Make Your Prints Stick to Your Build Surface!




Introduction: Make Your Prints Stick to Your Build Surface!

About: Ashley hails from beautiful, sunny, Idaho--what am I saying? Ashley is actually a potato that has experienced intense genetic modificaiton. Idaho does not exist. I.D.A.H.O. is actually a top secret governme...

When I built my printer, I was so excited to get printing! I knew that 99 times out of 100, the filament doesn't stick well to the glass that you put on your heated bed. There are a lot of ways around this, including (but not limited to) blue painters tape, kapton tape, hairspray, and even a ABS/Acetone slurry. While getting started I purchased some blue painters tape, which worked decently well, but not consistently. I never seemed to know when a print was going to pull form the bed, and soon it seemed like I had to babysit my printer for fear that prints wouldn't stick and I would loose hours of progress. I quickly moved to the ABS/Acetone slurry, which worked a little bit better, but I was tired of constantly applying the substance to my print bed, and cleaning up after it. I also went through a lot of acetone. It was time to look for something more permanent.

Then, my friend (AndJoeG on instructables!) suggested that I try PEI. PEI (Polyetherimide) is a thermoplastic that does a great job of holding a print when heated, and releasing it when cooled! Sounds perfect! The best part? You don't need to constantly change it. Just wipe it down with acetone every now and then and you are good to go! This will save you loads on materials you would have otherwise put on your printerbed, and instead you just get to sit back, relax, and print away!

Step 1: Materials

Here's what you need to make your prints stick like a dream!

  1. PEI
    • It needs to be the same size as your print bed, I found a 12"x12"x.03" sheet off of amazon for about $17
  2. Cutting tool
    • Your PEI shouldn't be too difficult to cut, but I would recommend a box knife, or x-acto knife before scissors.
  3. Acetone
    • It's always handy to have a bit lying around to clean off your build surface every now and then when it starts to get dirty. I had a bunch leftover from my failed ABS slurry attempt.
    • side note: if you do use acetone, make sure it is NOT nail polish remover. That is actually a mixture of acetone and other oils and minerals which will do nothing to help your print stick!!

A quick note: this instructable assumes that the maker already has a glass print surface and heated bed on their printer, if not, shoot me a message in the comments and I can help you with your printing problems!

Step 2: Cut the PEI

The first thing you need to do, once you have your supplies, is to cut your PEI to size. I laid out my sheet of PEI and placed my glass print bed on top. Then, using an x-acto knife, I traced the outside of my glass print bed onto the sheet of PEI.

I then made lots of passes until I had a deep score, and finished it off by using sharp scissors to cut my 8" x 8" square of PEI! Remember to always take caution when using sharp tools, x-acto knives may seem harmless but they can be extremely sharp.

I checked the fit on top of the glass print bed and it was perfect!

Step 3: Prepare Your Build Surface

Now that your PEI is cut to size, you're going to want to choose which side you want. If you look closely, you'll see that there is a matte side, and a glossy side. Here's the difference between the two:

The matte side is going to give a really good stick but lesser quality bottom of print (as in, the base of your print won't look as pretty). This side requires a bit less care than the other, just clean it up with some acetone to get rid of any oils from your hands, and it's good to go!

The glossy side is going to give you a really great quality bottom of print. The base of your print will look very nice and smooth. This side requires more care, as it isn't as easy for the print to stick here. You will probably have to clean it with acetone or isopropyl alcohol between each print just to keep it pristine.

I chose to use the matte side to print on because i didn't want to have to clean my surface after every print, and didn't care so much about the quality of the bottom of my print.

Peel away the plastic on the opposite side (for me, the glossy side), and place your PEI on top of the glass print bed (be sure that the glass is cleaned and free of debris) such that the desired side is on top. Then gently peel away the plastic on that side.

Now, use binder clips to secure your glass print surface to your heated bed. Try not to touch the PEI as much as possible so it stays clean, but once it's secure go ahead and gently wipe it down with acetone (or isopropyl) anyways to get rid of any oily residue from your hands.

Be extra careful to NOT SCRATCH THE SURFACE OF YOUR PEI, scratches are your worst enemy here, so take caution!

Step 4: Start Printing!

Now you can start printing!

BEFORE YOU PRINT BE SURE TO LEVEL YOUR PRINT BED! IT IS NOW .03" HIGHER THAN IT WAS BEFORE! Don't let your nozzle ruin your brand new PEI by dragging across it first thing!\

Keeping this in mind, go forth and print! You still need to heat up your bed as usual, but watch in amazement as the prints stick right to the PEI! When you have finished your print, let your bed cool down to about 60C or 70C until you try to take your parts off, I generally can just pop them right off without any issues, but if they are particularly sticky wait until your bed cools further. If it is at room temperature and your print is still stuck, cool it down further by sticking the PEI (and print) into the fridge! You really shouldn't get to that point though, I have yet to have issues getting my prints off the bed.

