Sugar As A Bed Adhesive For 3D Printing

3D printers, like most CNC machines, reward careful thought and trial and error. It’s important to use the correct machine settings and to prepare the build environment properly in order to get good results. Fused Filament Fabrication printers rely on melting plastic just so in the production of parts, and have their own set of variables to play with. [Mysimplefix] has been exploring various solutions to bed adhesion and found something that seems to work perfectly, right in the pantry.

That’s right, this solution to the problem of bed adhesion is more commonly stirred into your coffee every morning – it’s sugar. [Mysimplefix] shares their preferred process, consisting of first mixing up a sugar/water solution in the microwave, before applying it to the bed with a paper towel and allowing the water to evaporate off.

Several test prints are then shown, with major overhangs, to show the adhesive capabilities of the sugar. The results are impressive, with parts sticking well while the bed is hot, while being easy to remove once cool. The video deals with PLA, but we’d be interested to see the performance with other materials as well.

It’s a tidy solution, and we’d love to know your thoughts and experiences in the comments. We’ve had a good long think about adhesives ourselves, too.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]

 

55 thoughts on “Sugar As A Bed Adhesive For 3D Printing

  1. Do you want ants? Because this is how you get ants.

    I’ve had very good results with a mixture of wood glue and water – I mix the two so that the solution has roughly the consistency of whole milk – just viscous enough that you can notice the difference vs. tap water. It lasts about 10-20 prints if the prints are identical and in the same spot, or if you are doing a variety of shapes/sizes for 2-3 kg of PLA. To reapply I just spray the (glass) plate with alcohol, wipe with a lint free cloth and… reapply. I do this with the bed cold and wait for it to fully dry. Eventually I will actually clean the plate, but so far I’ve printed 5-6 kg of PLA without a full clean and recoat. Easy, basically free and so far has not attracted ants.

    1. Not sure what’s up with you and ants, but you might want to look into pest control. My kids leave open food, juice, and candy everywhere and I haven’t seen an ant indoors in at least 10 years.

  2. Sugars are pretty good glues. Dextrin is another, made by heating corn starch and dissolved in water. It’s used in DIY press-n-peel transfer sheets for PCBs, and also in postal envelopes for the lick and stick glue. If you’re into homebrewing, it’s also good for making sweet tasting beer because it isn’t consumed by yeast so it gives the beer a certain “body” – perfect for strong brews with high ABV to cut the taste of alcohol.

    I don’t know if dextrin would have the same property of holding while hot, but it will surely dissolve with a spritz of water, so that’s another easy separation method.

    1. I had an art teacher who requested we bring in any packing peanuts that were cornstarch based, we’d use them in Papier-mâché projects, I’m wondering about whether a well mixed solution from that would work with 3d printing.

  3. I was taken aback momentarily, as I did not know why one would use adhesives on beds, but then I read the rest, but it still took a while to sink in due to my initial confusion. If written as: “Sugar as a 3D printing bed adhesive”, I would not have suffered that momentary mental disconnect. Just say’n. I find the same issues when reading foreign language translations that tend to place the adjectives after the noun (ignoring ill-used idioms and figures of speech).

    1. The title I see at the moment is “SUGAR AS A BED ADHESIVE FOR 3D PRINTING”. The URL slug matches, and in my experience those don’t change (on this site, anyway) when the post title is changed, so I think that proves it said “for 3D printing” since it was first posted.

      1. His point was that, by putting ‘for 3d printing’ at the end instead of in the middle, it can cause confusion. Someone reading the title initially would mentally assign the most common definition for ‘bed’, become confused because of the previous reference to ‘sugar’–which isn’t something you want on your sheets, get really confused with they hit ‘adhesive’, and, if they are unfamiliar with 3d printing terms, end up utterly confused as they try to figure out what 3d printing has to do with where they will sleep tonight. (In someone of average intelligence, that confusion probably wouldn’t last long, but still…)

  4. Been doing this for some time now, the other adhesive that is also effective that works on the same principle is lemon, orange or apple juice. Any juice with a high fructose content, i also suspect high fructose corn syrup would work just as well.

  5. I’ve done something similar with Disappearing Purple glue sticks.

    As the bed is heating, I apply the glue to the bed. I then pour a bit of water right in the middle of the applied glue. I take a paper towel and smear/wipe it all around until I have a nice thin, even coat across the bed. As the bed heats to temperature, the water evaporates and I’m left with a layer of glue that has excellent first-layer adhesion and allows easy removal of the printed part.

