Borosilicate Glass VS Tempered Glass for 3D Printing


The conditions for a good print start, quite literally, from the ground up. A good build plate is fundamental to ensuring your 3D model comes out looking great.

It serves several functions like making sure there’s a level surface for printing and enhancing print adhesion.

There are many materials for fabricating build plates, depending on the print requirements.

A popular option among 3D printing enthusiasts is glass. Its high resistance to warping, thermal stability, and conductivity make it a prime choice for printing.

The two main types of glass that people use for 3D printing are borosilicate glass and tempered glass, but many people don’t know which to buy.

This article is going to aim to help you identify the differences and key comparisons to help you move forward and get the right type.

Let’s quickly look at both options before we compare them.

What Is Borosilicate Glass in 3D Printing?

Borosilicate glass is a type of glass made with silica and at least 13% Boron trioxide. This combination gives it some properties that make it useful in 3D printing applications.

Let’s examine these properties.

Thermal Stability

Borosilicate glass has a very low coefficient of thermal expansion. That is, it expands very little with changing temperatures. This means that it will not crack or shatter under extreme temperatures.

Its thermals stability is one of its most important properties, as this makes it possible to use it with a heated bed. It also makes printing with high-temperature materials like ABS very easy.

Durability

Borosilicate glass is strong. It is shatter-proof, which means when it’s dropped, it won’t break. Also, its durability means it lasts longer and is less susceptible to surface degradation from scratches and nicks.

Chemical Resistant

Borosilicate glass has a very stable chemical structure that doesn’t degrade when attacked by outside elements. This is very helpful when printing with reactive filaments.

It’s nice to know your build plate won’t leak dangerous chemicals into the print or the air.

Thermal Shock Resistant

Thermal shock resistance is a property of borosilicate glass that makes it resistant to rapid changes in temperatures. Most materials exposed to rapid changes in temperature lose their strength and may even fail. But, Borosilicate glass stands up well to these thermal shocks.

Some people wonder whether borosilicate glass warps, and most people’s experience show that it doesn’t warp over time due to its physical characteristics.

What Is Tempered Glass in 3D Printing?

Tempered glass is any form of glass that has gone through thermal and mechanical processes (tempering) to increase its strength. Tempered glass finds applications in car windshields and things like screen protectors.

All these are made possible due to the properties given to it by tempering. Let’s take a look at some of those properties below:

Strength

Tempered glass is strong and durable by nature. It can withstand impact shocks far better than regular glass. Its strength comes from tempering, which pre-stresses the glass’s structure to make it stronger.

Thermal Stability

Tempered glass is also heat-resistant. The thermal tempering treatment makes it able to withstand temperatures up to 300℃ without failure. Tempered glass can also withstand thermal shock, just not as well as Borosilicate glass.

Scratch Resistant

Tempering gives the surface of the glass a scratch-resistant finish.

It hardens the surface making it more resistant to penetration from an external object. This quality makes tempered glass retain its surface quality for a long time.

The video below shows how easy installation is, and gives a nice review on a tempered glass bed.

Borosilicate Glass Vs Tempered Glass: Which One is Best for You?

When buying a glass build plate, the odds are you are going to get either one made from borosilicate glass or tempered glass. So, how do you decide between them? Let’s take you through some things that can influence your decisions.

Quality

Both borosilicate glass and tempered glass have excellent qualities that set them apart from regular glass. Let’s go through those qualities one by one and see how they stack against each other:

  • Thermal Stability: Both tempered and borosilicate glass perform well at high temperatures. You can print high-temperature filaments on them with no problem. However, when it comes to thermal shock resistance, Borosilicate glass is the better option.

Due to the pre-stressed nature of tempered glass, it cannot withstand large temperature variations. Prolonged exposure to these temperatures can cause warping, or in extreme cases, total failure.

  • Scratch Resistance: The scratch resistance of a material is a function of its hardness and resistance to penetration. Both Borosilicate and tempered glass are harder than regular glass. On the Mohs hardness scale, tempered glass is rated slightly higher than borosilicate glass.

The higher rating means Tempered glass is a slightly harder material. As such, it will be more resistant to chipping and flaking. This will make it retain its surface quality longer.

Ease Of Use

For ease of use, we’ll be rating both glasses on how user-friendly they are. Both provide good quality bottom finishes, are easy to clean, and are flat. We’ll be using different criteria.

We’ll be comparing them based on safety and ease of print removal.

Let’s look at these criteria:

  • Safety: Tempered glass is a safer material. It is highly durable and can resist impact shocks better. Even if it breaks, it breaks into cube-like pieces that aren’t harmful.
  • Ease of Print Removal: Print removal generally depends on a lot more things than the build plate, but prints are easier to remove from borosilicate glass. Due to its low coefficient of thermal expansion, it won’t expand when heated. So as it cools, the stresses from the shrinking model make it easier to remove.

For more stubborn prints, you can put the build plate in a freezer to cool it faster. Borosilicate glass can survive this swing in temperature because of its resistance to thermal shocks.

Price

The price difference is not so significant, so you can really choose either and be good on price, but let’s look at which one actually comes up as cheaper.

A standard borosilicate glass bed for an Ender 3 on Amazon comes to around $15, with the Dcreate 235 x 235 x 3.8mm Borosilicate Glass Bed.

A standard tempered glass bed for an Ender 3 on Amazon comes to around $20 on Amazon, with the Creality Authentic Tempered Glass Bed, though these prices can fluctuate depending on the brand and the seller.

The prices of 3D printer beds have been getting cheaper over time, which is great for 3D printer hobbyists out there!

Overall, I’d recommend going with the Dcreate Borosilicate Glass Bed from Amazon. 

You can also get yourself some professional 3D printer clamps to add onto your 3D printer to hold the glass bed into place. When I tried using the binder clips that came with my Ender 3, it was just too small for the glass bed addition.

The 4-Pack Ender 3 Stainless Steel Clamps from Amazon are a good product to keep your bed in place. They are fairly pricey but they get the job done very well.

Another option which gives you more bang for your buck is the 40 Pcs Extra Large Binder Clips from Amazon. They have a 2-inch width and has multiple practical uses outside of holding your bed in place.

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