Why can’t I get 3D-Printed Parts to Stick to the Bed

get 3D printed parts to stick to the bed

“Help, I cannot get 3D-printed parts to stick to the bed!”

While most desktop 3D printers are only capable of 3D printing in a single material — usually ABS or PLA — most Airwolf 3D printers are capable of printing in over 40 different types of thermoplastic materials. There are many different strategies to improve the bond between the build plate and the 3D printed part. Our unique experience with a wide range of 3D printing filaments has allowed us to emerge as an industry leader in 3D printer adhesion solutions. Whether you are 3D printing with low temperature materials like PLA or high temperature materials like Polycarbonate, here are some things to consider for getting 3D printed parts to stick to the bed.

3D Printer Bed Temperature

Some 3D printer filaments require a heated print bed in order get 3D printed parts to stick to the bed properly.  The main reason is that many 3D materials have a tendency to shrink when cooled. When a 3D printed part cools unevenly–or too quickly–it can cause the part to retract. The edges of the 3D printed part are the most likely to retract because they are exposed to the atmosphere and lose heat more quickly than the denser portions of the 3D printed part. When this happens a phenomenon called, “Warpage” can lift the edges of your part off the glass and prevent 3D printed parts from to sticking to the bed.

Warpage results when the retractive forces of the extruded 3D filament are strong enough to break the bond with the build plate. Most of the time this means that the edges of the part will curl up like the photo shown here.

3D printed parts to stick to the bed

Minor warpage can deform a 3D printed part but major warpage can cause the part to lose bed adhesion altogether. If your part loses adhesion with the print bed you may wind up with a spiderweb-like tangle of extruded filament on your bed instead of a 3D printed part. ABS is one type of 3D printing filament that is notorious for its tendency to shrink and warp on the build plate, especially when printing large parts with it.

The most basic solution for minimizing the likelihood of warpage is to heat the print bed. A heated print bed keeps the extruded filament tacky and ensures that the temperature of the filament on the print bed is closer to the temperature of the filament at the print head (aka the “hotend”). Minimizing the temperature variance between the hotend and the print bed allows the 3D printed part to cool more slowly and to resist warpage to a greater degree. Installing a heated print bed is one of the most basic ways to get 3D printed parts to stick to the bed.

partsstickheatedbedThe heated bed of the AXIOM 3D printer shown here with its all-new ceramic build plate

3D Printer Enclosure

Temperature control is paramount to ensuring optimal consistency and bed adhesion. A heated print bed goes a long way to getting 3D printed parts to stick to the bed; however, many types of materials need even better temperature control than a heat bed can provide on its own. As a general rule: the higher the extruding temperature of the filament the better the temperature control needs to be, especially when 3D printing large parts. Even something as small as a gust of wind could be enough to cause warpage in an unprotected print environment.




The enclosed chamber of the AXIOM 3D printer provides a stable printing environment for
most materials


The best way to ensure a stable heat environment is to enclose the 3D print chamber. 3D printers generally come with three different types of enclosures: un-enclosed, semi-enclosed, or fully enclosed. Fully enclosed print chambers, such as those offered in the all new AXIOM 3D printer help to maintain a stable printing environment and ensure optimal bed adhesion.

3D Printed Material

Many 3D printing filaments often require different combinations of bed adhesion techniques. Some 3D printing materials, such as PLA and ABS, utilize painter’s tape and glue sticks. Others, such as polycarbonate filament, normally require a heated bed, and a two-part bed preparation to get 3D printed parts to stick to the bed. Knowing the characteristics of the material that you are working with is very important to determining which bed preparation method to apply.

3D Printer Bed Preparation

Every 3D printing filament has its own unique requirements that encourage bed adhesion and it can be difficult to keep them all straight. Some 3D filaments do not require any bed preparation, while others require one or two different steps to ensure that the 3D parts will stick to the bed. This document lists the best bed preparation methods to get 3D printed parts to stick to the bed.

Wolfbite-BottlesFrom left to right: Wolfbite Nano for PLA, Wolfbite Mega for Polycarbonate and PC/ABS, and Wolfbite for ABS

Airwolf 3D recently announced the release of Wolfbite MEGA™, a premium adhesive solution for use with polycarbonate and PC-ABS 3D filament. As one of the only manufacturers of desktop 3D printers capable of printing with filaments such as polycarbonate, Airwolf 3D was tasked with developing Wolfbite MEGA to support its growing body of customers who use their desktop 3D printers for engineering, manufacturing, and prototyping in high temperature, high strength, filaments such as polycarbonate.

