A 3D printer bed is a flat and level surface where the print head lays down the materials that make up the 3D object. This surface is generally made of glass, but PEI and aluminum are also common materials. Cleaning the 3D printer bed regularly is essential to ensure the quality of your print.
To clean a 3D printer bed, you need isopropyl alcohol, sandpaper, and a scraper. Use the sandpaper or scraper to remove all adhesive residues, then wipe the surface with isopropyl alcohol. Window cleaner or warm soapy water are excellent alternatives for glass beds.
How To Clean 3D Print Bed
When using a 3D printer, the printing process can leave residual filament on the printer’s bed. General handling can also leave skin oil, dust, and fingerprints on the surface. All these contaminants can affect the quality of your future prints. Thus, keeping your 3D printer bed clean is crucial if you don’t want the objects to detach from the build plate mid-print.
The best way to clean a 3D printer bed depends on the type of printer you have. Glass build plates are easy to wipe with window cleaner or soap. Polyetherimide (PEI) may require you to use isopropyl alcohol or acetone.
Glass is the leading bed choice in the 3D printing industry. Its main advantage is the stiffness; glass provides a perfectly level surface that will not distort in time.
Another advantage of glass is its lower thermal conductivity compared to other bed materials. Heating at a slower rate, glass distributes heat uniformly around the print bed for better adhesion.
Removing the prints from glass beds is also a cinch while preventing the breakage of fragile objects, and the bed surface is fairly easy to clean when you’re done. The main issue is that you have to use an adhesive for optimal outcomes, such as hairspray, glue, or painter’s tape.
These adhesives can leave residues on the glass that may require to be scrapped before you can clean the bed surface with soapy water or isopropyl alcohol. With this in mind, let’s see how to clean your Creality glass bed.
1. Heat the bed
The hardest part when cleaning a glass printer bed is getting rid of the residues that have built up on the surface during the printing process. These residues are easier to scrap away if you heat the bed. Turn on the 3D printer and heat the bed at around 170°F. Let the heat on until the leftover material is as soft as possible.
2. Scrap off the residues
You can scrape off adhesive or filament residues with a scraper, but pay attention to the amount of pressure exerted. The goal is to have enough pressure to remove residues but not too much to prevent scratching the glass.
For the best results, you should hold the scraper with one hand and place your other hand’s fingers on the middle of the blade, gently pressing it downward. Use a back and forth motion until the surface is clean.
3. Wash off residues
Once scraped, the filament and adhesive residues may still stick to the glass. You can wash them off with warm soapy water.
Mix a few drops of neutral soap with warm water and dip a soft sponge in it. Don’t soak the sponge – you need it slightly damp to remove the residues but not too damp to prevent water from damaging your printer.
Scrub the glass surface directly above the residues. You should prevent washing with water around the edges, or the liquid could leak under the bed and damage your printer’s components.
4. Remove excess water
Because water can leak under the bed, you shouldn’t wipe the glass surface immediately after you’ve scrubbed it. Use paper towels to blot the area first, letting them absorb excess moisture. You can then wipe off any remaining droplets with a microfiber cloth.
Alternatively, you can skip the soapy water and wipe the surface with a window cleaner.
5. Remove other contaminants
Fingerprints and skin oil can affect adherence and have a negative impact on the project outcome. To prevent this, you have to degrease the glass bed.
Use sterile alcohol wipes or isopropyl alcohol at a concentration of 70% to 90%. Pour some alcohol on a microfiber cloth and wipe the entire surface.
Don’t use cotton balls, cotton cloths, or paper towels during this step. All these fabrics can leave behind fibers that are hard to remove afterward. After you’ve wiped the surface, let it air dry – it will only take seconds.
Clean 3D printer bed with alcohol wipes
Polyetherimide (PEI) is a thermoplastic that offers exceptional adhesion to most 3D printing materials, including nylon, PLA, and ABS.
The main advantage of this bed type is the low maintenance. You can reuse it multiple times, and when it eventually wears out, PEI beds are readily available on the market and easy to install. Like glass, PEI offers excellent thermal conductivity, but unlike glass, it needs no glue or tape, which is a plus.
However, the excellent adhesion might backfire. The filament can stick to the surface, and you’ll have to clean it after each use to ensure adhesion.
Because PEI beds are easily damaged by scraping, you should steer clear of scrapers and abrasive sponges (although you could use very fine-grit sandpaper to remove excess filament if needed). Here are a few ways to clean it.
Cleaning the PEI bed with isopropyl alcohol immediately after printing is the best way to keep the surface level and ensure proper adhesion.
Choose alcohol with a concentration of at least 70%, as a more diluted solution might not be able to remove skin oils properly. The higher the concentration, the better.
Sterile alcohol wipes aren’t the best solution for cleaning a PEI sheet because they are rather dry, and the alcohol concentration might vary.
Soapy water is another popular method you can use to clean a PEI sheet. Mix a few drops of neutral dish soap with hot water and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray a generous quantity of soapy water on the PEI bed and let it soak for a minute or two – the heat will help soften the filament residues.
