Your 3D printer’s bed is the most crucial component to get consistently successful prints. Properly maintaining your 3D printer bed and cleaning it is essential to keep your 3D printer running in good shape.
Read on to learn how to clean the various types of 3D printer beds and get some tips and tricks.
How to clean a 3D printer bed
If your prints are not sticking to your 3D printer bed the way they’re supposed to, chances are your print bed is not as clean as it should be.
Over time and across multiple prints, tiny bits of residue can get stuck on the print bed which affects the adhesion for all future prints.
We’ll take a look at how to clean the most common 3D print surfaces: glass, tape, and PEI. We’ll also give some tips for easy cleaning.
Cleaning a glass 3D print bed
Glass beds are quite common thanks to the fact that they provide a really nice and smooth finish to the bottom of your 3D prints. Some 3D printers have a glass sheet attached to the surface of the print bed. Alternatively, you can place a sheet of glass on top of any print bed and secure it with binder clips to keep it in place.
Glass works best with heated beds and in conjunction with hairspray or a gluestick, so over time, you may find that bits of glue stick and hair spray form a residue on the glass bed that prevents your prints from sticking the way they should.
The best way to clean a glass 3D print bed is to use a scraper. You probably have a scraper lying around for removing your prints anyway!
You can also heat up the bed a little bit to soften any residue on the print bed, and scrape firmly but evenly to get the residue off. Be careful when you scrape, as you don’t want the blade to slip.
Scraper blades are very sharp, so they can damage your printer’s components, or worse, you could cut yourself.
If you are able to remove the glass plate from the print bed, you can just scrub it with warm water and soap to get the residue off. This is the most effective and safest way to clean glass.
Alternatively, you can also use a spray like Windex or an isopropyl alcohol-based cleaner to help dissolve the residue.
Be careful when you handle liquids near your printer: spills can damage the electronic components!
Cleaning a PEI 3D printer bed
PEI or polyetherimide is a highly popular 3D printer bed surface. It offers excellent adhesion and is commonly used on budget and high-end 3D pritners.
The Creality Ender 3 comes with a PEI sheet, for example.
Any time you touch the print bed, oils from your skin transfer onto the sheet, too.
To clean PEI sheets, use isopropyl alcohol in a paper towel and clean the print bed thoroughly. It’s a bad idea to go at it with a scraper, since excessive scraping can damage the surface.
You can also use a very fine grit sandpaper and gently scrub in circles to remove stubborn bits of residue.
Finally, a very potent solution you can use is acetone. Acetone will dissolve the residue without any problems. Be sure to use acetone in a well-ventilated area, as the fumes are highly flammable and the vapors can get lodged in your 3D printer’s electronics.
PEI sheets tend to collect residue very easily and as a result you should thoroughly clean them very often. You should be able to eyeball if there’s any residue on the sheet once the print is complete.
PLA usually comes off fairly cleanly from PEI, but PETG tends to stick a little too well. I once printed PETG directly on to PEI and the print stuck so well that when I finally got it off, a little residue was firmly embedded into the surface.
No matter what I tried, I could not get it out – I eventually replaced the sticker.
Cleaning a 3D printer bed covered in adhesive tape
I saved this one for last, since it’s the most finicky one to clean. Even though adhesive tapes like painter’s tape and Kapton tape are very good at getting your prints to stick, they peel off just as easily, too.
Even if you apply just a little bit extra pressure with a scraper, you’ll end up peeling the tape off.
If you manage to get your print off without scraping the tape, you can use something soft like a rubber spoon or spatula to get any leftover residue off.
However, the biggest advantage of using tape is that you can just peel off whatever has torn and replace it.
This also make it the least desirable option as you end up wasting a lot of material.
Every now and then, it’s a good idea to fully remove the tape from your printer bed and clean the original build surface, too. This is just good practice to keep your printer in decent shape.
Although cleaning is a process that’s often neglected, it can be the difference between your printer functioning well and going bad prematurely. No matter which build surface you are using: PEI, glass, or adhesive tape, make sure you maintain it regularly.
A scraper, some rubbing alcohol, and some sandpaper are useful things to have in your 3D printing toolkit.