3D Printing with a Heated Bed

Damien Frost's picture

Over the past 4 months I have been getting familiar with one of our new toys here at the EPG Group – an inexpensive 3D printer. We have the Ultimaker Original, and it is a fine piece of kit. To date, I have used it to print out 19 custom parts that I have integrated into my DPhil project.

To get to this point, I did a lot of experimenting with the printer and continue to do so. I have found that 3D printing is a bit of an art with equipment like the Ultimaker, but once you get the hang of it, it is an invaluable tool. Early on in my experiments, I witnessed the well documented problem of warping, especially when printing large (greater than 40 x 40 mm), flat parts. There are many solutions, but ultimately the best solution is a heated bed. Since the Ultimaker Original does not come with a heated bed, nor is an upgrade available from Ultimaker, I followed in the footsteps of my fellow Ultimaker-ers, and built one.

Luckily for me I have the resources of the University at my disposal, so a professionally machined aluminium bed to replace the plexi-glass original was easily obtained. The Aluminium plate is heated with an adhesive silicone mains-powered heater and is controlled by the Ultimaker via a relay. Immediately the print quality improved, however you still need to fine tune the settings for each print.

The figure to the right shows the result of printing a 3D model of the EPG logo with and without a heated bed. The logo is 50 mm wide, 30 mm tall, and 7 mm deep. As you can see in the photo, the left part has more warping, as compared to the right part. If this part was shorter, this warping would be even more pronounced.

To understand what causes the warping, the video below of the printing process will help. At about the 36 second mark, notice how the heated bed print still is very warm throughout. Conversely, the non-heated bed print has a large temperature gradient. It is this large temperature gradient which causes pieces to warp.