Time to read: 3 min
Having the first layer stick to your 3D printing buildbed is crucial. See below for a list of common adhesives to avoid print failures and prevent warping.
Kapton tape is used commonly in the aerospace industry and prized for its ability to endure considerable heat without degrading. When layering Kapton tape on a print-bed, it is crucial to ensure that no bubbles are present beneath the tape. This harms its adhesion and will limit its effectiveness. Kapton is further made appealing as a printing substrate because it will often resist tearing when scraping prints off the bed. Kapton tape is used sparingly or less widely than Painter’s Tape often because it costs 5-10 times more.
Painter’s tape (or simply ‘blue tape’ as it often called) appeals as a print-bed substrate because it is cheap, effective, and reliable as a printing substrate. It is not, however, extremely durable. After only a few prints and some scraping, painter’s tape will degrade on a print-bed and may need to be replaced. Although chiefly used as a barrier for household painting tasks, the tape is additionally useful because it does not leave residues on the print-bed, even when heated. It should be noted, however, that painter’s tape will degrade much more quickly with heat than kapton tape will. Above 100C (ABS printing common bed temperature), its reliability can only be ensured on a case-by-case basis.
Glue is commonly used to aid in print adhesion and exists in more varieties than can be named here. The most familiar in 3D printing are PVA glue (book-binding glue), simple white glue (Elmer’s), and glue stick.
Book-binding PVA glue is appealing as a printing substrate because of its neutral pH and water solubility. A mixture of water and PVA glue (1:1 or 1:2 water to glue ratio is common) can suffice to help prints stick. This glue, along with the other types, can be applied over tape if you want to avoid getting your printbed dirty.
White glue is more acidic than bookbinder’s glue and has more binders and solvents in it, making it substantially stickier. Once again, a dilution of glue and water can keep prints from sticking too well.
Glue sticks can be another great solution. While the chemical composition of glue sticks is also inherently variable, almost any brand should provide a durable hold for 3D printing. It should be noted, however, that objects printed onto glue stick may be tricky to remove from the print-bed.
Problems Removing Prints
Removing prints from the print-bed can be tricky when gluing enables the printed material to stick too well. If this is the case, a palette knife or glass scraper can help remove stuck objects. If that doesn’t work, remove the print-bed (with object attached) from the printer and place it in a kitchen freezer for 15-60 minutes. This can sometimes loosen the hold of the adhesive, especially PVA glue.
As a last resort, wedge a sturdy scraper or putty knife at one corner of the print (or where the object is thickest) and tap the wedge-tool with a hammer or heavy object. WARNING: Cheap glass can shatter when concussive force is applied. Even durable borosilicate can crack and chip using this method. Wear eye protection and gloves.