    I may have to try the simple syrup approach.

  6. Sugar works incredibly well, especially on a glass bed as the only thing you need to do to clean it is to remove the glass bed, run it under some tap water and not only does the 3D printed piece comes right off but the sugar is cleaned off as well.

    The process is basically mixing up a sugar and water solution and applying it with a small paint brush to the glass surface.

    Sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution. And in terms of effectiveness, the sugar is heads and tails above the rest. Even using expensive Polyetherimide (PEI) sheets.

  7. Glue stick on glass bed is the way to go imo. No need for heated bed or super-precise adjustment. Works every time. Some say you must use purple glue stick with polyvinylpyrrolidone. But I’ve found other types works just as well (or at least well enough).

  8. I’m wondering how this works chemically.

    Perhaps it works because at lower temperature the solubility of sucrose in water is lower, which causes the caramel to chrystalize into a brittle substance.

    In that case longer prints might suffer from this method as the water in the caramel slowly evaporates; the chrystalization might happen mid-print.

    Also it seems to me that you cannot reuse the adhesive layer, because reheating the bed will not dissolve the chrystalline structure.

    I’m no chemist, but I’d like to know the scientific basis in order to know what the limits of this method are.

  9. A well maintained PEI sheet on a properly set up printer sticks PLA (and most everything else) down perfectly when warm, and lets it go cleanly when it cools.

    For the life of me I can’t understand why people keep trying all these voodoo tricks to get PLA to stick to glass; there’s better options now that don’t require a sacrifice to Moloch every time you print.

    1. PEI isn’t a flat replacement for glass for all materials. Lets take PETG for example, it fuses to the PEI and will damage the surface. It also fuses to glass, and water glue mixtures can actually prevent the destruction of your build surfaces. For PLA though, I 100% agree that PEI is a better material than glass.

  10. Great. Thanks.

    Let me explain something to you about makerspaces. People do crazy stuff. Especially crazy stuff they saw on the internet. If you want to know if your 3D printer is well made and a good design, leave it at a makerspace for a month or two. Now someone at the makerspace is going to try this and get sticky crud all over the printers, and I’m going to have to clean up the mess.

    Use an Elmers purple glue stick if you must use something to get prints to stick. Or better yet, put a decent bed on your printer so you don’t need this sort of thing.

    If you care about your printer, don’t let sugar anywhere near it.

    I’d expect to see this sort of thing on Reddit, not Hackaday.

      1. Have you ever spilled a soda on a carpet or in a car? It remains sticky forever, gets moldy, and stinks. All you need is some sticky sugar in the guide rail bearings, on belts, in motors, or on the electronics. Yuck.

    1. Please. Tell us what comprises “a decent bed”. I print polycarbonates and nylon, and I’ve yet to find -or even hear of – a bed surface that doesn’t need some kind of adhesive to make them stay put.

  11. I stopped having adhesion problems once I used Kapton as a surface (+ heated bed).
    Works great without any extra adhesive for PLA and PETG.

    I don’t know why people bother with glass; PLA doesn’t stick on it and PETG sticks too well on it. Unless you have a very large bed where any slight bend can cause problems, I don’t see the point.

    1. PLA does stick to it and on smaller prints it can also stick to unheated bed. I have used it on my delta kossel.
      Also PETG sticks ok to glass and will release it the same way as sugar – after cooling it’s just loose. It’s better to remove glass from bed so it would cool down a little faster so that there would be more sudden change in dimensions as glass dimension will change only a tindy bit , but petg will change alot.

      1. >PLA does stick to it
        Very very poorly. There’s a reason people put additional adhesives like sugar on it.

        >Also PETG sticks ok to glass
        That’s an understatement. Never print PETG directly on your glass bed – you’re gonna break it. If you must, put hair spray or windex on it first. Or sooner or later you’re gonna have glass pieces on your removed print. Not even cooling it down in a freezer will work for long.

  12. I’ve had success before with this as well. However, I stopped because lthe last time I tried it, and added to much sugar to the water. When the water completely evaporated (overnight), the sugar powder left on my heat bed got sucked into my electronics enclosure with the fan. Thankfully everything was alright after vacuuming it out.

