3D printing is all fun and games until you have to clean your machine thoroughly. When you first buy the 3D printer and create some models like action figures, the feeling is unparalleled. You feel like you found a magical gadget that churns out brilliant designs and prints and it makes you feel like a printing genius.
You might also get the feeling to buy a few more printers and set up a 3D printing market because it all looks so achievable and convenient. But a few days later you see your objects getting detached from the build plate of the 3D printer during the printing process. Then all the dreams do not seem so achievable anymore.
I faced these issues when I initially started 3D printing, and I assume many of you might be going through the same. So if you are in the same boat that I was in some time back, keep reading this article because I am going to give you some tips to keep your printer bed clean and printing uninterrupted.
A clean printing bed is also essential for improving layer adhesion to the build plate of the printer, and also results in a better-looking first layer. You can use Isopropyl Alcohol (ranging from 70% to 99.99%) for cleaning your printer bed.
How to Clean the Printer Bed?
Take a microfiber cloth, cotton, or paper towel and soak it in a generous quantity of Isopropyl Alcohol. Clean the printer bed with the soaked cloth in a circular motion, rinse and repeat the process until your printer bed is free from fingerprints, oils, leftover filament, and other imperfections that can potentially ruin the quality of your 3D print.
You can use different types of solvents such as acetone, it depends on your printer bed type. But make sure to use acetone as the last resort as it is very strong and use it only to clean those parts of the printer bed that cannot be cleaned with alcohol.
Even if you are not sure whether your build plate is dirty or clean, clean it anyway. This practice will make the print bed look new and flawless.
Importance of Cleaning 3D Printer Bed
3d printer bed is the base and you print your model on it. When you print your model, some residual filament is left behind after the printing process is completed.
Apart from the filament residual, the printer bed also becomes dirty by excessive touching and handling such as fingerprints, skin oil, dirt, and material from the surrounding environment. These contaminants not only ruin the quality of your future print but also cause damage to your printed bed in the long run so clean 3D printer bed properly.
So try not to avoid maintenance of your 3D printer, its bed, or the build plate because this negligence can cause irreversible damage to your machine and its functioning and it will only be resolved by replacing those parts.
Advantages of Clean 3D Printer Bed
If you want to achieve perfect results for 3D prints, then a clean printing bed is an essential requirement. Moreover, keeping your 3D printer bed clean also prolongs the work-life of your printer.
You do not have to replace its components after some time which saves you some bucks too. The core issue with printing is the fine adhesion of the first layer to the build plate of the printer.
When the 3D printer bed is clean, it ensures that your models get printed properly and neatly, without any issues. So if you plan to 3D print some designs and models, keep in mind the tips to keep the printer bed neat and clean. Because the cleaning process varies from printer to printer depending on the material and model.
Maintaining the 3D Printer Bed
Most of the 3D printer beds are made up of glass or PEI (Polyetherimide). Because some printers have beds that are covered in tape, so let’s look into these different types of beds and how can you keep them clean.
Polyetherimide Printing Bed
Most of the 3D printers gave a PIE sheet as a bed because polyetherimide has little maintenance and is a very suitable material for 3D printing. PIE beds are also frequently used because they are resistant to the strong radiation that is used in 3D printing as well as exhibit very little weathering to extreme temperatures used in the printing process.
Polyetherimide sheets do not normally get stuck with the model because they have good adhesion properties, and if you maintain them properly they last for a long time. However, there are a few times when the tapes and adhesives are needed while using the PIE sheets.
Although PIE sheets are quite flexible in usage, to keep up the quality of your 3D prints, you have to maintain these sheets.
Because if not maintained over time, their adhesion becomes weaker because the printer bed is constantly subjected to high temperature, radiation, 3D printing inks, general handling, and environmental contaminants.
Consequently, the bed becomes polluted with printing ink, glue, oils, dirt, and left-over filaments. Simple cleaning procedures such as scraping, wiping, and scratching with any ordinary material can damage the printer bed.
How to Clean a PEI Printing Bed?
The usual recommended method for cleaning a PIE 3D printing bed is given below:
To clean the printing bed, you will be needing the following materials:
- Acetone or Propanone
- Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) ranging from 70% to 99.99% concentration
- Microfiber cloth, cotton, or paper towel
- Sandpaper (more than 1,500 grit)
The generally considered safe method for cleaning the PIE 3D bed, you will need unscented IPA of 70% concentration. Because the IPA is volatile, it evaporates easily. It also means you do not have to worry about the liquid mess. In case the dirt on the IPE bed is a lot, you will need higher purity of IPA.
But as a safety precaution, use the IPA in moderate concentration. Before you start the maintenance, make sure the IPE 3D printing bed cools down. Then apply IPA on the bed and wipe it thoroughly with a cotton cloth, microfiber, or a paper towel.
In case of increased dirt and grease on the bed, the use of a higher concentration of IPA will easily break down the organic oils, making the cleaning process a lot easier.
If the 3D ink or plastics stuck on the printing bed are stubborn, then you should use Acetone. Pour the acetone on the wiping cloth and clean the bed with it. Do not pour the acetone directly on the printing bed.
PEI sheets are not soluble in acetone. However, to be on the safe side, you should avoid using too much acetone in one area for prolonged periods because it can cause damage to the IPE bed.
To remove the plastic compounds from the bed, wipe the printing bed with a cotton/paper towel in a circular motion for better removal. To remove the tough stains from the bed, you can pour a small quantity of acetone directly on the bed.
However, you should only opt for acetone when alcohol is no longer working for you. In case of stubborn stains on the bed, you can use sandpaper of about +1,500 grit and scrub off the residual to clean and smoothen the surface of the printing bed. Once you are done using the sandpaper, again wipe the bed with a cotton or microfiber cloth.
The maintenance time of IPE sheets is different depending on their brands. Maintenance time also decides the serviceable life of IPE sheets. By using hair spray or glue, you can prevent the model from sticking to the printing bed. This technique has become very common and effective over time.
One of the most common materials used for 3D printing beds is glass. It lasts much longer than IPE sheets as well as facilitates the usage of adhesives and hair spray for the 3D printing process because glass does not react with any of the materials placed on it. Another advantage of a glass bed is that it is relatively easier to clean.
Does acetone dissolve PLA?
Yes, under certain conditions acetone can dissolve PLA. Several solvents can provide great results for PLA, but not one solvent works for all kinds of PLA filaments.
What is PE cleaner?
PE cleaner is a high-quality cleanser for degreasing plastic joint components before welding as well as cleaning purposes. PE cleaner is also available as PE spray: it is a user-friendly PE spray.
How do you deep clean a 3D bed?
One of the best ways to deep clean a glass bed is to slightly heat it and then apply the cleaning solvent. The solvent can be a window cleaner, soapy water, as well as acetone. Leave the solvent on the bed for some time then wipe it with a paper towel or cotton cloth.