Of all the complexities of a 3D printer, one of the most annoying things is getting the object you are printing to “stick” to the platform – in color or monochrome. At times, this will make you want to destroy your printer with a baseball bat (note Office Space reference). There is nothing more frustrating than coming into the office in the morning and seeing the results of a night long print that look like this.
To mitigate this problem, a number of work around solutions have been developed for PLA. We’ve heard them all and we’re here to break down the best three: painter’s tape, hairspray and glue. Here’s what we found:
- Painter’s tape can be applied to the surface of the build platform, strip by strip. Try to find the widest possible tape for the most consistency across the bed. Normally, one layer is sufficient but two layers has also worked with some of our prints. One pitfall to this approach is when removing the printed object from the platform, some of the tape can get ripped and taken with it. So be ready to reapply the tape after each print. This method can also be a pain for printers that are encapsulated in a box.
- Glue sticks are an easy and cheap option and they work great for glass platforms. When they work, they work extremely well and don’t ask you be a body builder to remove the object from the plate. One downfall, especially if you are looking for high quality prints, is that it can be extremely difficult to apply an even coat across the build platform.
- Hairspray has been our bread and butter since day one. Before every print, we like to add a thin, even coat to the platform then let dry. Hairspray is not only tactile but the small droplets add some surface roughness, giving the extruder plastic more area to hold onto. Overtime, the hairspray can build up on the platform so we clean them every few weeks with some hot water and paper towel. We’ve tried a few brands and coincidentally, the expensive “extreme hold” types work phenomenally well.
The most effective approach is a combination of painter’s tape and hair spray. This works so well though, that you should be prepared to replace the tape and hairspray for each print. All these methods may seem like a pain but prepping a few minutes for a print can save you hours of time with failed prints that don’t stick.
Note: Tests were repeated with and without a heated build platform (~50ºC). We’d love to hear your experiences with other crazy methods or different temperature settings.