Recently I decided to up my game a bit and start printing on borosilicate glass. You probably know this material from your mom’s pyrex cake pans. Due to its extremely low thermal expansion it has been a favorite for applications requiring smooth surfaces and lots of heat.
Prior to using borosilicate, I was contently using the TAK surface print surface provided by Afinia. Though, the TAK surface has incredible adherence properties. These properties were a bit too good at times. It was common that I would find the adherence so strong that the printed models would get damaged while trying to remove them from the print bed. An extremely annoying problem to have. Even though the pad lost its adherence property as I did more prints, it was still producing an uneven looking on the print bed facing side of the model.
Prior to switching my print bed I did a quick survey of my other options out there.
Some of the options are
- Kapton tape (http://www.octave.com/p1173433188/Octave-Kapton-Tape-for-3D-Printer-Platform-6%22-x-100&%2339/product_info.html) (I don’t like the idea of using tape as it seems that it will wear out quickly and require lots of maintenance)
- Blue masking tape (tried and true but low adhesion, need to change often)
- Borosilicate glass (http://www.octave.com/p1173433237/Octave-Borosilicate-glass-platform-3-Pack-for-Afinia-and-UP-3D-Printers/product_info.html)
- Buildtak (too much adherence and later poor looking builds)
- Polythemeride (http://www.amazon.com/Polyetherimide-Natural-Standard-Tolerance-Thickness/dp/B00CPRDDLY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422728200&sr=8-1&keywords=pei&pebp=1422728559586&peasin=B0013HKZTA) (very pricey, though I’ve read that it works very well)
I decided to try borosilicate after years of using masking tape and builtak. Though I was pretty proficient at using both surfaces I didn’t like the final finish I got on the builds. It was common I would get bumps on the bottom surface as well as simply adherence problems and failed builds.
I went with borosilicate because of the price and the amount of knowledge online. I also like the idea of printing on a completely flat and smooth surface. The major caveat with using a glass composite is the need for a surface coating. This is something you’ll find most people refer to as coating the surface with an ABS Slurry. This is simply a fancy word for some left over ABS dissolved in Acetone solution. This is a solution which you need to apply on the glass prior to printing else you’ll quickly find that your print is not sticking to the surface. I found a very nice way to apply the slurry is with a spray bottle.
Acetone is simply nail polish but don’t do what I did and simply go but some nail polish at your drug store. Nail polish actually has a very low amount of acetone and will not do the job. Simply stop by home depot and check your solvent aisle.
To get started all you need to do is apply a very thin coat of the slurry on the borosilicate glass. Simply spray a few times creating a super thin coat on the surface. Be careful not to inhale the slurry vapors. Though Acetone is note very toxic keep in mind that this slurry contains dissolved ABS which you might inhale. I use a full face mask when I’m using the sprayer. The sprayer will simply apply a super thing coat of abs on the print bed. Let it dry and start heating the bed.
Using any surface will not compensate for having a uneven surface so make sure that your print bed is completely level prior to printing.
Now my prints come out with a super shiny finish on the bottom. Now I simply ask myself why didn’t I do this before?
Look at that. Smooth and shiney : )