Nov.4, 2014 | By Alec

As anyone with a bit of FDM 3D printing experience will tell you, getting the best possible surface for your 3D printed creations can be a creative process on its own. A quick look around the web will reveal a number of solutions, like (painter's) masking tape, hair spray, glue sticks or a filament paste made from ABS. All of them will result in smooth surfaces, but all of them can be a bit frustrating and messy.

What if there was an easier solution? And a cheap one as well? Fortunately, a very intriguing, easy and affordable solution appeared on Instructables last week: the $1 reusable print bed. Developed by Andy – who has a blog dedicated to 3D printing called Akdrama – this is an easily-made and cheap print bed that will doubtlessly make the lives of numerous 3D printing enthusiasts easier.

And strangely, all of the necessary items can be easily acquired from your local Walmart for just under $4. While not quite a $1 print bed, this will allow you to make four of them (depending on the size of your FDM 3D printer). Still pretty cheap, right?

What you'll need is the Placemat by Mainstays (UPC 0 28332 52351 6), which costs just a little under $3. It comes in a variety of colors, so be creative. Made from vinyl, it has two differently textured sized: one glossy side and one with a matte finish and a fine burlap texture. For this project, it's crucial to remember that it's all about the matte size. Don't even think of printing anything on the glossy side!

Andy did try that and this is what happened: 'The tip of my extruder melted the surface during warmup (whereas the other side only leaves a slight dimpled impression, nothing to get in the way of printing). The base of the thing I was printing also melted the surface and bonded, it was very difficult to remove, I had to throw away the mat. So again, do not use this with heated beds and print on the matte side only!'

The other item you'll need is a simple glue stick of any brand, as this lets you fix the mat in place without a permanent adhesion. Yes, it can be removed at a later date if you want.

Now the great thing about this vinyl material is its durability and resilience. While heavy objects or pressure do leave impressions, these completely disappear quickly. It's also great for removing your prints, as the bed and the object are completely left unscathed.

Simply cut this vinyl mat into a workable form. 'Measure out a good sized area on your printing surface, don't just cut a size that matches your print volume exactly, you want excess material. With some planning you can minimize the amount of waste.' While Andy was left with four print beds, as he uses the relatively small PrintrBot Simple Metal 3D printer, it all depends on your own desktop creator.

There's just one more thing before you can attach it to your printer: set-up your Z-axis. 'Before you begin printing, make sure you raise the Z-axis of your printer with the M212 command. Also, if you have an auto-bed leveling probe, like the Printrbot Simple Metal, then please make sure the probe is set as low as possible without going past the extruder (obviously). The probe needs to be able to sense the metal bed through the material without plunging the extruder deep into your new print bed.'

Andy started with an offset of -0.78, before settling at +0.05 mm, but that is something that depends on the type of printer you have. Experiment a little, and you should soon discover the proper level.

Now you can attach your print bed. Simply apply a coat of glue to the entire surface of the print bed on the glossy, shiny side – 'remember, the shiny side goes down, the matte/textured side goes up' – and center it on your print surface.

And that's all there is to it! There just one small problem, and that is that Andy only tested this bed with his own printer. He doesn't use a heated bed, and prints at about 190 to195º C with the fans running. He can't predict the results of significantly differing temperatures, so be sure to test it a few times before using it for major projects. 'Please proceed with caution and do so at your own risk!'.

Nonetheless, this is a very easy project and, depending on your printer, a very useful and cheap method of successfully 3D printing your projects. Furthermore, it can be used multiple times before you have to apply a replacement. Have fun with it!


Posted in 3D Printer Accessories

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3dthor wrote at 11/20/2015 2:56:55 PM:

Be sure to have a well ventilated area, Vinyl is nasty when heated, emitting dangerous fumes to top the particulate that is already being emitted by the melted plastic. Don't expose yourself and your family to the shortcomings of the 3d printing technology. It is still an enthusiasts arena.

Autoχ3D wrote at 12/27/2014 8:00:06 AM:

Trying it with aBS now and heated bed. So far so good. Bed heat set at 60.

nirmal wrote at 11/23/2014 3:21:24 AM:

where we can get it

M wrote at 11/4/2014 2:16:12 PM:

Does anybody have a link to buy it?

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