Bed Adhesion 101 Quick Guide

3D printing has democratized manufacturing and a lot of new users like enthusiasts, hobbyists & students are exploring and learning the technology through trial and error methods.

But the trial and error style of learning is a slow process and it can take time to understand solutions to common problems. Over the years, I have always worked towards making students understand these common problems and helping them have a successful 3D printing experience.

Here, through this article, I will help you conceptually understand bed adhesion. The concept, the factors affecting it and the ways to resolve bed adhesion problems. This is one of the most common problems faced by one and all across the world. And so I believe I must demystify the same for all you users.

In this article, I will demystify bed adhesion so you can always experience a successful 3D print.

What is Bed Adhesion?

Bed adhesion is a common term used widely by 3D printing technology users. It forms the foundation of the entire print and hence it is important to know as much there is to know about it because if bed adhesion is not strong, the prints are destined to fail.

Bed adhesion is one of the most common problems in 3D printing and therefore solving it becomes critical.

Good and Bad Bed Adhesion

Bed adhesion can be easily understood as a good and bad adhesion. Good bed adhesion is the one where the bottom layer of the print sticks to the bed of the 3D printer (build platform) through the entire printing process. Additionally, it also peels off easily when removing the print from the bed.

Bad bed adhesion is the one where the bottom layer of the print loses contact with the bed thereby distorting the print and ultimately failing the print. The loss of contact can be minor or major but it always leads to failure.

Factors Affecting Bed Adhesion

Bed Adhesion problems are most common in FDM 3D printing technology. However, other technologies are not devoid of this dreadful problem. But we will talk only about the FDM bed adhesion problems here.

Technology

As mentioned, bed adhesion problems are found mostly in FDM technology. The main reason is that the technology is cheap and easily available to new users like enthusiasts, hobbyists, and students. So, any users working on an FDM 3D printer, they are most likely to face the bed adhesion problem.

Materials

Materials also have a role to play in bed adhesion as certain materials are highly prone to fail while others rarely exhibit bed adhesion problems.

Materials like PLA are easy to print with and users generally do not have to face bed adhesion problems when dealing with such materials.

Other Materials like ABS, Nylon, etc. are highly prone to warp and so they lose contact with the bed and result in a bed adhesion type of print failure.

With proper settings and printer accessories, such issues can be avoided.

3D Printer

Bed adhesion also depends on the quality of the 3D printer you are using. Local non-branded or cheap 3D printers are more prone to exhibit failed print issues resulting from bed adhesion. While high-quality professional printers have certain features that tend to avoid bad adhesion failures. Features like heated bed, enclosures and PEI sheet help in better bed adhesion.

Software

The software also plays a crucial role in determining whether the print will show bed adhesion issues. We are talking about both the design and slicing software. By incorporating certain important design rules in design software and using certain slicer settings the bed adhesion problem can be avoided and the adhesion can be improved to result in a successful print.

Design Rules for Bed Adhesion

There are three important rules to consider for strong bed adhesion of any part. These rules are as mentioned below:

Large Bottom Surface

It is common knowledge that larger the contact surface, better will be the adhesion and the same principle applies to bed adhesion. The bottom layer or the first layer of the print is the foundation of any 3D print. Additionally, a smaller surface is also prone to shrinking or warping. Therefore it is highly recommended that this layer is as large as possible for obvious reasons.

Flat surfaces

As far as possible the first layer should be flat. Curved surfaces should be avoided as they are difficult to stick to the bed. Flat surfaces help in strong bed adhesion.

Avoid Fillets

Adding specific features during the designing stage can go a long way in improving bed adhesion. By carefully avoiding fillets in the design or replacing the fillets with chamfers, the adhesion can be improved and the success of the print can be ensured. Chamfers in areas of a print that will be subject to stress will distribute the load more efficiently, reducing the risk of part failure when deployed.

Avoid Sharp Edges

One design feature is to avoid sharp edges on corners. Sharp corners are prone to warping and adding a rounded edge on all corners will reduce the risk of failed prints.

Slicing Rules for Bed Adhesion

All slicer software offer bed adhesion settings. These are highly useful and can easily solve the first layer of adhesion issues. There are three bed adhesion features namely skirt, brim and raft. Brim and Raft are specifically useful in increasing the build plate adhesion for the print.

Skirt: A skirt is an outline printed around the model but not connected to the model. It helps in pre-checking the flow of the material ensuring the material is flowing smoothly before it starts printing.

Brim: A brim is a modified type of skirt. It is similar to a skirt but it is attached to the outer surface of the object on its first layer. It is similar to the brim of a hat. It serves the purpose of increasing the surface area of the print thus avoiding warping or the layers at the corners.

Raft: A raft is a thin sheet of grid printed on the build plate. The part to be 3D printed is printed on top of this grid instead of directly on the build plate. Raft helps in adding an extra surface area for the print to stick to the build plate.

How to Improve Bed Adhesion?

As we have seen the factors affecting the bed adhesion, I will now explain how to improve the bed adhesion for all prints. The more precaution you take, the better is the success rate of your prints.

Glue Stick

The most basic precaution you can take is to apply gluestick to your print bed. The glue will add a layer of stickiness to the first layer of the print and it will hold the layer till the complete print is completed. Any gluestick will do but using specialized gluestick like Magigoo can enhance the power of the solution and prove to be an added protection layer.

Hairspray

Another solution widely used to safeguard any print from bed adhesion failure is to use hairspray. Hairspray effects similar to a glue stick and sometimes can even outperform the gluestick. Various users have expressed varying results but it is certainly additional security against failure.

Blue Painters Tape

Users can also try to use blue painter’s tape over the entire bed surface. It is one of the most commonly suggested and recommended tips to help with first layer bed adhesion issues. Users can club the painters tape with a thin layer of glue as an added precaution.

Kapton Tape

Kapton tape works similarly as a painter’s tape. Kapton tape is just an alternative to the painter’s tape. Both the tapes perform and have a similar effect on the print and it can be used according to the choice of the user.

ABS Juice

ABS Juice is a liquid mixture of ABS material and acetone. This mixture is sticky and it helps prints stick to the surface of the print bed. Again, this solution also works similarly as a gluestick but this gives even better adhesion (depends on the quality of the ABS juice).

Note: Take proper care when making the mixture as acetone is harmful to the human body.

Bed Adhesion Parameters

Bed adhesion can also be improved from the slicer software. The slicer software offers multiple settings that can be used to hold the prints onto the bed.

Build Plate Adhesion

These (Skirt, Brim & Raft) are explained above in the Slicing rules for Bed Adhesion section.

Initial Layer Speed Settings

Initial layer speeds can be controlled through slicer settings and this is an important parameter affecting the bed adhesion. By keeping the speed of the initial layers are low as are ideal the material will get time to stick to the bed and the print will be successful.

Temperature and Fan Settings

Apart from the speed settings, the first layer adhesion can also be improved by setting appropriate temperatures and fan settings. The ideal temperature will help the material stick to the bed. Also, for materials like ABS & Nylon, the fan can be kept off for the initial layers to keep the material hot for as long as possible. This can be a useful trick to have a successful first layer.

I have explained everything related to bed adhesion and demystified the concept of bed adhesion. I suggest all users go through the article whenever they face any bed adhesion problems and gradually over a duration of time the bed adhesion problems will be completely resolved for you.

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