The Ultimate Guide of How to Clean a 3D Printer Bed

by Julien Gandelin

When you get the ball rolling in 3D printing, you might think you found those golden settings on your slicer that churn out aesthetically pleasing prints, giving you the feeling that you’re a printing guru. Thoughts of investing in a dozen more printers and starting your printing firm might have sparked a smile.

You may have also crunched the numbers and pictured the size of your future yacht coupled with its amenities. However, your dreams of building a 3D printing empire are short-lived when your objects detach from the build plate mid-print.

If you’re in this predicament, it might be time to lower your expectations and learn how to clean a 3D printer bed. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of how to get the job done.

Types of 3D Print Bed Surfaces and How to Clean Them

Anyone who has tried to clean a 3D printer bed knows it’s no easy feat. Excess 3D filaments and other grime aren’t always easy to remove from the print bed. Nevertheless, failure to clean them makes the situation worse.

A dirty print bed results in reduced bed adhesion, among other issues. With that being said, we’ll discuss how you can successfully clean different types of 3D print bed surfaces.

1. Glass Print Bed

It’s the universal 3D printing surface. Borosilicate glass is the most popular printing bed material for this type of surface due to its superior heating abilities. It’s also easier to clean.

When to Clean It

The more frequently you use the glass print bed, the faster it accumulates grime and dirt, which calls for regular cleaning with the following tips in mind.

  • Scrape the print bed after each session to avoid the buildup of filaments
  • After a month to 6 weeks, you might notice that prints stop clinging to the bed. When that happens, that’s your cue to scrub the print bed with water and soap
  • After 2 to 4 months, scrubbing with water and soap might no longer get the job done. Here’s where Isopropyl alcohol comes into play. It’s a tough and effective solvent that works like a charm.

How to Clean a Glass Printing Bed

Glass print beds are the go-to option as they make it a walk in the park to print 3D objects with smooth surfaces. Although glass plates are usually coupled with adhesives to elevate the printing process, they must be cleaned after each printing session. Here are three ways to effectively clean your glass print bed.

  • Use a Scraper: Raise the glass bed temperature to make sure it matches the melting point of your filaments. That makes it easier to gently scrape off the debris without damaging the printing surface.
  • Use Soap and Water: At times scrapping might not be sufficient. However, you’ll need to detach your printer bed before using water and soap to avoid damaging the sensitive components of the unit. Additionally, ensure you use warm water to soften the filaments and allow them to come off quicker.
  • Use Isopropyl Alcohol (at least 70%): Dab it onto a paper towel or dry cloth pad and wipe the surface. Do so outside or in a well-ventilated room as isopropyl alcohol is highly flammable.

2. PEI Print Bed

Also known as Polyetherimide, a PEI print bed consists of adhesive and maintenance-free plastic sheets. Besides compatibility with all kinds of filaments on unheated and heated print beds, these sheets call for extra adhesives before use.

When to Clean It

Cleaning your PEI print bed after each use prevents residue and dust buildup. Additionally, if the surface isn’t sticky, that’s your cue to clean it. Loss of adhesiveness is usually a result of the buildup of debris and residue. That calls for a thorough cleaning.

How to Clean a PEI Print Bed

Here are a few methods to get the job done effectively.

  • Brake Cleaner or Acetone : A PEI surface is resistant to brake cleaner or acetone. Dab a clean cloth pad or paper towel and wipe the surface. Do so not more after 3 weeks to avoid premature wear.
  • Isopropanol: It works well for intermediate or standard level cleaning on PEI print surfaces. It’s a great option when soap and hot water won’t get the job done, but the surface isn’t filthy enough to use acetone or brake cleaner.

To get started, dab isopropanol on a soft sponge, paper towel or cloth pad. Wipe quickly as it’s highly volatile and evaporates in a jiffy.

gray 3d printer

Source: Unsplash

3. Adhesive Tape

There are various types of adhesive tape.

