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Can I 3D Print On An Aluminum Bed? Is it better than glass or BuildTak?

Bed adhesion may be defined as the ability of 3D printed plastic to effectively stick to the printer’s build plate while it is 3D printing an object. When most 3D prints are not able to stick to the build plate, the odds are that you will inevitably end up getting shifted, curled, and otherwise disastrous results.

This is precisely why the makers of most conventional and varying types of 3D printing surfaces usually get their builds and objects to adhere to the baseplate during the printing process.

As a general rule most common 3D printers tend to use stainless steel sheet, glass sheet, aluminium sheet, Buildtak, Kapton tape, masking tape, PET, or even PEI film.

However, there is no single bed type that will work best when it comes to the stickiness of every specific type of 3D printing filament. All of them have their own pros and cons as the ideal bed material.

Can You Print On An Aluminum Bed?

It is possible to print directly on an aluminum sheet. While it is certainly true that this material has many properties that are admirable from the 3D printing viewpoint, but, when you use aluminum plate, you will have to take care of a few issues and problems.

Aluminum heated beds are widely used due to their ability to conduct heating very well indeed. In fact, they can help effectively in getting an even temperature all across the whole print bed. As a matter of fact, there are many adhesion issues that tend to arise due to uneven bed temperatures so it is possible that this will work out well in that regard.

The Ender 3 for instance has a standard aluminium heated bed. One which works fine and gives awesome prints.

In order to achieve reasonably adequate sticking power, many people who tend to use aluminum beds usually end up needing an adhesive substance. This can be Blue Painter’s Tape or even Hairspray too, especially when printing some really difficult materials.

This holds particularly true for many, if not most large ABS prints since they might have some trouble sticking to the original glass plate in lieu of PLA, ABS or any other material.

The main thing to remember when you 3D print on an aluminum heated bed is that, it is more than likely to expand whenever it is properly heated unlike a glass bed for instance. This will result in either a concave or convex shape over a period of time where the center will be higher or lower than the sides, due to their physical characteristics.

This is not possible as such, with a glass build surface. Not at least at such a significant enough level that it will end up affecting your 3D prints if you are using glass. If you are interested in checking the overall flatness of your printer bed you should do so only when it is very hot.

You can also use glass for a better surface finish. However, it will take longer to attain the desired temperature. But you will still get good results.

Of course it is not likely to happen with filament that typically does not require any sort of heating up of the bed at a high temperature. However, when it comes to ABS, PLA and many other similar types of materials, then yes, it can definitely become a bit of a nuisance and sometimes, even a major problem. Here glass will be a good alternative.

Pros of aluminum beds

  • Aluminum heated beds are very good at conducting heat
  • Won’t break in case of a hotend crash and you can use them again and again
  • They heat up quite evenly and you can use them to make good builds
  • It is a lightweight material that effectively reduces the load on the Z axis of your 3D printer
  • It has a significantly high measure of conductivity than most other 3D printer bed materials
  • Very widely available for many different 3D printers with good after sales support
  • Tried and tested with PLA and other filaments
  • Doesn’t require a glue stick as such, but you would be better off getting one

Cons of aluminum beds

  • Cleaning the residue can lead to scratches on the aluminum bed of your printer
  • Aluminum beds tend to be flat when they are cool, but once they heat up, it is possible that you would start to experience a lot of warping related issues

Aluminum Beds Vs Buildtak

Buildtak works well and it is cheap since you can easily get 3 sheets for under $300. However, it is not as durable as aluminum equipped print beds. And if you continue to print in the same spot, it won’t last very long. However, the cleanup of a Buildtak bed is pretty easy. And you can do the job with little more than soapy water and a sponge. But, aluminum beds do require more rigorous treatment, unlike their glass counterparts.

But if you like using it no harm in that. You will just need a better first layer though and bed leveling will also be affected too. If you want a higher temperature you will need an aluminum bed for your print, or even a glass bed.

Aluminum Beds Vs Glass

Aluminium conducts heat far better than its borosilicate glass plate counterpart. Unfortunately, it will scratch easily or warp. Glass, on the other hand will take a whole lot longer to heat up but on the plus side, it will certainly give you a smoother print bed. This will make leveling much more simple and easy.

In fact, many people actually choose to place borosilicate glass plates above their aluminum beds. This set up offers the best of both worlds, but it will require a longer heating time overall.

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Conclusion

Aluminum beds have plenty of advantages, but there are other materials out there that can also get the same job done well enough. However, aluminum still rules the roost when it comes to heat transfer.

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