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3D printing on paper
Categories: 3D-Printing

One of the most vexing problems when 3d printing is to get the first layers stick properly to the printing bed. How many times I get warped corners. How many times the printer starts pushing the whole piece around the table – especially when I’m not looking and realizing an hour too late that I have to start all over again…

A heated bed helps. A really flat, properly calibrated bed helps. Finding the perfect distance from the nozzle to the bed for the first layer helps. Printing a raft helps…

But the problem stays – warped edges (especially on large & long prints) or the printer playing hockey with my design (especially for small delicate stuff)

Printing on kapton helps. But my problem is: I’m not patient. Cannot wait until the platform cools down again before taking off the finished print. Print sticks too much. Michael gets a knife. Forces a little bit. Piece comes off with half the kapton…

I made a hole in my bed the second day I had my printer. And hadn’t ordered any kapton tape with it.

So I started printing on sheets of glass. Good results with ABS. The nice thing is: you can take off the glass to cool down and put up a second one instantly to heat up for printing the next piece.
But glass breaks easily – and often, because I’m not patient enough to let it cool down before touching.
And for PLA it doesn’t work.

So I started using several pieces of aluminum, sanded and sprayed with acrylic primer. Works more or less for PLA, sometimes. Takes ages to heat up. ABS warps, too often.
In our research week, Pije had success in covering the aluminum sheet with painters tape. But thats a pain to get off again, especially when heated for too long. And the ABS doesn’t really stick well…
Then Marc made an elixir with diluted ABS in acetone. Pieces started to stick more reliably.

But sticking tape, mixixing elixir, waiting for the plate to heat to 100 degrees, waiting for it to cool down again after printing, ripping off old tape and cleaning the plate – all this takes time. And if there’s something I’m not it is patient.

Today I had to print plenty of small hooks for our circular projection screen but the aluminum plate was full of gluey tape from the last prints. As I already grudgingly began to scrape off the remains of last weeks crazy printing sessions it dawned to me – and maybe I just stumbled over the holy grail today: Why not just print on a piece of plain paper !


Apart from being beautifully contrasty there are plenty of benefits:

  • The plastic sticks like hell !
  • No need to glue on the bed – just keep the sheet in place with some paper clips
  • It takes no time at all to heat up a thin piece of paper
  • The whole thing comes off in seconds – ready to print 2 seconds later
  • It’s perfect for the impatient guy like me

In fact, the ABS sticks so much on the paper that it is impossible to get it off again. But no problem – just soak a while in hot water and scrape off the remaining paper. This leaves a structured, matte surface that I prefer over the almost shiny bottoms I got when printing on kapton/glass…


Sheet of paper with plenty o’ hooks coming directly off the printer


Getting the paper off the plastic parts

I’ll try the same procedure with PLA later, but I’m already really excited – I could never have filled the whole platform with plenty of tiny individual items like that with any procedure I’ve tried earlier… Holy Grail ?

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