3D Printing 101: Build Plates and Other Build Surfaces

We’ve used a variety of build plates and surfaces with our Craftbot and Raise3D N2 printers including: Buildtak on glass, the FLEKS3D build plate, and the Zebra Plate by PrintinZ. As mentioned before, we primarily use PLA, so keep that in mind when reading this post. Our friend and fellow blogger Michael has experience with other materials (ABS, nylon, flexible filaments, etc), so he’ll be able to write a great follow-up to this post about his experiences.

All types of buid plates built tack

The objects we print for our Etsy shops have a fairly large surface area (up to 10” x 10” in some cases), making print removal with a spatula quite difficult, because often the spatula can’t get under the entire print. Print removal is even more difficult when the first layer is super “smooshed” to the build plate. This happens sometimes when I re-level the print bed and leave the nozzle a bit too close to the build plate.

 

I’ll get straight to the point: the Zebra Plate by PrintinZ (www.PrintinZ.com) made 3D printing fun for us again! We always enjoyed 3D printing, but removing our large prints could be a nightmare. The Zebra Plate completely took care of that. First, the plate is rigid enough so that bed leveling is no problem – we print with the plate directly on the heated be and have never had any problems with it warping. Next, the plate is just flexible enough so we can easily pop off our large prints. Ironically, the only time we have any trouble getting prints off this surface is if the model’s surface area is quite small, in which case the flexibility of the bed doesn’t help.

 

But, that leads to the next great thing about this surface: you can still use a spatula when needed to help remove a super-stuck print or one with a small surface area. That’s because the Zebra Plate is tough!! We’ve been using the same one on our Craftbot for a long time, and it has been scratched, dinged, beaten up, and it still works great.

A few more points on the Zebra Plate:

  • It can easily be cut with a miter saw as needed to fit your bed, which we did for our Craftbot (we repurposed a Zebra Plate from our Raise3D N2).
  • You can print on either side of the plate, so brightly colored filament can be printed on the black side, and darker filaments on the white side. Also if one side is especially worn out, you can flip it over and use the other side.
  • Finally and most importantly, the customer service is great! Thank you Wayne!

As for Buildtak on glass, getting our prints to stick was never a problem, but removing them was always a nightmare. Once again, we’re talking about a 10” by 10” print here (not that tiny little 3DBenchy you did the first time you ever used a 3D printer). We broke a couple glass plates on prints that just wouldn’t budge. My wife even had to get stiches when the spatula slipped and she wound up cutting her other hand that was holding the plate. Can’t blame that on the Buildtak of course; safety first – always keep your free hand holding the build plate behind the spatula.

Also, putting on a new piece of Buildtak, or removing an old one, could be tricky. Not impossible, but definitely a pain from time to time. And Buildtak definitely seems to have a shorter life-span than the Zebra Plate. I think we replace our Buildtak every few months, but our Zebra Plate has been going strong for a very long time now (and gets a lot of use).

All that being said, I saw Buildtak has a flexible plate they’re selling on their website, and I’m very excited to give that a shot.

Lastly; the FLEKS3D plate. I tried this thing twice. Both of the ones I got, on two separate occasions, were warped. Therefore leveling the bed was impossible. Some of the first layer would turn out perfectly, but then other sections would be too close to the nozzle causing it to skip and eventually jam. Or parts of the build plate would be a bit too far away from the nozzle, and the print wouldn’t stick to the bed.

Actually, perhaps the plates weren’t warped, I think maybe this build plate is just too flexible, and therefore not rigid enough for reliable leveling across the entire build surface. I’ve read that others have had issues with this surface as well. On the other hand, I’ve heard positive things about it from other users, so I’m always willing to give it a second (or in this case third) chance.

Please leave a comment below! Feedback is always helpful and we’d love to hear about your experience with these or other build surfaces. I’ll be sure to update this post as I use different filaments and new surfaces.

 

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