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