SD3D-Logo3D printing, for all its magic, does have some areas where many would like to see improvement. While some 3D printers come with heated build plates (HBP) many do not–and some would consider it a luxury. With this luxury, users expect to see better 3D prints, as well as eliminating warping at the source and solving adhesion issues. But as the marketplace grows and thrives, the choices grow vast, and it can become harder to decide on the best product before making an investment. Thanks to the research of SD3D we can all take a better look at the world of the HBP and gain a better education as to what’s out there before we decide to dole out what can often be a good chunk of change for a new piece of 3D printing technology.

SD3D is in the business of research and development as it pertains to 3D printing because they want to apply their knowledge to their own 3D printer manufacturing. Their interest in investigating HBPs lies in testing and evaluating any temperature gradients because issues therein are what cause fluctuations and failure in prints.

“Temperature gradients above the HBP can also lead to an effect known as ‘delamination’ in the case where the print remains adhered to the bed, but individual layers above the HBP surface begin to weaken and separate from each other,” states the SD3D team in their report. “So if you want to have strong parts that print reliably, a good starting point would be to ensure your HBP is as uniform and gradient-free as possible.”

If you have performed any 3D printing, you are probably aware that thermoplastics are a sensitive lot–which is why you want to avoid having temperature gradients on your HBP. The team looked at six 3D printers in terms of the quality presented by their HBPs:

  1. Airwolf Holding 60C
  2. Flash Forge Creator Pro
  3. Ordbot Hadron by Punchtec
  4. Robo3D
  5. Lulzbot Taz5
  6. 3DGenie (beta)
60-110

Airwolf 60-110C

The Airwolf, right out of the gate, showed that it was unable to keep an even temperature. Using thermal video, the SD3D group was able to evaluate exact temp issues. Operating with a PCB to heat up the bed, the Airwolf HPB displayed a hot spot in the middle and ‘drop-off zones’ in the corners. During cooldown, there is even more concern as the hot spot stays hot and the corners cool.

“Due to this asymetric heating, it makes it very difficult to print reliably on the XL with materials like ABS which are very sensitive to these kinds of temperature gradients,” states the SD3D team, with the advice that when printing with ABS on the Airwolf 3D printer, they would not recommend using more than 40% of the bed.

Flash Forge holding 60C

Flash Forge holding 60C

In evaluating the Flash Forge Creator Pro, the team found that while in heating up temperatures seemed very even, a hot spot soon emerged toward the back, actually rotating with the varying temperatures.

“As can be clearly seen in the 60C hold, the hotspot begins just right of center and near the back end of the HBP,” states the SD3D team. “However, as the temperatures continue to rise, that hotspot travels horizontally eventually settling in the back left corner of the HBP.”

Cooldown temperatures are “severe,” and if you are trying to get a really good print this could lead to some pretty major inconvenience.

Punchtec 0-60C

Punchtec 0-60C

The Ordbot Hadron by Punchtec also uses a PCB to heat the bed but because of the epoxy used to glue it to the bed itself, the temperatures are thrown out of whack, causing an inverted temperature gradient compared to the others. Hotspots are found in each corner, with gradients along the inner perimeter which do settle some as the temperature rises. Deeper trouble is to be found during the cooldown.

“While the Punchtec has [seemingly] performed better during heat-up and hold than the FF or Airwolf; [its] performance during the cooldown cycle falls short,” states the SD3D team. “The relatively even temperature gradient at 110C rapidly fades and begins to migrate left of center, creating an asymmetric temperature gradient. This will lead to delamination on taller ABS parts and difficulty removing some parts from the build plate.”

The Robo3D had dismal results when evaluated. Employing a “low cost resistive trace element” to provide heat was not a rewarding venture for this product. Temperature gradients are extreme. If you choose to print with ABS, most likely you will experience warping. If you own one of these 3D printers, SD3D recommends that you upgrade your HBP.

Taz5 0-60C

Taz5 0-60C

Strangely–in a good way–for the Lulzbot, it’s pointed out that their thermal pattern is none other than “bizarre.” This, however, settles out nicely in the thermal evaluation, with the SD3D team pointing out that users should be able to avoid warping quite easily.

After critiquing so many HBPs with issues, the SD3D team decided to put their heads together and come up with some improvements on the designs they saw.

Imbuing their own beta 3DGenie (3DG) cloud automated FDM printer with “a very special bed stack,” the innovative–and surprised–team saw that they were not only able to improve on what they’d seen, but they were able to create a smooth heatup cycle, as well as stability throughout the process–including in the cooldown phase.

“There are no visible hotspots or coolspots generated as the heated bed gradually decreases temperature until it reaches ambient,” stated SD3D. “We believe it is this extremely even and stable thermal signature that provides the non-destructive auto-ejection capabilities we see from this HPB stack.”

That’s an awfully good advertisement for checking out the 3DGenie, a well as remembering to check out details on the HBP of any 3D printer you may be considering putting out good money for. Your research–and that of SD3D–can truly pay off in saving you hassle in the end.

What type of experience have you had with your own HBP? Did you research this before you bought your 3D printer? If there were problems, how did you adapt that, aside from purchasing a new 3D printer? Discuss in the 3D Printers & Heated Build Plates forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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The Lulzbot TAZ 5 3D printer fared pretty well in the evaluation

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