One of the hottest topics in the 3D printing universe is what method to use that will get the part you are printing to stick to the printer’s print bed while it is being printed, and also let you easily remove it when printing is finished. The general term for this is “printbed adhesion”.
Obviously there are 2 parts to this subject – the sticking part and the removing part. If your part becomes un-stuck while printing it will be ruined because the printer gets no feedback from the part it is printing. An un-stuck part will move around on the printbed while the printer continues to extrude filamant, all the while assuming it is depositing filament in the correct place. The net result of this is “printing spaghetti.”
Good bed adhesion means the part stays stuck to the bed while it is being printed, but also allows you to remove the part from the bed when it is finished. This is not quite as simple as it seems because 3D printers print in layers, and if the first layer is stuck too well to the printbed your part can become de-laminated when you try to take it off. Or worse, it can simply break into pieces.
The situation is made even more complex by the different nature of different types of printing material. The most common types are PLA and ABS plastic. These look about the same but have quite different physical characteristics. There are quite a few other materials used for 3D printing and each has it’s own adhesion characteristics.
To simplify my workflow I decided to settle on PLA material. This is probably the simplest and lowest cost material for 3D printing. It produces nice looking results, is reasonably strong, and is readily available. There is also a lot of information online about how to get good bed adhesion with PLA. I tried them all and found that none were good on a consistent basis.
I finally found a solution that does work well and that i have been using exclusively for more than 6 months now. It is a printbed called a ZebraPlate (or ZebraSkin) made by a company named PRINTinZ. Here is a link to their website: PRINTinZ.
Watch the videos on their site – the ZebraPlate really does work like they show. You do have to keep the surface clean – I use rubbing alcohol after every 3 – 5 prints because the surface seems to pick up oils (or something) from my hands during print removal. Since most of my parts are fairly large I take the Zebra Plate with part still attached off the printer, flex it slightly in all directions, and then just pull the part off the plate. When you do this you will hear a cracking sound, suggesting the part is breaking somewhere. It isn’t; that is simply the sound a section of the part makes when it separates from the plate.
Another important tip for using ZebraPlates is the hotend temperature. If your temperature is too low your part will not stick well. The recommended temperature for PLA is 210 – 220 C; I use 215 which seems to work well. However, for my printer this high of a temperature causes increased stringing, so to reduce this I change hotend temperature to 185 after the hotend reaches a height of 3.00 mm.