Wolfbite MEGA works just like Wolfbite and Wolfbite NANO. Simply apply one coat to your 3D print bed to get 3D printed parts to stick to the bed. That’s it! And one 2 oz. bottle lasts for over 100 prints. This eliminates the need for the two-step PET tape and glue stick bed preparation which was costly, messy, and inconvenient. You can learn more about Wolfbite MEGA, here: Wolfbite MEGA News Release.

Surface Area of the 3D Printed Part

The size and shape of an object, coupled with the type of material that you are using may prevent your 3D parts from sticking to the print bed. When your 3D printed parts will not stick to the bed regardless of what bed preparation method you use it may be necessary to print a brim or a raft to improve bed adhesion.

Brim:  A brim is a ring of material that is printed around an object  much like the brim of a top hat. The purpose of the brim is to increase the surface area of the part which helps to give it more grip on the print bed.

Raft: Building a “raft” is a similar technique for increasing the surface area of a 3D part that will not stick to the bed. A raft is a solid platform upon which the 3D printed part will be built. This technique provides even more surface area than a brim and might be used when printing objects with odd dimensions, like an inverted beaker, for example.

Another use for the raft is when working with two different materials. When printing an ABS model with a PLA dissolvable support, for example, a PLA raft can be used as a foundation to build the 3D part upon. This is done because PLA and ABS each require different methods of bed preparation to get the 3d printed part to stick to the print bed. A raft ensures that your object will stick to the print bed with just a single bed preparation method.

Skirt: Like a brim a skirt encircles the perimeter of a 3D printed object except that it is usually limited to just a single layer in height. The skirt is used to induce a smooth flow of molten filament before laying the first layer of a 3D print. The practice is similar to how a person might scratch a ballpoint pen on a separate piece of paper to activate the ink before beginning a letter.

Unlevel bed/Improper Head Spacing

The first layer of your 3D printed print is the most critical for ensuring a successful print. If the head spacing (the distance between your print head and the print bed) is too tight you run the risk of clogging your hotend and causing “mousebite” to your filament. If the head spacing is too loose, you may increase the chances of poor bed (and layer-to-layer) adhesion. An unlevel print bed can lead to a mixture of print quality issues as the print head is either moved too close to or too far away from the print bed. For this reason it is very important to properly calibrate your print bed before beginning your print. Not only will this help to get 3D printed parts to stick to the bed, but it will also ensure uniform print quality throughout the entire project.

With most Airwolf 3D printers the proper head spacing is .18mm which is about the thickness of a Post-it note folded in half. When placed between the print bed and the print head a folded Post-it note should provide very light frictional resistance. Newer model Airwolf 3D printers such as the AXIOM; however, are equipped with an automatic bed leveling system which actively ensures the proper head spacing and bed calibration throughout the entire print. Regardless of whether your 3D printer utilizes an automatic or manual bed calibration process, this is one of the most important steps to get your 3D printed parts to stick to the bed. Airwolf 3D maintains an extensive library of hints, tips, and suggestions in our Support Section. If you have any questions about materials, bed preparation, or bed adhesion that were not addressed in this article you may email us at Info@Airwolf3d, or find us on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.


About Airwolf 3D

Airwolf 3D is committed to designing, manufacturing and selling 3D printers and 3D printing peripherals that are fast, affordable, durable and easy to use. Airwolf 3D has authorized dealers in more than 20 countries around the world. Airwolf 3D printers are delivered fully assembled and ready to print. All Airwolf 3D printers are made in America and manufactured in the company’s 12,000 sq. ft. facility in Costa Mesa, California.  Airwolf 3D printers can be found in Fortune 500 companies, engineering firms, government agencies and schools worldwide. If you would like to buy the best 3D printer in its class, please visit https://airwolf3d.com/shop/. Or you can telephone (949) 478-2933, email info@airwolf3d.com, or visit the company’s showroom at 130 McCormick, Suite 105, Costa Mesa, CA 92626 for a free demonstration.


Download Material List

Did you know that you can 3d print in over 40+ materials?

There are dozens of types of filaments available to you, including harder polymers such as polycarbonate and flexible materials such as TPU. Download this handy list of commonly used materials. This two page reference chart includes the recommended hotend temperature and bed temperature for optimal 3D printing settings of each material.