Do You Need a Heated Bed for PLA? A How to Guide
If you are wondering whether you can 3D print PLA without a heated bed, you are in the right place. Many people who are getting started with 3D printing ask this question, so I decided to write an article that answers the question, and gives more valuable information.
Yes, you can 3D print PLA without a heated bed. Some 3D printers are actually manufactured to operate without a heated bed, being named a 3D printer that is compatible with PLA. Using a heated bed with PLA can help with bed adhesion and minimal warping, for better quality overall.
Most filament can’t be 3D printed without a heated bed, but PLA is one that can achieve this.
PLA is a popular choice for most thermoplastic printing applications in the 3D printing industry. In addition to being environment-friendly and non-toxic, it is also easy-to-use, serves as an incredibly versatile material, and offers excellent print quality.
If you’re a novice in the field of 3D printing, PLA material is best suited for you.
An important aspect to consider when printing objects with PLA filament is the temperature the objects are exposed to. Since PLA has low heat resistance, it deforms at a temperature of 70-80°C.
Now that we know you can 3D print PLA without a heated bed, the next step is to know how to do it.
How to 3D Print PLA Without a Heated Bed
There are a variety of ways to 3D print PLA without a heated bed. Here are some of the most popular ones.
- Use adhesives on the build plate to help the 3D print stick down
- Change your build surface to something that is known to work well without a heated bed
- Make sure your bed is leveled accurately and not warped
- Clean up the print bed of any dirt, grime, or previous plastic, so the first layer can extrude successfully
- Increase your printing temperature to make the PLA more molten, for better adhesion
- Use some high quality filament from a reliable brand
- Dry your filament to ensure the optimal quality
- Introduce some heat with a heated enclosure
Use Adhesives on Your Build Plate
- Blue painter’s tape
Blue Painter’s Tape
The Blue Tape or Painter’s Tape as it is widely called is one of the most popular and easiest ways to 3D print PLA without a heated bed. The adhesive on the tape acts as a medium to bind the filament to the printing surface. The prints that are obtained by using the Painter’s Tape are of great quality as well. However, there are a few things that you should take care of.
Spread the Blue Tape on the surface in such a way that it creates a uniform, even layer; make sure that you don’t miss any patches or overlap the edges.
While it’s not necessary to heat the printing surface when using Blue Tape, users recommend you to do so, if you are in a position to. 60°C is an ideal temperature if you plan on heating the surface.
Some users also recommend using hairspray onto the tape for best results.
Periodically replace the tape strips after about 5-10 prints to ensure that the stickiness remains.
3D Printer Glue
Using glue to 3D print PLA without a heated bed is yet another way creators are fond of. Gliding the glue stick on the build surface helps in making the PLA filaments stick to the bed.
Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Stick is an option that is adopted by the 3D community to provide an awesome adhesive to your build plate. If you’ve never tried it yourself, I’d definitely give it a go for your non-heated build plate, or any build plate as needed.
One user said he uses them for build plate adhesion and works “fantastic and is enough for years of 3D prints”.
Since the color of the glue is purple, its easy to see exactly where it has been applied compared to clear glue sticks.
Change to a Build Plate With Good Adhesion
There a build plates out there which work better for adhesion without the need for extra adhesives. When I switched from a glass bed to a magnetic flexible bed surface, I found that adhesives weren’t needed at all.
You can get the Creality Original Ultra-Flexible Removable Magnetic Bed Surface from Amazon like thousands of other 3D printer hobbyists out there. You’ll probably never look back after getting yourself one of these.
The main selling point for me is how your 3D prints “pop” off the build plate with a nice flex, rather than all the scraping and extreme sticking from some models. The installation is very simple, only requiring placing the 3M adhesive surface on top of a normal build plate.
It’s universal so it works on all FDM 3D printer models, as well as non-heated 3D printer beds.
Glass Bed with BuildTak Sheet
Another honorable mention is the glass bed and BuildTak Sheet combination, a great alternative to 3D printing PLA without a heated bed.
BuildTak is a thin plastic film and enjoys the reputation of a highly durable 3D printing surface worldwide.
3D printing PLA material on a BuildTak sheet can provide a smooth and shiny bottom surface. It is also effortless to extract prints off the printing surface when using BuildTak sheets.
Experienced users share that you must be careful while installing the BuildTak sheet as it is a determining factor in the quality of prints which are acquired.
Make sure that no air bubbles are trapped under the sheet. After attaching the sheet to the bed, you need to smoothen it out with the help of a blunt surface, like a credit card.
A completely even surface is going to result in better print quality.
Get yourself some BuildTak 3D Printing Build Surfaces from Amazon today.
Level Your 3D Printer Bed Properly
Leveling the bed is the foremost thing you should pay attention to before starting with the printing process. It not only helps you start on a good note but also helps reduce warping and adhesion issues if any.
