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Prints Not Sticking? Build Plate Maintenance

Last Updated: Mar 30, 2017 03:20PM PDT

One of the highest reported print issues is a surface adhesion failure. MOD-t surface plates last 30-50 prints, and proper build plate maintenance can help you maximize your plate’s lifespan and ensure your prints’ success.

It’s easy to prevent adhesion failures and even easier to stop them once they’ve started. Just take care to maintain a healthy build plate through these three stages and you’ll notice an uptick in print success!

Tips & Tricks: Build Plate Maintenance
Prints with multiple pieces on one print surface work best on a well-maintained build plate.

Too Slick For Your Own Good

After every print, take care to completely clean off your build plate. Slide the print surface plate off of the build tray and firmly bend the plate back and forth to remove your print. Some filament may remain, particularly on the edge where your MOD-t lays down a cleaning strip. We’ve included a scraper with your MOD-t to help remove this. You can also try using a straight razor for stickier pieces, like support grids or multiple layers of cleaning strips. Be very careful when using a razor! Not only can you cut yourself, but you can also damage your plate. Steady your plate by reattaching it to the build tray before using the razor. The added support will flatten your plate, reducing risk of cutting yourself or gouging your plate. (Children should not attempt this step.)

Even after you remove your print, a PLA footprint will remain on your plate. PLA is a plant-based filament that leaves behind an oily residue. That residue makes it difficult for your next print to adhere to the plate. Rid your plate of slick residue after every print using the copper wire brush included with your MOD-t. Use diagonal brushing movements to scratch up the surface of your build plate. Move corner to corner in both directions until your prior print’s mark is barely visible and the plate has a slightly rough texture.

Tips & Tricks: Build Plate Maintenance

After you’ve roughed up your build plate, use a peroxide-based cleaning spray and a paper towel to remove remaining build plate dust. A pressurized aerosol duster will also do the trick.

Extra Help

Clean it! As you handle the build surface, oil from your fingers can build up and cause your prints to slip off the build surface. We recommend occasionally giving your surface a good cleaning. Internally, we have been using Maintex Oxy Citrus Spray & Wipe Peroxide Cleaner.  Any cleaner that doesn’t leave any oily residue such as a citrus based or Windex or a peroxide cleaner will do the trick!

While it’s good to rough up your build plate after every print, the surface can only take so much. When you start approaching the 50-print mark, you may start to notice that your plate has lost its luster or has gone matte. This is a great time to replace your print surface plate, but you can extend your plate lifespan a few more prints with these last ditch efforts.

One temporary fix for an overworked build plate is spraying down the print surface with Aqua Net hairspray. Aqua Net (and other acrylate-heavy sprays) does more than its obvious job of adding stickiness. As a build plate gets rougher and rougher, tiny imperfections and uneven spots may appear. The hairspray helps to fill in these grooves and gaps to create a more even printing plane.

An even easier fix for an over-scratched or overused build plate is a layer of painter’s tape. Stick blue painter’s tape in vertical lines across the area of the build plate, taking care not to let the pieces of tape overlap. Not only does this cover the PLA residue, it adds a removable dry and rough texture to the plate, creating an affect similar to the cross-hatches made with a copper brush. We also recommend a layer of fresh painter’s tape if you plan on using a metallic filament that contains flecks or strands of metal. These harsher materials can leave irreparable burns, digs, and markings on your build surface.

Tips & Tricks: Build Plate Maintenance

Switch it out!

Even All-Star athletes have to take the bench at some point. Same goes for your build plate surfaces! At some point, the best solution to your print-stick-woes is to switch out your build plates with a fresh pack and and start anew. You can find replacement plates on the New Matter Store.

Tips & Tricks: Build Plate Maintenance
If you’re curious as to how your print plate maintenance stacks up, try tallying your prints with a silver or white permanent marker. Make a hash mark on the corner of your build plate every time you print and a first layer is applied.

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