Best Print Surface for PLA 3D Prints
Finding the best print surface for PLA 3D prints can be tough at first, but after you get the right information, you can make your 3D printing experience a lot smoother. This article will help you choose the best print surfaces for your PLA models.
The best bed surface for PLA 3D prints is a flexible and magnetic PEI sheet. It provides amazing adhesion even without using other substances and even starts to release 3D prints from the build plate after it cools down. It leaves a nice surface finish at the bottom of your 3D prints. Glass beds work very well for PLA.
This is the basic answer but there’s more useful information that you’ll want to know, so keep on reading.
What is the Best Bed Surface for 3D Printing PLA?
Polyetherimide (PEI) is considered one of the best 3D print surfaces for PLA. It’s actually a thermoplastic that has a maximum bed temperature of 130°C so it can be used effectively as a 3D printer bed without having temperature issues.
Many types of filaments can be used with a PEI sheet and even advanced types of filaments usually stick very well to it.
I’d recommend going for something like the HICTOP Flexible Steel Platform with PEI Surface from Amazon. It’s one of the top-rated PEI sheets that you can find there and also comes in two unique styles:
- A textured one-sided sheet
- A smooth & textured double-sided PEI sheet
The pricing is pretty competitive for what you’re getting, considering that this is a durable and very efficient bed surface. Whether you are 3D printing some small objects, or you have larger models you want to create, this bed surface can handle it with ease, and without adhesive products like glue.
Using a bed temperature of 40-60°C for your PLA prints along with a printing temperature of 200-220°C should work very well. You also want to make sure your bed is properly leveled so the filament adheres to the bed nicely.
PLA is known to basically self-release when it starts to cool down, and you can still remove the magnetic PEI bed and flex it to remove models.
Pros of a PEI Sheet
- You can easily remove the bed and flex it to remove prints
- Models should start to self-release after cooldown, making them easier to remove
- Provides excellent bed adhesion with PLA filament
- Very simple installation process
- Can withstand scratches from a nozzle since it’s durable
- Robust enough to be cleaned with acetone and isopropyl alcohol
Cons of a PEI Sheet
- One user mentioned he didn’t like the pattern at the bottom, but most users are happy with it
- Another user said he had to increase the bed temperature to get prints to adhere, which isn’t the usual
User Experiences with a PEI Sheet
People who finally started using a PEI bed surface appreciate that it is simple to install it. All you need to do is remove the sticky backing of the magnetic bottom sheet, then place it onto your heated bed, and then place the magnetic steel platform with PEI surface on the top.
Many users exclusively print on PEI, both the smooth and textured sides, all while creating great PLA models. You can easily clean the surfaces with isopropyl alcohol which is convenient.
Some like printing on a cold surface which is still possible with PEI, ideally by using a glue stick then flexing the bed to remove the print afterwards.
One reviewer notes that cleaning PEI print surface with alcohol is best when the bed is cold.
Many people who replaced their glass bed with PEI have found that it works way better, especially when you have large parts that have a lot of bed contact area.
They also like being able to print on the smooth steel side to get a smooth surface on prints.
The HICTOP PEI Print Surface is applicable with a variety of Creality Ender series, CR series, and other similarly sized printers. User preference will dictate the choice of the PEI style to use, smooth PEI gives a better grip when hair spray is applied.
A textured version of the PEI sheet stands out for its durability.
A glass bed is another other popular print surface that is best for PLA filaments. It is a strong glass that can sustain high temperatures of about 165℃ without fracturing, making it suitable for PLA 3D print.
Some print beds are known to be warped and not so flat, so using a glass bed is a good surface to use that stays flat and has great durability.
The Dawnblade Creality Ender 3 Glass Bed is a 235 x 235 x 4mm that has a coating at the top to help 3D prints stick to the bed nicely, even without glue.
Previous versions used to have the logo on the bed which would leave an indentation, but the upgraded version has a smaller Creality logo that doesn’t do this. The flatness of this bed is ideal and even allows you to add an extra surface on top with ease.
In terms of fixing the glass bed to your 3D printer, you can use middle-sized clips to keep it stable. Glass beds can also easily be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol or acetone at room temperature. It’s compatible with plenty of 3D printers such as the Ender 3 series, Ender 5 series, CR-20 Pro and more.
Before using your glass bed, many people recommend that you clean it with a mild dish soap and warm water to help PLA prints stick better.
The video below helps you to get better adhesion to a glass plate.
Let prints cool to room temp before removal and the parts may just release from the glass bed easily at room temperature, while most prints easily pop off.
It’s a good idea to use a glass bed that doesn’t have a build up of dirt, grease and dust because it can reduce adhesion for 3D prints.
If the bed is greasy, clean it by using some isopropyl alcohol and a decent wipe to get the grease off.
For tall PLA parts with more height than surface area, it is recommended to apply some glue stick to make your prints stick better.
When printing with a glass bed it is essential to ensure the bed is leveled, and the nozzle is not too close to glass which can scratch the surface and cause permanent damage to the bed.
Pros of a Glass Bed
- Gives a smooth shiny bottom finish
- Very flat compared to most surfaces
- Prints are very easy to take off when it cools, no tools are needed
- Does not warp much when heated, unlike some other bed surfaces
- Easy to clean with alcohol or acetone at room temperature
- Quite cheap to buy
Cons of a Glass Bed
- Can easily get scratched if the leveling is off and the nozzle is too close
- You usually have to wait for the bed to cool down before removing your prints
- Takes longer to heat up
- Heat distribution can be unequal
- Needs to be secured to the bed using clips
- It can be hard to remove stubborn leftovers from the surface, though heating up the bed and using a liquid cleaner helps.
User Experiences with a Glass Bed
Most experiences with a glass bed for PLA 3D prints are positive, though some have had issues such as adhesion if the surface was left dirty. You can usually troubleshoot any issues by following some basic fixes for your glass plate.
You should be able to use either side of the glass, but one user said he tried flipping the glass upside down and it actually worked better so it could be worth trying.
One user who got a 3D printer gifted to them for Christmas got the Ender 3 V2 which he originally had issues with on the original build plate after scraping the coating off. He then bought this build plate and had success getting models to adhere to the surface nicely.
He mentioned that you should use the right bed temperature to get good adhesion. Another tip is to get some firm leveling springs underneath the bed or use Silicone Leveling Columns so the bed stays in place and doesn’t need leveling often.
Someone did several tests with PLA+ with Elmer’s glue stick on the glass bed with a bed temperature of 50°C and got plenty of successful prints.
Another user who prints mostly PLA on Ender 3 and likes using a glass plate surface because it gives a perfect first layer and you can print PLA directly onto the glass plate, which is easily released when it cools down.