PLA is the most popular 3D printing filament and is usually easy to print but sometimes people have trouble with PLA not sticking to the bed, whether it’s glass, PEI, or magnetic surface. I decided to write an article helping people get PLA to stick nicely.
The best method to get PLA to stick to the print bed is to level your bed properly and use a good bed & printing temperature so the filament is soft enough to adhere nicely. You can also use a raft/brim to provide a stronger foundation for your model. Check your nozzle isn’t clogged or damaged and clean your print bed.
This is the basic answer but there’s more important information that you’ll want to know, so keep reading through this article.
Why Does PLA Not Stick to My Build Surface?
Having a good first layer in any 3D print is the most important and essential factor because any minor issue at this point can disturb the strength and success of the whole print model.
If you want a successful 3D print that has all the points ticked properly, you need to make sure that the first layer is sticking to the print bed in an effective manner. This is the factor that is mainly known as a 3D printer’s bed adhesion.
Although PLA is the most common and easiest 3D filament to use for printing purposes, it can still cause sticking issues sometimes. Below are the most prominent reasons behind PLA not sticking to the bed surface issue:
- The Bed is Not Leveled Properly
- Bed Temperature is Too Low
- Printing Temperature is Too Low
- Wrong Z-Offset Value
- Not Using a Raft or Brim
- Bed is Warped
- Nozzle Clogged or Damaged
- Print Bed is Not Clean
- Not Using Bed Adhesives
- Build Plate Material Lacks Adhesion
- Filament Absorbed Moisture
- Cooling is Too High
- First Layer Printing Speed is Too High
- Initial Layer Flow Rate Low
How to Fix PLA Not Sticking to Bed?
Although there are various factors that can be a cause of this issue, you don’t have to be worried as each cause has its own solution as well. Just stay relaxed, find the issue with your 3D printer and go with the best suitable solution.
- Level the Print Bed
- Increase Your Bed Temperature
- Increase Your Printing Temperature
- Set Your Z-Offset Value Correctly
- Use a Raft or Brim
- Check Your Bed Isn’t Warped
- Unclog Your Nozzle or Change to a New Nozzle
- Clean Your Print Bed
- Use Bed Adhesives
- Change Your Print Bed
- Dry Your Filament
- Reduce Your Cooling Settings
- Decrease Your First Layer Printing Speed
- Increase Your Initial Layer Flow Rate
1. Level the Print Bed
The first thing you should do when PLA is not sticking to the print bed is to level your bed. The reason this works is because you want the extruded filament to have an optimal distance between the bed surface and the nozzle so it has some pressure on the build plate.
The usual distance is known to be around 0.1mm or the thickness of an A4 piece of paper.
When your bed is uneven, the extruded filament will adhere to the bed in some places and not in others, leading to print failures.
There are two main ways to level your bed, either with manual leveling or automatic leveling.
Manual Bed Leveling
- Use the four bed leveling knobs usually equipped right below the print bed to raise or lower the bed
- Start by positioning the nozzle at its default or best suitable position by auto-homing the printer.
- The nozzle shouldn’t be too far from the bed when you home to the printer. You may need to adjust the screws on the aluminum bed or move the Z-endstop
- It’s a good idea to heat up your bed to the usual print temperature (around 50°C).
- You can start with the bottom-left corner and adjust the leveling knob until the nozzle is close
- Get your piece of paper and place it underneath the nozzle, then lower the bed leveling knob until there is just enough space to wiggle the paper.
- Once the paper is showing signs of friction at one angle, move to next corner and test the distance in the same way.
- Once the distance is the same on all corners and the middle, you may test print to see if the problem has been solved as desired.
Using Automatic Bed Leveling Feature
- Auto bed leveling features usually take help from a bed leveling sensor that has a predefined scenario of working.
- Simply go into the printer’s menu using its small screen.
- There should be a Bed Leveling option on your printer’s control screen.
- Press this then it should do the usual automatic bed leveling and automatically adjust distances based on the measurements.
An example of an automatic bed leveler would be the ANTCLABS BLTouch Auto Bed Leveling Sensor from Amazon. It works with all sorts of bed materials and has a precision of around 0.005mm. It comes with a 1M connector extension cable too.
Pro Tip: If you go with the Automatic Bed Leveling feature, it is essential to set the value of Z-offset perfectly for proper balance.
