I guess all of you stod there, watching the first layer getting printed and hoping for a perfect “first layer porn”; When we achieve that kind of first layer perfection, other than the satisfaction, we also know that most certainly the print from there will go great! It is well known that the path to achieving a successful print, starts from the first layer, without a perfect first layer we can have all sorts of problems; from bad adhesion to failed supports and many other issues.
So, how do we achieve a perfect first layer? Easy! Good bed calibration and especially, an adequate build plate for the material used.
Since most of you use mostly PLA, l I will focus this article on the best build plate materials for PLA to improve either the adhesion with the bed or to improve the overall aesthetics.
What is the best surface to 3d print on?
You have to know what is best for the case that you are facing right now. We have to distinguish this article into 2 sections that are based on the most common requests:
- What is the best surface for improved adhesion?
- What is the best surface for improved first layer aspect?
You may think why we can’t achieve both? Well, we can, but we need to take into count more factors and use some other help than simply, the build plate material.
What is the best surface for PLA to improve quality?
If adhesion is not your first issue, but you just need a surface that brings up the first layer making it perfect and shiny, then this is the place for you.
There are various solutions to improve the aspect of the first layer; usually, the build plate material that all printers with come is not that great, and some are rough, eliminating the shiny effect.
Glass is the best build plate material to increase shininess and overall aspect of the first layer. Glass works very well with almost all materials and if you clean it properly, it will not cause any headaches with adhesion. In the worst case, you can use some adhesives to be sure that the piece will not unstick, but in the end, it will ruin the aspect. So if you want the best quality to avoid using any glue stick, hairspray, or other things.
Another great aspect of having a glass bed is that it will completely eliminate all bed warping, just be sure that you have a glass thick enough that will not warp when securing it (the pressure from the clips on both sides could make a thin glass warp outwards in the middle).
All glass types are great, in my opinion, the best thickness is 3mm, it doesn’t really care if you use an Ikea glass or a mirror, but from my experience, the best type of glass type is borosilicate glass as it has better adhesion and stands better high heat.
PET Tape is another great alternative to a glass build plate as it’s rather cheap and durable. It gives a very nice glossy finish to the first layer and it is very easy to install; you just need to stick in on the bed-plate, and voila! It will last for a very long time and has a very low maintenance level. Just be sure to clean it often and don’t level the bed too close to the nozzle. Some people had problems with adhesion, but as I said, you just need to properly level the bed. If you really can’t make your print to stick, and a little bit the surface with some fine grit paper.
It is not a very popular print surface, but to my surprise, it works very well and really deserves a shot!
Carbon fiber vinyl
Another creative way to improve the aspect of the first layer is using textured vinyl, in this case, carbon fiber texture! Be sure to buy the 3M version to be sure it sticks properly!
When printing on these sheets the result should be a textured first layer which in my opinion looks very nice! The printed part gets the carbon fiber effect and it is more interesting than the simple shiny look.
Textured thermic bed sheet
To be honest, I don’t know how to call this thing or how it works, but I’ve recently discovered it and tried to order it. This is one of the best things I’ve ever seen, basically, when printing on this sheet the texture gets transferred to the printed object. And the final result is just astonishing, I really like the vibrant effect on it! I’ve done some research and it seems that there’s one place where you can get it at around 25$. I will link the page below and in my opinion, it’s worth a shot! And it seems that it works up to 50 times.
Diffraction Grating sheet
A good alternative to these sheets(as they are so difficult to find) is using a Diffraction Grating sheet. It works similarly but it doesn’t have that awesome textured effect!
What is the best surface to improve adhesion with PLA?
If you lack bed adhesion or just want some safety doing very long prints, then, in my opinion, you have to try these great tricks that will do your case. These are the best solutions in my opinion.
The acronym stands for Polyetherimide and it’s a great material that is low maintenance and stands very well every kind of stress, like high temperatures (which makes it very suited for ABS or ASA). It is known for its high adhesion property. Generally, it works so well that no rafts or brim are needed, if you have a non-heated bed surface then this is a must need for you!
PEI comes in many forms, you can buy it as a thin sheet and stick it to your build plate, or you can buy the better version which is called BuildTak. Essentially it is a thick textured sheet that is PEI coated. This product works very well with almost any material, but with PLA it’s just perfect. Also, it is thicker than the PEI sheet, so there isn’t any risk of tearing it.
Another cheap and efficient alternative is using painter’s tape. It is a brilliant solution when it comes to adhesion. The basic behind this is that the hot filament will instantly stick to the paper. In the worst-case scenario, you could use some glue stick to improve adhesion but this will reduce the overall looks of the first layer. This works very well with PLA but avoids using this solution with ABS because if the printed piece will warp, the painter’s tape will simply unstick and lift with the part. It is not advised to use it even with PETG, which in some situations may warp especially in prints with a large volume.
Kapton tape is a good alternative if you want to print on a variety of materials, it is very similar to PEI sheets and works great with all materials, but the downside is that cost a little bit more.
I hope you found some helpful tips in my article and that it was worth your time. If you think I missed something let me know in the comment section below!