Better 3D Printing Through Magnets

Just like Goldilocks found some porridge too hot and some too cold, 3D printers often have beds that don’t stick well enough or stick too well. A few weeks ago I switched two of my three printers to use magnetic beds and thought I’d share with you how that worked out. Spoiler alert: like most things it has its plusses and minuses.

It isn’t a secret that 3D printing is not a plug-and-play operation, especially at the price most of us are willing to pay for printers. There are lots of variables to get right: temperature, speeds, bed leveling, and a bunch of other things. However, one of the things that vexes many people is the relationship between getting that first layer to stick and being able to get the print off the bed when you are done. It is hard to find a happy medium. If the first layer won’t stick, you print is doomed. If the first layer sticks too well, you are likely to damage the part or your fingers getting it removed. I switched to BuildTak surfaces long ago,¬†and many people like PEI. But it is sometimes hard to get a big part removed. A few weeks ago, I took the plunge and bought some magnetic build surfaces for two of my printers. These were “no name” inexpensive affairs from Ali Express.

The idea is simple. There are two sheets that look like a rubberized plastic and have magnetic properties. One piece has some 3M adhesive on the back. The other has one surface that resembles BuildTak. Once you glue down the one sheet you leave it alone. Then you put the other sheet on top and print on it. When you are done, you can pull the sheet out and flex it to pop the print off. That’s the theory, anyway. Continue reading “Better 3D Printing Through Magnets”

BuildTak, PEI, And Early Adopter Syndrome

I’m guessing most of the members of the Hackaday community are what most people would consider early adopters. Sure, there’s variation among us, but compared to the general population we probably all qualify. I’ve spent many years being an early adopter. I owned a computer, a TiVO, a digital camera, a 3D printer, a drone, and many other gadgets before they became well known. I’ve avoided the self-balancing conveyance craze (I’ll stick with my motorcycle).

Of course, you know if you are an early adopter, you will overpay. New has a premium, after all. But there is another price: you often have the first, but not the optimum. My first digital camera took 3.5 inch floppies. My TiVO has an analog tuner.

I was reminded of this last week. A number of years ago, I built a 3D printer. A lot of printers back then didn’t have heated build plates, so printing ABS required rafts and ABS juice and frustration. I made sure to get a heated bed and, like most people in those days, I had a glass print surface covered in Kapton.

That works pretty well with ABS, but it isn’t perfect. Aqua Net hair spray makes it stick better, but large flat prints still take a little work. With a little practice, it isn’t bad. I eventually switched to an aluminum bed and didn’t have to level the head quite as often, but it didn’t really make things any better, just more repeatable.

The years pass and other gadgets beckon. I use the printer about like I use a drill press. I don’t use it every day, but when you need it it is handy. I have to admit, I’ve been getting partial to PLA since it doesn’t warp. But PLA in the hot Houston sun isn’t always a good mix, so I still print a fair amount of ABS.

The other day I noticed a product called BuildTak. I also heard some people are printing on PEI sheets. I decided to try the BuildTak. Wow! What a difference.

Continue reading “BuildTak, PEI, And Early Adopter Syndrome”