3D Printing Directly Onto Your IPad Screen

ipad 3d printing bed

Corning’s Gorilla Glass is very scratch resistant, shatter resistant, heat resistant, and even flexible material — it’s actually a perfect candidate to be used as a print bed material. The only problem is it’s not typically sold outside of consumer products, but that’s when [cvbrg] realized an iPad’s replacement screen would fit his maker-bot perfectly.

One of the biggest problems people encounter with 3D printing usually involves the print bed. Sometimes the prints don’t stick, the edges peel, or it even gets stuck on there too well when it’s done! A popular solution is a borosilicate glass bed, which typically helps with adhesion and surface finish — but again, sometimes the prints don’t want to come off! Sometimes parts can even tear up pieces of the glass bed when you’re trying to remove them. People usually counteract this with Kapton tape, which can become a headache in its own right — trying to apply it bubble free, tearing it, doing it all over again…

Using an iPad’s screen (only about $15 on eBay), means you can hack and jab at the print bed all you want without fear of breaking it – It even has a bit of flex to it to help pry your parts off. Did we mention it also has a very uniform flatness, good thermal conductivity, and resistant to pretty much all solvents?

Unfortunately it’s not quite as simple as just buying one and attaching it to your build plate with binder clips. It actually has two layers of glass, the second one having something to do with the capacitive touch sensing — but unfortunately, it’s very brittle and prone to cracking. It must be removed before you can use the gorilla glass by itself. This can be done using an exacto blade as a chisel, and when it’s all done, cleaned with acetone. But according to [cvbrg] it’s well worth the effort.

30 thoughts on “3D Printing Directly Onto Your IPad Screen

  1. Very cool! I’m finally looking into building my own 3d printer, so I might have to incorporate this into my build…

    On a related note, I recently came across fairly cheap prusa i3 kits on aliexpress. I’m wondering if I should buy one of those, or buy the parts separately. I also want a dual-head extruder, so I’m leaning towards separately… But I’m also lazy :P

      1. I own an electronics repair company ( tablets, smartphones etc ) and we designed a special heating platform to assist in safely and reliably removing the glass and digitizer panel from iPads without breaking them or leaving any sign of disassembly on the housing. The temp it heats to is 90-100C. At that temp the screen adhesive softens sufficiently though still requires careful applications of force with metal spudgers to remove. In that temp range all the plastic components and LCD display are safe from melting. The platform heats only the 1″ outer perimeter of the iPad, and leaves the center areas open to cool air. As a result, the LiPo battery packs which have external TC contacts to monitor temp in real time, never get hotter than a safe 55-60C ( Not that I would recommend you reach that temp in a lithium pack through current draw ;-) )

    1. How much glue do you put on? I’ve found it either doesn’t stick at all and the print ends up curving up at the edges, or it sticks far too well and the print is ruined when removing it.

  2. So, glass, huh? That’s what it boils down to. Apparently, glass makes a good printing surface. I say this because he’s using a $15 replacement part from eBay. The chances of this being a genuine part are about zero and the chances of a knock-off $15 part being made of anything but the cheapest commonplace glass around are equally low. Gorilla Glass… haha, that’s funny.

    1. Oddly enough, some replacements are made of high-quality glass –probably some sort of borosiicate and not ‘Gorilla Glass’ specifically.

      You can tell the difference pretty easily by using it like a touchscreen. Cheap glass will smudge and feel ‘rough’ to the touch, even after cleaning. The expensive stuff will feel slick right after a good t-shirt cleaning. I have noticed this on several occasions with iPhone screens: The originals and quality replacements are far smoother/more durable than the low-quality replacements. Now how do you know before ordering? No idea.

      1. Yep, the cheap glass is untreated and uses a less thorough polishing process. Gorilla glass and other higher performance surfaces in addition to a much higher final polish are treated with an oleophobic coating (repels oil) which provides a more pleasant feel as well as cleaning off really fast.

    2. It’s a lottery, most of the cheap replacements will be cheap reproductions, but with a large well known product like the aPple iWhatever you tend to get a lot of overproduction of the genuine parts with the intention to sell on the grey market. The factory making the genuine part will keep production running for a while after the actual order has been filled.

      You need to get the early parts though, since the factory only has a limited overstock of the proper materials and WILL go out and buy the cheapest ingredients possible when the good stuff runs out.

    3. “Apparently, glass makes a good printing surface.”, In my experience it’s really not :S I had a 6mm glass pane warp on me and securing it to the print bed with clips and what not is a serious hassle. Aluminium is where it’s at. At least I’m never going back :)

  3. Gluing your ipad to your makerbot – now that is some brand density.

    An easy way to get parts off of a borosilicate is to put the plate in the freezer for a minute. The glass and plastic will contract at different rates, and the parts will all pop off with nothing more than a gentle touch.

  4. I’m using mirror tiles from a local hardware store and they work great, 8$ for 6 tiles. For ABS I still need to add slurry for large prints to stick, hairspray for PLA. You need a glass cutting knife and a ruler to get the tiles to the right size though.

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