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TweakTown's Guide to 3D Printing: Part 1 - What makes up a 3D Printer?

By: Charles Gantt | 3D Printers in Maker & DIY | Posted: Mar 29, 2013 7:22 pm

Print Platform / Bed Types


The print platform or "bed" is just as important as the extruder. The material it is made out of, is it heated, and is it easily adjustable are all factors you need to take into consideration when choosing which printer is right for you as the bed type will determine how easy it is to print different materials. Regardless of which type of print bed you are using, it is considered good practice to cover the bed in some sort of high temperature tape. Kapton or Polymide tape is the norm, but I feel that 3M's PET based tape is the better product, as it last longer and resists acetone.




Some print beds utilize a fixed mounting solution while others are adjustable with a spring under each mounting bolt, making fine tuning very easy. I feel that bed adjustability is a major factor in achieving good print quality. Leveling the bed by tweaking each corner's height is the easiest way to get a perfectly flat surface.


Another factor to consider is that some print beds are stationary and the print head moves in all axis. Other designs move the print bed on the x and y axis with the extruder moves on the z axis. I do not feel that either of these designs are better than the other and that choosing a heated bed over a non-heated bed is the more important factor.




Non-Heated - A non-heated bed is something you should avoid unless your budget simply will not allow for the extra cost. Non-heated beds can be made out of several different materials, with the most popular being laser etched acrylic. This type of bed makes controlling print warping almost impossible. When using a non-heated bed, generally you would want to print using a Raft which broadens the contact surface between the print and the bed. Rafts are hard to remove and waste filament. My advice is to spring for the heated bed and never look back.




Heated Bed - The heated bed revolutionized the quality of prints coming out of hobbyist level 3D printers. It reduced warping and splitting by as much as 90% on some printers and improved adhesion tenfold. With the introduction of heated beds we were also able to move to raft-less printing, which improved bottom surface quality. Heated beds are usually topped by a 1/8-inch thick sheet of borosilicate glass that is covered in a high temperature tape. Heated beds often see temperatures as high as 140c and are usually made from a simple PCB with a maze of traces etched onto the surface to create resistance.

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