How I get the perfect first layer adhesion

It might not be something unique, but I came up with this solution on my own, while experimenting in my early days of 3D printing, and it has served me well ever since.
So I decided to share it, because I constantly see people struggling with that holy grail of newbie 3d printing – the bed adhesion. I know it – I’ve been there.
It’s cheap, it’s reliable, and has some benefits over the other traditional DIY methods like glass, painters tape, blue tape, glue stick etc…  Even over the commercial ones. And I hate throwing money for glorified stuff if I can make it myself anyway.
So, what’s it all about?
Nothing special – you need just three things, you most likely already have:

  1. Ultra strong hairspray. I use Garnier. Something like this. Keep in mind that not all hair sprays work. Anyway, always use the strongest you can find.
  2. FR4 fiberglass sheet, the size of your bed. In other words: a piece of single sided PCB like this. Any thickness is fine. Mine are 1.5mm.
  3. 3-4 small binder clips like these so you can clip the FR4 sheet onto the heated bed. The smaller – the better. You don’t want them to get in your way.

Take the FR4 sheet, and spray it with hairspray on its CLEAN side (not on the copper side!).
Put it on your heated bed, and secure it with the binder clips. 3 is enough – 2 in front-left/right and 1 on the right-middle. Wait for the hairspray to dry out. It takes just 10-20 seconds if the heated bed is heated.

And that’s it! Go ahead, and print some stuff.
Here are the benefits, along with some tips:

  • The first, and foremost – it provides ultra strong & reliable adhesion in combination with hairspray
  • It’s lightweight. Think about it – if you use glass, it weighs a couple of hundred of grams! This is WAY too much. Especially on Cartesian-style printer, you want your X/Y axes as lightweight as possible in order to eliminate any vibrations and get smooth prints. The FR4 sheet weighs just a fraction of the glass’s weight.
    Using bowden extruder makes no sense, if you then put additional 300g of dead weight on your bed. Considering that the bed itself weighs even more, this means you have more than half a kg moving mass on your Y axis. Too much. I highly recommend using printed linear bearing housings in order to lower that weight.
  • It does not increase your preheat time
  • It’s durable and a lot safer than glass – there is no risk of shattering & cutting yourself while trying to remove some large print. And it can handle the usual 60-110C bed temperatures fine.
  • It’s cheap. You just need to buy new $2-3 hairspray from time to time (I do it every couple of months). Considerably cheaper than a $20+ PEI sheet, which, I agree – can be reused many times and works perfect, but also can be ruined on it’s very first print if handled poorly.
  • You don’t have to clean it up & apply hairspray after EVERY SINGLE PRINT. You can print multiple times on the same spot (4-5 usually). And even if you have to clean it, you just use water. No alcohol needed.
  • You get shiny first layer
  • It’s thinner than glass, so it will work with almost any auto level sensor (I use my own servo based touch sensor on all 3 printers I’ve built so far)
  • It’s very easy to remove even large printed objects from it. No tools needed – just take the sheet, and bend it slightly. The object just pops. Like on the video below.
  • It works for PLA and ABS. I don’t know if it works with other filaments (too expensive where I live). If you use PLA, you can safely print without using the heated bed. Guaranteed. I NEVER had a failed PLA print this way. In fact, my DIY printer does not even have a heated bed, and works perfectly fine with PLA.

I know some will say “OK, but if your bed is bent, the sheet won’t be perfectly flat, because its flexible”.
Well, it does not matter! If you use auto leveling, it will compensate for any bending / tilt. In fact, glass can also bend (so as PEI – obviously…), and most of the sensors measure the bed curvature (the inductive & capacitive ones), not the top glass surface anyway.
Personally, I find this method much, much better than using glass, as it’s more safer, and a lot more convenient.
On a side note – there is absolutely no reason to not use auto leveling – it’s worth the effort.

That’s all!

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