After this, you should ideally put a medium-sized object into a slicer like Cura, apply 5 Skirts so you can level your bed while the filament is being extruded around the model. You can easily tell how well your bed is leveled when the Skirt is printing.
2. Increase Your Bed Temperature
The next thing you want to look at is your bed temperature since it can help the PLA adhere to the bed better. When you print with PLA, use a bed temperature between 40-60°C.
Once you do this, try printing a test model to see how the filament adheres.
One user who 3D prints with PLA said he tested adhesion of PLA on a glass print bed and found that 50°C worked for him, while another user did 60°C.
3. Increase Your Printing Temperature
Similar to your bed temperature, increasing the printing temperature can make your filament softer, which enables it to stick to the bed better. When your filament isn’t softened up enough, adhesion to the bed can be difficult.
Calibrating your printing temperature is important for the best quality, but if you are having trouble with adhesion, try increasing your printing temperature by around 5-10°C and see if that helps.
4. Set Your Z-Offset Value Correctly
Your Z-Offset is basically an adjustment that your 3D printer makes to the nozzle height during the printing process. Usually, leveling your print bed should put your nozzle is a good enough location to not need a Z-Offset, but it’s an extra option for you to use to get that extra accurate leveling.
If you notice your nozzle is still to far from the build plate, try inputting a Z-Offset value in your 3D printer or slicer.
A positive Z-Offset value will raise the nozzle while a negative value will lower the nozzle.
5. Use a Raft or Brim
A raft of brim is a great method to increasing adhesion with PLA 3D prints. I use it for most of my larger 3D prints to ensure it sticks to the build plate throughout the whole printing process.
A raft/brim is basically an extra supporting print added below your model to help build a stronger foundation. A raft is the larger and more secure form of this build plate adhesion technique, while a brim is a thinner print that prints around the model.
Check out my article Skirts Vs Brims Vs Rafts – A Quick 3D Printing Guide for more details.
6. Check Your Bed Isn’t Warped
A warped 3D print bed is a less common but still possible issue that makes it harder for PLA to adhere to the print bed. Some users tried absolutely everything to get their models to stick to the print bed and nothing worked.
They ended up getting a ruler and testing how flat the actual build plate was and found that it was bending after being heated up.
If you figure out that your bed is warped, that is most likely the cause to your PLA 3D prints not sticking down properly. Your best option here is to replace the build surface.
The flattest build surface is usually borosilicate or tempered glass. People have a lot of success with PEI or spring steel print beds.
7. Unclog Your Nozzle or Change to a New Nozzle
A nozzle that’s clogged or damaged can also contribute to PLA prints not sticking properly. Ideally, a 3D printer needs to extrude filament smoothly to get a good grip on the bed, so if the nozzle is clogged up or damaged, it will negatively affect extrusion.
Do the “Cold Pull” method to unclog your filament or use a cleaning filament to clean out the nozzle.
8. Clean Your Print Bed
A print bed that has dirt and grime can negatively affect the adhesion of PLA 3D prints, especially when you touch the build plate too much with oily hands.
Many people have mentioned that after touching their bed multiple times, they couldn’t get PLA to stick, but after cleaning the print bed and touching the bed less, they finally got some good adhesion.
In addition to that, sometimes the leftover residues from previous prints can reduce adhesion, so make sure to clean that off also.
Even after applying many other fixes, if you don’t clean the print bed, it can be an issue for PLA filament to stick, so go through the cleaning process:
- Get a paper towel or clean cloth with at least 70% isopropyl alcohol or acetone
- Apply the cleaning solution to the paper towel or cloth and wipe the bed gently
- Let the print bed air dry so the liquid evaporates, then you should have a nice clean bed
- You can also do this when the bed is warmed up to around 40°C to help with the cleaning and evaporation process.
9. Use Bed Adhesives
Bed adhesives such as hairspray, glue sticks, or even different tapes like Painter’s tape or Kapton tape can significantly help you with getting PLA prints to stick.
It’s a good idea to use these adhesives on surfaces like a glass bed, and they can even help to prolong the life of some print bed materials. Once the first layer sticks down nicely to the bed adhesive, the rest of your print should be stable.
Try not to go overboard with the amount of adhesive you use on the bed.