    I didn’t boil the mixture in the microwave though. Might try that.

  13. I’ve just printed a 106mm^2 base print with ABS – worked a charm! I’d had a lot of problems with the corners curling up until now so please to report that the sugar collecting dust in the cupboard has been put to great use. I super-saturated the solution & put on a lot more than the video recommended. Unsure if it’d work with less. Added bonus is the 3d printer enclosure smells delicious while printing now

  14. Hello, I am the one who posted the video. (Mysimplefix). I was wondering why my traffic numbers shot through the roof! Firstly, I would like to thank the creators of this article for featuring my update video! Also, thank you everybody for your thoughtful comments. I have been reading through them and find them quite interesting!
    To answer a few concerns, Firstly, no ants. If ever there was concern of ants in being in your home or building, then wiping the sugar layer completely off with a damp cloth takes… 10 seconds? Quick and easy. Another concern I read was sugar dust? The sugar (if left on the bed), stays in a solid state. While being cold, one time, my print bed sat for 3 days before I performed my next print. No issues at all (no ants either… for me lol) The only issue I could possibly think of might be a dust build-up if the bed is left exposed in a dusty room? Next concern, I’ll address was the worry of getting sugar on everything (printer drives, surroundings). This will not be an issue at all if you are careful, use a small limited amount of mix on the bed, that’s taken from a small bowl of mix. Lastly, I believe the key reason this works, is the physical carmelization temperature of sucrose (sugar). It is 186 degrees Celsius. Print nozzles dispense at temps at or above 200. I suspect the hot filament instantaneously melts the sugar layer as it hits the bed, then almost immediately returns to 60 locking it down. I believe this is what the magic is, that nothing other than sugar (sucrose) can do it like this? … Unless it has similar properties. This is only my theory, and I AM NOT an expert in any way. It would be great to hear other people trying different routines and methods to help prove out the best methods. Try ABS,.. and others. Other temps.
    Once again, thank you to everyone! Mysimplefix P. S. I intend on doing a thermal camera test using an amount of sugar crystals,(my camera) to try to demonstrate what is happening in this scenario at those temps. (186 degrees C) Thanks again!

  15. I use sugar for three years. Specially for ABS.
    I just put sugar in a bit of water until it is a saturated solution. (Some crystals they on the ground).
    I use a small painting brush to bring the solution on the heated bed (70°C).
    That gives a beloved taste, that rememberes me of my childhood :->

    In my opinion it sticks as good as a solution of ABS and acetone. But avoiding the dangerous and harmful vapors.
    And on borosilicat glas it works better then the glue sticks. (There are glas surface that work better with glue sticks)

    To get the glas clean again, I put a damp paper towel flat on the surface to soak it. After few minutes I wipe of the left overs easily.

  16. I said I would let you know how I go using sugar, only have raw sugar in the house so this is what I used and it works great.
    I have been using blue glue stick and it has been really good, however for me the sugar works much better. In the past I have tried printing with ABS but could not get it to stick to the bed mostly because my bed will not heat over 60 degrees C. I am using my CR-10 s 5 a good printer except for the bed temperature.

    For the first time I have printed in ABS and all 3 prints so far have held flat on the bed at 60 degrees C bed temp with the hot end at 240 C note I use a raft which I think helps but all printed perfectly.

    I notice when the bed is cold the surface is sticky to touch but when the bed is heated the surface is dry to touch maybe the moisture in the air as we live in a humid area.

    It is worth noting I have been using the blue glue stick for some time and when it comes time to clean the glass I only cleaned it with warm water and a clean sponge, cleaning it this way ensures it leaves a very thin trace of glue stick on the glass. So when I applied the sugar there was no water beading on the surface the surface wet completely with no pooling maybe this helps and could be considered as a preparation of the glass.

    So far sugar is working with my PLA and ABS better than the glue stick, still can’t believe the ABS stuck at 60 C bed temp.

    I can only say this is working for me on the items I have printed so far.

    As for ants well I think there are sweet things in our kitchen but we don’t have ants in the kitchen and I have fly spray on hand.

    Thanks for sharing this trick.

  17. …but will it work for sticking down that damned lining paper I put on the wall yesterday and haven’t yet found anything that will reliably keep the edges from peeling away?

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