If you don’t appropriately level the bed, your prints may have trouble stick to the surface and result in wastage of filament. I’ve had this happen a few times on long prints, and it isn’t fun at all!
Before starting with the printing process, you should give equal importance to positioning the nozzle at a correct distance from the bed.
I always advise people to have a few skirts around their prints so you can see how well the nozzle is distanced from the print bed.
As cliché as it may sound, the first layer is the most crucial part of a print. It is of paramount importance to use a printing surface/base material that adheres to the PLA filament.
Even if you have the best build surface in the world, if you don’t take these basic steps to ensure a crisp first layer, you’ll likely run into issues.
Clean up the Build Surface
Ensure that you have a clean bed/printing surface before beginning the printing process. When you have grease from your fingers, general dirt, or a build-up of dust, you can see some pretty poor first layer adhesion.
While it may not be visible to the naked eye it can definitely effect your 3D printing experience negatively. I’d suggest getting yourself some paper towels with isopropyl alcohol or alcohol pads to wipe down the bed surface and get it ready for the next 3D print.
Adjust Settings & Increase Your Printing Temperature
Adjusting the print settings can also help to a large extent. One of the settings I’d be looking into changing is the Initial Layer Flow Rate or Initial Layer Line Width, to extrude more material, giving a better opportunity for a strong foundation.
If you’re facing adhesion issues, try increasing your printing temperature as well. When your filament isn’t printing at a high enough temperature, it doesn’t melt as well as it should, leading to pretty bad adhesion to the first layer, and even between layers.
Make sure to not set it too high. Keep it between the suggested settings that you can find on your filament’s packinging.
Lowering the print speed for the first layer and making sure the fan isn’t blowing for the first layers is going to lead to better adhesion to a non-heated print bed.
Get Some High Quality Filament
Lastly, using premium quality PLA filament will mean minimal adhesion and warping issues. The quality of your print material determines the quality of your prints. So, choose only the best for your parts.
A great PLA you can get that many people find reliable is HATCHBOX PLA 1 Kg Spool 1.75mm from Amazon. One user mentioned how he’s had 7 spools of this filament and hasn’t had even one print fail.
Some filaments tend to bubble or clog up due to the sub-optimal manufacturing and packaging methods, but HATCHBOX made sure to keep their quality at the top level, where many users haven’t had a single jam or issue with it.
Dry Your Filament
You are more likely to get PLA to stick to the build surface when you got some good quality filament that is properly packaged and looked after. Since PLA is hygroscopic, it has a tendency to absorb moisture from the environment.
The SUNLU Filament Dryer is an amazing product which is really catching the attention of thousands of 3D printer users out there. After a drying cycle which is operated by a intuitive touchscreen, you can eliminate moisture for the best print quality.
This also leads to better adhesion to a non-heated 3D print bed and reduces other print imperfections that are linked to PLA with moisture.
Create a Heated Enclosure
There is still a way to keep the immediate environment pretty warm without having a heated bed. When we are using PLA, we don’t want too high of a temperature because it has a fairly low melting point, but having an enclosure can help with layer adhesion.
Having a ahigh quality enclosure can work to keep some of that heat inside to aid your prinnting experience.
The Creality Fireproof & Dustproof Enclosure is an ideal choice to go with. It reduces print imperfections from things like temperature fluctuations or drafts, as well as providing noise reduction, and even pockets for tools.
Can You 3D Print ABS Without a Heated Bed?
You can 3D print ABS without a heated bed if you make use of a brim or raft, as well as use a good adhesive product like Blue Painter’s Tape on the build plate. ABS is likely to warp without a heated bed but it can still be done. You could also use an ABS slurry to help the ABS print stick down.
In the video below, the user sanded the Blue Painter’s Tape in an effort to create a rougher surface where the melted filament can adhere to it. With enough sanding, it worked out really well for several parts.
He used 60-100 grit sandpaper to achieve this result and has printed over 30 ABS parts with no problems using this method. You want to get something like the AUSTOR 102 Pc Sandpaper Assortment 60 to 3,000 Grit for this.
You can also use the other sandpaper to smooth out your 3D prints.
Now that you know you can 3D print PLA without a heated bed, the question arises – should you do it? We recommend using a 3D printer that has a heated bed. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you ought to do it.
If you do have a 3D printer that doesn’t have a heated bed, it should still be okay but you are limited to just a few 3D printing materials.
People tend to get the best results with 3D printing PLA with a heated bed, but you can implement measures to counter this.
Experienced users usually favor using a heated bed when printing PLA and a host of other materials.
Many budget 3D printers come with a heated bed, so why miss out on something you can have easily. If you are looking to have a good time 3D printing and a fuss-free, seamless experience, a heated bed is the way to go.
The Creality Ender 3 V2 (Amazon) is a prime choice for a 3D printer with a heated bed, so definitely feel free to check it out!