10. Change Your Print Bed
If many of these fixes don’t work, you can try changing your print to a material that is more adhesive-friendly. I recently got a 3D printer that uses a PC spring steel sheet and the adhesion is really good.
One of the best things about this build surface is that after the bed temperature cools down, the print actually loosens by itself and doesn’t even need any spatula or flex to remove.
I’d highly recommend going for either a magnetic bed, a PEI bed or a PC spring steel sheet for your 3D printer.
The HICTOP Flexible Steel Platform with PEI Surface & Magnetic Bottom Sheet is the perfect combination for your 3D printer. It comes in a range of sizes and you can even choose the double-sided surface with smooth and textured sides.
11. Dry Your Filament
3D printing filament are known to be hygroscopic which means they are prone to absorbing moisture from the environment. When your PLA absorbs moisture, it can affect the way it’s extruded, as well as the adhesion.
In addition to reducing adhesion, moisture within your PLA filament can cause imperfections such as blobbing and zits on your models, so you want to fix this problem quickly.
The simple way to dry your filament is to use a filament dryer like the SUNLU Upgraded Filament Dryer Box from Amazon. You can place your spool of filament in the machine and input the temperature settings & time to dry out the moisture.
Check out my article Filament Moisture Guide: Which Filament Absorbs Water? How to Fix It for more information.
12. Reduce Your Cooling Settings
Your slicer should turn off the cooling fan for the first few layers to help with adhesion, but you want to double-check that this is set up properly. You may want to increase the height of layer that your fan comes on to help with adhesion if you get warping past those layers.
PLA usually prints best when the cooling fan is at 100% so I’d advise against turning down the percentage.
Make sure the Initial Fan Speed is at 0% and the Regular Fan Speed is at 100%, but consider changing the Regular Fan Speed at Layer. If you have a Raft, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue for getting good adhesion since it acts as a wide foundation for your print to adhere.
For more info about cooling, check out my article How to Get the Perfect Print Cooling & Fan Settings.
13. Decrease Your Initial Layer Printing Speed
The speed at which your first layer prints or the Initial Layer Speed shouldn’t be too high, so your first layer has the ability to adhere to the bed nicely. Cura should have a default value of 20mm/s which works really well.
Check that your Initial Layer Speed is low enough to give your prints the best chance to stick to the build surface.
Regardless of how you change your print speed, the Initial Layer Speed is not affected by any other settings, so it should stay the same. One user who tried many fixes for getting PLA to stick, found that after reducing his Initial Layer Speed, he finally solved the problem.
I wrote a pretty useful article called What is the Best Print Speed for 3D Printing? Perfect Settings, so feel free to check that out.
14. Increase Your Initial Layer Flow Rate
This setting is a nice little trick that you can use to extrude more material just for the first layer, called the Initial Layer Flow in Cura. It’s a percentage which defaults to 100% to push your PLA harder into the build plate to improve bed adhesion.
You’ll probably have to search for the settings as shown in the picture above since it doesn’t show by default.
It’s usually used if you have a badly leveled bed, so if the bed is too close, you would reduce the flow, while increasing the flow if the bed was too far. You shouldn’t have to use this setting if you have a properly leveled bed though.
How to Fix PLA Not Sticking to Bed – Glass, PEI, Magnetic
Below are some tips and tricks that are for different kinds of print beds so that you can utilize them if you are facing adhesion issues while printing PLA. Most of these can be applied to all three kinds of print bed surfaces.
- Clean the surface every so often with 70% or 99% IPA solution, or a similar cleaning product
- PEI sheets are considered the best suitable solution to this issue as they have been appreciated by plenty of users.
- One of the users also claimed in his Amazon review that PEI sheets allow the PLA to stick to the bed even if the bed has a slight flaw in its balance or level.
- Some people recommend to make your glass bed slightly rough by using sandpaper, though it might affect the smooth finish you usually get.
- I’ve heard of users having success with normal picture frame glass for PLA 3D prints.
A user claimed that he used a mixture of water and salt for cleaning purposes. Then he let the plate dry out completely.
This factor allowed the water to evaporate while leaving the salt residues on the glass surface. This practice increased the bed adhesion and worked for him almost always.
Another user suggested the same procedure with sugar water as he believes that any crystalline substances will have the same results on the print bed.