Other Purchases

There are some other products that you may want to consider for when you’re purchasing a 3D printer as well. I’ll outline some of these here. Most people don’t use all of the products listed below, but will experiment with them to find what they do and don’t like. I personally use removable glass bed and hairspray with my Flashforge Creator Pro.

Printing Surfaces

More often than not, a printer user is not going to want to print directly onto the bed of their machine. Reasons for this would include difficulty in removing prints and fear of damaging the bed or its supports, lack of adhesion to the bed’s surface by the filaments, or to create a smoother surface.

Blue Painter’s Tape

Laying down painter’s tape onto the build platform is common practice. Most people seem to think that blue painter’s tape works the best, but many others claim that regular masking tape works just as well. This is a relatively cheap option for printing on since it is readily available in any hardware store. Because of the waxy back of the tape doesn’t tend to adhere well to filaments, it’s usually advised to wipe it off with alcohol before printing, and many people also use gluesticks to help adhesion. Blue tape needs to be regularly removed and reapplied, and in general it is advised to not heat the bed when printing on blue tape.

A bed covered in blue painter's tape.

A bed covered in blue painter’s tape.

Kapton

Kapton tape is a polyimide film that can be laid down on a build platform similar to painter’s tape and adheres extremely well to ABS filament, causing it to be a great choice because it won’t let the ABS warp as badly as it wants to. A downside to this is that it will often make it difficult to remove the print from the Kapton tape after the build is completed, and if not careful then it can easily lead to the ripping of the Kapton and require reapplication. Kapton also does not stick to PLA as well as it does to ABS. When printing on Kapton tape, it is recommended to use a heated bed.

The application of Kapton tape to a build platform.

The application of Kapton tape to a build platform.

Glass Beds

What many people will do is get tempered or thermal glass beds that are a few millimetres thick that will fit onto the build platform. These are often clamped into place with binder clips or something similar. One of the advantages of this is the glass beds are removable and it helps to prevent damage to the bed or its supports within the printer. It is recommended to use a heated bed when using glass, and while some claim to be able to print directly onto the glass beds, others say that using gluesticks or hairspray will help with adhesion even more. If you’re using glass beds and find that you’re having difficulty removing prints from them, then popping them into a fridge or freezer for a few minutes should make them pop off without trouble.

I want to note that I prefer to use removable glass beds, and that I bought them through my local Speedy Glass store with dimensions of 6 inches x 6.5 inches x 2 mm.

A glass bed sites over top of the heated platform.

A glass bed sites over top of the heated platform.

Gluesticks or Hairspray

As mentioned above, often problems with builds will be caused by a lack of adhesion by the first layer of a print not sticking well to the build surface. In cases such as this, it’s been found that applying a thin layer of glue stick (Elmer’s seems to be one of the more popular choices) or one or two layers of extra-strength hairspray can help to increase adhesion between an object that’s being printed and the surface that it’s being printed on.

Dimafix is an adhesive spray designed to be applied to a glass bed.

Dimafix is an adhesive spray designed to be applied to a glass bed.

Other Tools

Tweezers, Knives, Pliers, and Chisels

When printing with a raft or with supports, there are tricks to make it so that the removal of the excess material doesn’t leave behind ugly marks on the surface of the build, but one of the best ways to make sure that you’re able to get the stuff off is simply by having sharp tools available to do so. Note that if you’re planning on using these within the classroom, there should be extra care taken with the storage and use of these sharp objects.

Large Resealable Bags

The purpose of these is to store filament spools in. When not in use, filament should be kept in a clean, dry space so that it will last longer. Keeping filament out in the open can lead to warping due to humidity, as well as exposure to contaminants that will lead to poor quality prints. An example of this is filament getting coated by dust or grease from unwashed hands. Small packs of desiccant inside the bags can help to reduce damage due to humidity. I can’t speak for many distributors, but I know from experience that Filaments.ca provides desiccant and resealable bags for all spools of filament that they sell.

A good long-term means of storing 3D printing filament.

A good long-term means of storing 3D printing filament.

Maintenance Supplies

Calipers

While not completely necessary, a good set of calipers can help to determine the quality of filament by measuring its thickness over various lengths, as well as to help with design measurements of models, and the testing of prints (for example, testing layer thickness and wall thickness for accuracy). For even better accuracy, you may want to consider digital calipers.

Digital Calipers provide extra accuracy for measurements.

Digital Calipers provide extra accuracy for measurements.

Nozzle Cleaning Tools and Acetone

The nozzles of 3D printers can get clogged after extended use and will require maintenance. One means of doing this is by removing the nozzle from the extruder head (depending on the printer that you’re using) and submerging it in acetone for a few hours. Then using a specialized nozzle cleaning tool, you can clear out any excess filament adhered to the inside of the nozzle. Alternatively people have also used dental floss, toothpicks, safety pins, and paper clips to do this, but you want to be careful that you’re not damaging your nozzle when you do this, or else you may need to replace it.

A nozzle-cleaning kit can be a great investment.

A nozzle-cleaning kit can be a great investment.

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