The Importance of the Printing Bed
The printing bed—also referred to as the build plate or print surface—is one of the most important parts of any 3D printer. It serves as the platform on which objects are 3D printed. While its primary function is providing a flat surface for the bottom layer of the print, its secondary function is providing an adhesive surface or a surface on which adhesive can be applied. Both ensure the print remains stable as it is created.
Materials for 3D Printing Beds
Printing beds are available in many variations, differing in material, surface finish, thermal characteristics, price point, and more. While they are traditionally made from metal or plastic, glass printing beds have become more ubiquitous.
Glass sheets are a simple and effective solution for print surfaces. Compared to other printing beds, they offer the following advantages:
They are stiff and flat, meaning they will provide a solid and stable print surface for years.
They have high material density and low thermal conductivity, which results in a longer heat up time but better heat distribution.
They offer smoother surface finishes, making it easier to remove a finished print creating a nicer finish on the bottom surface.
Glass printing beds with heating capabilities further enhance prints by allowing for better material adhesion, a lower risk of material warping, and easier component removal.
Two of the most common types of glass used for 3D printing beds are:
Borosilicate Glass. This specialized glass contains a high concentration of boron trioxide and silica. It is characterized by its high durability and low coefficient of thermal expansion. When exposed to high temperatures, it remains clear, strong, and dimensionally stable.
Clear Float Glass. Clear float glass materials (e.g., soda lime glass) are a low-cost alternative to borosilicate glass. They have lower durability and a higher coefficient of thermal expansion, which make them better suited for 3D printing applications involving lower temperatures and/or more flexible tolerance requirements.
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