For my first test print, I downloaded from thingiverse user amaochan. It's an awesome moveable rhino! I had had trouble getting it to stick to my print bed previously but I had no problems with the help of PEI.

This was actually one of the greatest improvements that I made to my printer thus far. I no longer have to worry about anything sticking to my print bed! I highly recommend this upgrade!

Thanks for reading, and a huge thanks to AndJoeG for this life changing recommendation!



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    16 Discussions

    I have a dremel 3d Idea builder and at the moment i am using just a cheap glue stick to help my prints stay on the unheated bed. Trouble is you have to clean it off as it builds up over time. Not sure what to clean it off with and normally just scrape it off the best i can

    2 replies

    You can remove gluestick easy with just plain water. I have had great success with a gluestick called Tesa Easy Stick. With that I have no problem getting ABS to stick (printing on Ultimaker 2+ with a heated glass buildplate). Buildtak is good for getting the print to stick but it can be a nightmare to get the finished print off...

    What kind of filament are you using? I have worked with a makerbot (unheated bed) and found that in this case, blue painters tape works decently. The trick is that you want to get the really wide rolls so that it can cover a large surface flatly. PEI is great, but it really only works its magic when heated up. Try something along these lines:


    2 years ago

    Ash, I have a MakerBot Replicator 2 with a glass bed. The leveling routine seems pretty good, so I don't think that's my problem. Thanks for the article - I will try BuildTak.

    Do you have any experience with this printer? I am having a problem and would welcome thoughts on it. In changing filaments about 40% of the time, and unpredictably, I end up with plastic jamming the unheated parts of the feeder mechanism. This requires a time-costly and annoying disassembly and reassembly of the mechanism. Not sure what to do about it - any thoughts?

    2 replies

    I used to work with a makerbot printer, but not enough to run into that issue. I would agree though, and say that it probably isn't a leveling issue.
    One of the (non-Makerbot) printers I use now had an issue similar to that, where it would attempt to extrude filament but the filament would wiggle it's way away from the tip, and jam itself into the gears. I replaced the tip (nozzle) and haven't had any issues with it since. How does your filament look when you feed it in/what kind of filament do you use?

    I use a 1.75 mm PLA filament from Hatchbox. I generally like it and the price is right. I think the MakerBot Replicator 2 cannot use ABS. Not sure about the question about how it looks when fed in. I think it's more of an issue how it comes out when I unload it. If it's long and stringy I will have a problem. The question is how to get it to come out clean. I have replaced the nozzle multiple times, but since that part heats, that seems to be less of a problem than the unheated parts.

    Thanks for the comments. I'm on my own here and have to make it up as I go. Nice to be able to ask questions to someone with experience.

    This sounds terrific. I have had constant problems with prints sticking. The problem is I have an aluminium heat bed. It currently has Kapton tape on it. what are your suggestions?

    1 reply

    I've heard talk of PEI coated aluminum bed (apparently it's very popular in Germany!) called "Dauerdruckplatte". I know that aluminum has a much higher thermal conductivity than glass, so I don't see why you can't apply this same method (putting PEI on top of your aluminum bed)! You just want to make sure that your PEI stays smooth

    I bought a printer with a heated bed and a PEI surface. At first the PEI was great. Over time the PEI developed pockmarks, which became craters. The PEI appeared to crystallize at the edges, and the craters became much larger. I eventually had to remove it.

    Different people have different experiences. Some because of bias, others because of defects. For all I know my experience was a one off.

    Best wishes for those who try this.


    2 years ago

    But I still can see the brim and probably raft on you rhino print. Not that good an adhesion?

    1 reply

    Thanks for the comment! I actually forgot to turn off this setting, but realized my mistake too far into the process. When I took this off the bed, i had the hardest time getting the brim to separate from the part, and now don't use that feature any more! That's actually why I didn't post a photo of the assembled rhino: I ended up breaking it a bit. oops!


    2 years ago

    This sounds promising, but I don't have a heated bed (do have glass). I've been using painter's tape, with the results you describe. Also, I only use PLA for printing. I'd like to find something better than painter's tape or Kapton tape. Any suggestions?

    1 reply

    What kind of printer are you using? I would first double check that your print bed is level. This can cause you all kinds of problems. Assuming that it is, though, try using BuildTak (thanks user ritzy1978 below!)

    here is a great article outlining it's properties, and even shows you how it's installed!

    Thanks for the comment, let me know what you end up deciding!

    Thanks for the great tip!