Poor material and incorrect printer settings are the most common reasons why 3D prints fail. One of the most important printer settings is temperature. The printer head is where plastic is squeezed out of a 3D printer. The temperature set at the print head is important as it determines the viscosity of the plastic.
Print head temperature is not the only temperature you need to be cognizant of, however. The print bed is the platform where the print head squeezes plastic to and where the layers of a print are stacked. The temperature of the print bed can literally make or break a print.
In this guide, we look at why a heated bed is necessary for 3D printing. Are there cases, for example as with PLA, when a heated bed is not necessary? Let’s find out.
Why Do You Need A Heated Bed For 3D Printing?
3D printers work by extruding layers of melted plastic from a print head onto a print bed. As soon as the plastic is extruded, it starts to cool and solidify into the desired shape. While this is a necessary part of printing, it can also create problems like warping. A heated print bed reduces the likelihood of warping.
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Heated beds are a feature of Fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers. Stereolithography (SLA) and Selective laser sintering (SLS) do not use beds as build platforms. But what benefits does using a heated bed bring to FDM printing?
Improves First Layer Adhesion
The first few layers of a 3D print are critical. If the first layers fail to stick to the print bed, or build plate as it is also called, it creates a poor foundation for the subsequent layers. There is a high chance your print will fall off if it has not adhered properly.
Warping is one of the leading causes of failed prints. Plastic needs to cool to solidify. But if the first few layers of a print cool too quickly it contracts and starts to peel back or warp. A heated print bed ensures the first layer adheres and does not peel. Source
A heated print bed, especially when used with an enclosure, also helps distribute warmth around the entire print. This reduces the likelihood of contraction caused by cooling on all the layers of the print and not just the first layers.
Most new printers come with heated beds. This greatly expands the range of materials you can work with as most materials require a heated bed. Different materials require different print bed temperatures.
|FILAMENT||PRINTING TEMPERATURE (°C)||PRINT BED TEMPERATURE (°C)|
|PLA||180 – 230||25 – 55|
|ABS||180 – 250||80 – 100|
|Nylon||240 – 270||60 – 80|
|PETG||235 – 255||50 – 70|
|ASA||240 – 260||80 – 100|
|Polypropylene||235 – 265||100 – 120|
|Wood||190 – 250||20 – 40|
|Carbon Fiber||200 – 220||40 – 60|
|Polycarbonate||270 – 310||115 – 145|
|PVA||160 – 200||35 – 55|
A heated print bed is a requirement for almost all filaments. There is one filament you can print without one, however.
Do You Need A Heated Bed To Print With PLA? (Tips & Tricks To Make It Work)
PLA is the easiest material to print with. Most 3D printers come with a roll of PLA because it is a beginner friendly filament. A characteristic of PLA that makes it ideal for beginners is more flexible in terms of temperature requirements. It does not require high extrusion temperatures and can be printed without a heated bed.
PLA prints at low temperatures. It also has better heat retention and cools slower than other materials. This improves its layer adhesion and minimizes the chances of your print warping. This is why you can take the chance of printing without a heated bed.
There are several tricks you could use when printing without a heated bed that would reduce the possibility of warping.
- Use glue. A water soluble craft glue like wood glue is the best option. Mix some glue with an equal amount of water and spread it on the print bed. This gives your print a rough adhesive surface to stick to. For more on this, check out our post “Should You Use A Glue Stick On Print Bed? (3D Printing)“
- A print enclosure, if you already have one, will raise the temperatures around your print and keep it warm.
- Use painter’s tape on the print bed. Painter’s tape has a rough texture that is easier for your print to stick to.
- Wolfbite is an adhesive for glass build plates. There are types of Wolfbite specific to different types of filament. Source
- Hairspray is also a handy way to get your prints to stick better.
While PLA can be printed without a heated bed, using a heated bed reduces the chances of your print failing. It’s much better to print with a heated bed if you can.
How Do You Prepare A Print Bed For 3D Printing?
Preparing a print bed helps improve the adhesion of the print. Calibrating the right bed temperature according to the type of filament used is an important part of print bed preparation. Leveling the print bed ensures there is a consistent distance between the nozzle and print bed.
Cleaning the build plate is also important. The last thing you would want is for plastic to be extruded onto plastic from a previous build. Rubbing alcohol and cloth is suitable for glass and most other build surfaces. Note that alcohol might not be compatible with all build plates so you should check first.
Once the bed is clean you can print a skirt to test your printer settings and the adhesion of your print bed. Skirts are borders printed around a print to calibrate printer settings and improve first layer adhesion.
How Do You Increase First Layer Adhesion?
Poor first layer adhesion is typically caused by the incorrect bed temperature. In this case, the remedy is adjusting the slicer settings to the correct temperature. If the correct slicer settings are being used and prints are still not adhering, brims or rafts can improve adhesiveness.
Brims and rafts are similar to skirts. The difference is that a skirt is printed around the object without actually touching the object. Brims and rafts are attached to the printed item. They improve layer adhesion by giving the printed item a wider surface contact with the print bed.