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WHAT'S THE BEST 3D PRINTER BED SURFACE?

05. 09. 2022

If you asked us 3 years ago what 3D printer plate would we recommend, we would say without a doubt the glass bed. Now, we are not so sure anymore. The progress in the development of 3D printers is truly astonishing. You can choose from PC spring steel sheet to PEI plate, carborundum glass, or the good old flexible magnetic build plate. So which one represents the best 3D printer bed surface?

This article will present our results of different tests and a comparison of 3D printer bed options. The printer plate presents a very important part of a 3D printer. It can help you get the best 3D results or make your 3D model impossible to remove. A lot of makers also struggle with the first layer- to some, it is impossible to stick the filament to the build plate. One of the most challenging problems 3D makers have is when a 3D print warped.

3D print warping can happen when the 3D filament layers on the 3D printer plate cool down too quickly and consequently shrink. This reaction causes the filament to contract and pull away from the printer bed, resulting in warping/curling. 

Everybody loves PLA filaments because are one of the easiest to print. They are especially popular because of the opinion that you don't have to heat the bed of the printer to get good results. Here we don't agree completely. For getting the best results you have to avoid warping. How do you avoid 3D print warping? Well by using a heated build plate. The heated printer plate keeps the filament at a temperature just below the point before it would solidify (the glass transition temperature), ensuring it stays flat and connected to it.

Now you see why a 3D printer bed is very important and can easily make your life complicated or affect your final result. This is why we decided to analyze and compare the most used 3D printer.

MAGNETIC BUILT PLATE

The magnetic plates were one of the most popular 3d printer beds. With the 3d printer magnetic build surface, you didn't need any clippers or additional accessories to make a great 3d print. Thanks to the magnets, the magnetic beds stick to the frame through magnetic force. Magnetic build plates have great adhesion, especially with PLA and SILK but we still recommend the use of Dimafix spray or 3dlac. These sprays help the first layers to stick firmly to the bed and when the 3D model cools down it is easier to remove it. You will probably need a spatula or just bend the plate and sometimes the model will detach.

Some makers have warned us that 3d model removal can damage the surface though, so be careful and gentle when popping off a print or banding the plate. Being too aggressive with print removal can cause the bed to get damaged.

One of the cons is its durability; the heat can degrade the magnetism of the platform. Also, the use of a spatula or any type of removal will damage the bed. Almost every use will leave a mark on the surface.

This magnetic platform can be easily cleaned with alcohol or acetone. Regarding the temperatures, this printer bed can heat up to 80 °C, while others can go up to as high as 150 °C.

CARBORUNDUM GLASS BED

When comparing the magnetic platform with the glass bed, we would recommend the glass platform because of its durability, and the stiff, dense, and cheap material. Carborundum Glass is smooth and flat and if the glass is thick around 3-4 mm you can easily heat it up to 150-400 degrees. It has a nano-molecular coating that appears super viscous after heating. We recommend the use of Dimafix or 3dlac so it will be easier to remove the 3d model. Because of its strength and firmness, the life span is longer compared to a magnetic platform. Besides the spray, you would need to use the bed clips and a spatula when removing the 3D model.

Pros:

  • Low cost
  • Long life span
  • Compatible with almost all filaments
  • Produces smooth bottom finish on prints
  • It takes only 3 minutes for hotbed to cool

Cons: 

  • difficult removing bigger 3D models
  • you need to use a spatula for removing 3d prints and can hurt yourself/cut on the edge of the spatula

REMOVABLE PC SPRING STEEL PRINT SHEET

The PC magnetic build plate is a lot stronger and more resistant than the old magnetic plate we get with Ender 3 PRO. This one resists higher temperatures and is more flexible, it is also removable and can stick to magnetics very well. It matches great with PLA, PETG, ABS, ASA, TPU, and other filaments. With this plate, you won't need any tape,  spray, or shovel. It's easy to adhere to the printing surface, and it's easy to remove the prints, just flex slightly to pop your print right off.

PC is an excellent upgrade because it can withstand the numerous heat cycles that a 3D print bed goes through from print to print. Its life span is also longer than the old magnetic plate because you won't need any accessories to take off the 3d print, so you won't damage the plate.. You just pop and the model removes itself from the surface. You can get the PC spring sheet if you buy Ender 3 S1, Ender 3 V2 NEO, and Ender 3 S1 Plus.

PEI MAGNETIC BUILD PLATE

PEI stands for Polyetherimide, a surface that can be used for all types of filament on a heated or unheated print bed. This platform doesn't need any additional clips, sprays, or spatulas. The removal of the 3d print has never been easier! There is also no need for surface preparation, so is the most convenient 3d printer platform to use.

PEI printing plate has excellent mechanical properties such as radiation resistance, high and low-temperature resistance, high-temperature stability, high wear resistance, good flame retardancy, chemical resistance, and electrical insulation characteristics.

The newest Creality printers such as CR-10 Smart Pro and  Ender 3 S1 PRO have already the PEI plate

PROS

  • excellent adhesion of the 3d model and an easy removal
  • a smooth surface finish on the 3d model (while it remains undamaged)
  • good thermal conductivity for a heated bed
  • gold frosted surface (flame retardant and heat resistance)

CONS

  • It’s relatively soft and can be damaged by a poorly adjusted print bed or excessive scraping.
  • it cost more than the other 3d printer beds

Comparing the PEI and the classic magnetic sheet, we see the difference not only in the surface of the sheet but also in how the sheets are assembled;  the magnetic plate has magnets on both sides, and the PEI sheet is made of 2 pieces; first you need to fix the sticky part on the aluminum bed and then put the PEI magnetic sheet on it and take of the protection foil.

CONCLUSION

When comparing different 3D printer beds it is important to use the same filament, for example, you can not compare the adhesion of PLA filament on a magnetic plate with the adhesion of PETG on carborundum glass.

Testing different 3D printer platforms using PLA and PETG we found out that the weakest adhesion has the removable magnetic plate which is not shocking since it is the oldest among all the printing plates and the most outdated. The carborundum glass has definitely better adhesion and also a longer life span. The glass is a great choice for beginners because is less sensitive to human errors like crashing the nozzle into the 3D print surface during the bed leveling. Crashing the nozzle in the magnetic sheets can leave permanent damage signs.

It is also very important to mention that the removal of 3d models from glass can be a little bit dangerous. You will need a spatula to take the model off and the edge of the spatula is very sharp, so you need to be careful you don't cut or injure yourself.

If we compare all the platforms the winner is definitely the PEI plate sheet. Its special gold frosted coat works like magic.  It has great adhesion and the removal of 3d printed models has never been easier. Removing the bigger models is much easier to do it on a flexible bed than on any type of glass. A great printer platform is also the PC spring steel sheet, since it works similar to the PEI plate except it doesn't have the goledn coat, but if you bend it the 3d model will ''pop'' the same way 😊

Another thing important to mention is that you should never remove the 3D print while is not 100% cooled down, no matter what bed you have.

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