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.
Update 29 Mar 2018
The PRINTinNZ website no longer exists. For some reason the company decided to cease operation sometime in early 2019. But I found an alternative solution that works perhaps even better: FlexiPlate.
The FlexiPlate is a clear disk that sits on top of the printbed. It looks like it is made from sort sort of glass, but it is actually plastic. I secured it with binder clips. This makes it easy to remove from the printer and flex just as their video shows. It is very easy to remove large prints from the plate.
There is a trick to making the FlexiPlate work well with an unheated printbed and PLA: quickly wipe the plate with a clean cloth dipped in acetone. The Acetone dissolves the top layer of plastic and roughs it up a bit. This allows for much better adhesion. It also destroys the nice shiny clear finish on the surface of the FlexiPlate. Here’s a photo of my FlexiPlate after a number of prints:
Yes, it looks bad. But it works really well – just like their video shows.