Polyimide Tape

It’s an essential tool in any electrician’s toolbox as it’s renowned for its impressive adhesion, unmatched strength, and durability. Polyimide tape is also aesthetically pleasing as it is amber and gold.

It’s one of the most heat-resistant adhesives in the market and performs optimally at a range of high temperatures of up to 280°C while maintaining its adhesiveness. Polyimide tape won’t weaken under high heat. Additionally, it can be removed without any leftover residue.

Additionally, polyimide tape has impressive insulation properties and chemical resistance. For that reason, it remains intact with exposure to oils and acids and keeps electrical parts such as those of a 3D printer intact at a consistent temperature; otherwise, they’d overheat and catch fire.

Painter’s Tape

It’s a thin layer paper with a pressure-sensitive adhesive that swiftly alleviates pressure.

When to Clean Adhesive Tape

Given its fragility, the adhesive tape will need to be changed more regularly compared to PEI and other adhesives. Usually, we recommend lightly scraping the bed after each print to get rid of filament buildup.

Based on how frequently you use your 3D printer, you might require cleaning the print bed weekly, daily, or monthly.

How to Clean It

Cleaning adhesive tape is no easy feat. Nevertheless, to get started, use a spatula to gently scrape the surface and avoid damaging the tape. During cleaning, you might stumble upon areas where the tape is torn or peeling.

That’s your cue to uniformly and carefully patch these areas. The places you should keep an eye out for are those with the most motions.

Eventually, you’ll need to resurface the bed. To do so, scrape and peel off the first layer of the tape. You can clean the mattress below with soap and hot water to get rid of adhesive residue.

Once you clean and dry the surface, you can put a new layer of tape. That entails stretching the tape across the printer bed and pressing any air bubbles that have formed underneath the tape until the surface levels out.

FAQ

Let’s discuss the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding how to clean a 3D printer bed.

1. How frequently should you clean your 3D printer bed?

We typically advise scraping the bed after each print to avoid residue buildup. Once the prints lose their adhesiveness (after 4 to 5 weeks), scrub the surface with water and soap. After three to four months, you’ll likely require resorting to specialized cleaning solutions such as isopropyl alcohol.

2. Should you clean your 3D printer bed after each print?

All the rods and polls must be cleaned with a vacuum. After every print, the filament must be removed rather than left in the extruder. Additionally, the nozzle requires brushing down with acetone or brake cleaner.

3. What can dissolve Polylactic Acid (PLA)?

While you may not realize, PLA is one of the popularly used materials for 3D printing. It can be dissolved in various solvents ranging from sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, and ethyl acetate to tetrahydrofuran. Resultantly, that paves the way for 3D printer nozzles to be cleaned, smoothing Polylactic Acid prints and support structures.

4. What’s the ideal temperature for Polylactic Acid on the printer bed?

With a temperature-regulated print bed, printing directly on glass can be a foolproof option. The suggested bed temperature for Polylactic Acid is 70°C. Having your extruder and bed level at the ideal height is fundamental when printing on glass.

5. How do you get rid of PLA glue?

An affordable and readily available option is acetone or nail polish remover that contains a high amount of acetone. Dab the acetone on the PLA glue and let it soak for up to 30 minutes. The glue will disintegrate.

It’s worth keeping in mind that acetone doesn’t dissolve PLA, which means it’ll remain intact once the glue comes off.

6. How do you get rid of dust from a 3D printer?

Use a filament cleaner. It effectively eliminates dirt, dust, and other buildups before the filament seeps into the extruder, increasing the duration of the 3D printer nozzle in addition to preventing jams triggered by dirt accumulation. Remember: filament cleaner is a specific solution that should be used, unlike other common ones, like window cleaner.

The Bottom Line

You can easily get the job done now that you know how to clean a 3D printer bed. All you need is soapy water, the cleaning solutions we’ve mentioned, a damp cloth, a paper towel, and a glass scraper.

As you get started, remember not to apply too much elbow grease as that might damage your printer, and that’s the last thing you need.

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