Scrub the surface with a soft sponge or microfiber cloth until you no longer feel bumps under your fingers. Bloat with a paper towel (only use high-quality towels) and wipe dry with a clean microfiber cloth.
If you’re more concerned about fingerprints and skin oils, you can remove them with a kitchen degreaser instead of isopropyl alcohol.
Spray the degreaser onto the PEI sheet and wipe the surface with a quality paper towel or microfiber cloth.
Window cleaner is another alternative to alcohol or degreaser for removing fingertips and skin oils from the PEI bed. Most window cleaners contain some type of alcohol, so you might find they work better than the degreaser.
Acetone is often mentioned as a cleaning agent for PEI sheets, but you should only use it sporadically. This solvent is very harsh, and it could damage the thermoplastic surface. However, acetone is an excellent choice for cleaning oxidized patches.
Clean Glue Stick Off Print Bed
Glue stick is often used on glass beds to improve adhesion. The residues are relatively easy to clean with alcohol or Windex window cleaner.
1. Heat the surface
Window cleaners can dissolve residue with or without heat, but heated glue is easier to wipe off the glass surface.
Turn the 3D printer heat on and let it reach about 170°F. Once heated, turn the printer off and unplug it.
2. Remove excess glue
Scrap off excess glue with a scraper. Apply gentle pressure and use a back and forth motion to scrape off the glue without damaging the glass.
3. Clean with Windex
Spray some Windex all over the bed and wipe it clean with a quality paper towel or clean microfiber cloth. The window cleaner will clean glue stick off, as well as skin oil and fingerprints. You don’t have to rinse the surface when you’re done; simply let excess cleaner air dry.
Cleaning PLA Off Printer Bed
Polylactic acid (PLA) is one of the most popular 3D printing materials due to its strength and resilience. The main downside is that filament generally remains stuck to the bed after you’ve removed the object. However, PLA is susceptible to chemicals and relatively easy to remove with solvents like acetone.
The only thing to keep in mind is that acetone can also damage the bed surface, especially if your printer has a thermoplastic bed. Thus, you should never let the acetone soak the material for too long.
1. Heat the PLA residues
As explained above, heat can help you soften and remove residues easier. Turn on the heat or place a hot towel over the bed for a few minutes to soften the PLA residues.
2. Wipe PLA off
Pour some acetone over the PLA residues and let it soak for a minute. Wipe it off with a quality paper towel. If you have a thermoplastic bed, do a patch test in a corner before pouring acetone over it to prevent damage.
3. Remove leftover residue with tweezers
If there is still residue on the bed, grab a pair of tweezers and remove all excess PLA. When done, wipe the bed with isopropyl alcohol for a deep clean of fingerprints and skin oils, and let it dry before printing again.
Benefits Of Keeping Your 3D Printer Bed Clean
3D printer beds need minimal maintenance, but you have to clean them after each use to remove filament and adhesive. Otherwise, the quality of your prints can be compromised. Here are a few benefits of proper 3D print bed cleaning.
Filament and adhesive residues are the main reason why future prints may not adhere well to the print bed – cleaning the bed after each project guarantees better adhesion of the filament during your future projects.
Higher Print Quality
The main problem with adhesive and filament residues is that they create an uneven surface. The bottom layer of your object won’t adhere to the bed, causing all other layers to misalign. As a result, your object will be misaligned.
Cleaning the bed ensures a level surface for each project and proper adhesion for the bottom layer. Cleaning off residues as soon as they occur is also easier than cleaning them after they’ve hardened.
Longer Bed Lifespan
Hardened adhesive or filament may require you to use a scraper, sandpaper, or harsh chemicals (like acetone) to remove them. All these methods can scratch or alter the bed’s surface, affecting adhesion and also scratching it.
Cleaning the bed after each use eliminates the need to use harsh cleaning methods, lengthening the bed’s lifespan.
What kind of bed does Ender 3 V2 have?
The Ender 3 V2 is one of the first 3D printers equipped with a textured glass bed. The small dips and rises along the tempered glass surface enhance grip and increase adhesion during the printing process. However, cleaning filament and adhesive off these plates could be more challenging than cleaning a smooth glass bed.
Are 3D Printers expensive to maintain?
3D printers aren’t expensive to maintain. You might have to replace the print bed and clean the print head now and then, but you’ll unlikely spend more than $150 for regular maintenance and upgrades.
How often should you clean a 3D printer?
You should clean a 3D printer after each use, or the print quality might drop from project to project. In addition to the print bed, you should also wipe the print nozzle with acetone after each use to remove stuck filament. Moreover, you should vacuum clean all polls and rods.
Wiping the 3D printer bed after each use and removing all stuck filament and adhesive is crucial to ensure print quality. Isopropyl alcohol works well on all bed types, but you can also use soapy water, degreaser, or window cleaner. Acetone could help sometimes, but the harsh product could damage the bed surface – always use it with caution. Hopefully, this guide will help you keep your 3D printer clean and maintain a good print quality at all times.
3D Printing 101 – The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Julie C. Fleischer et al. – The Effect of Chemical Cleaning on Mechanical Properties of Three-Dimensional Printed Polylactic Acid – ASME Public Health Emergency Collection