First-layer adhesion is critical to ensuring that your 3D print will be a success. But achieving good bed adhesion can be easier said than done. Corners unstick from the 3D printer’s build surface, warping occurs, and ultimately parts fail. Moreover, adhesion problems can be caused by a number of factors or any combination of issues, including bed leveling, bed temperature, extruder temperature, build plate deficiencies, slicer settings, and more. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to resolve the problem of a 3D print not sticking to print bed. Follow these methods to improve your 3D printing adhesion.
One of the main reasons a 3D print may not stick to the print bed is poor bed leveling. If one side of your printer bed is even marginally higher or lower than the other side, it will affect the quality of your 3D print and how well the first layers of the print adhere to the build surface. In short, this is because the nozzle will be further away from part of the print bed and filament won’t be deposited evenly.
Ensuring your 3D printed bed is level can solve adhesion problems. Depending on the 3D printer hardware you have, you might be able to level the bed automatically or you may have to do it manually. If you are adjusting the bed level manually, one of the most popular methods for leveling a print bed is to use a piece of paper. Bring your 3D printer nozzle very close to the print surface and place a sheet of paper in between the nozzle and the build plate. Gradually raise the corner of the print bed using your machine’s leveling knobs until there is a bit of resistance when pulling the paper out. Repeat this on all corners of the print bed.
The distance between the 3D printer nozzle and the build platform, known as the Z-offset, may also be causing adhesion problems. In other words, if the nozzle is too close to the build surface, the first layer will be squished and won’t be evenly extruded; if it’s too far away, the filament extrusion also won’t stick to the build platform properly. The good news is that you can encourage good adhesion by positioning the 3D printer nozzle at the right distance.
The z-offset can be adjusted in slicing software by changing the measurement values. Once the value is set, the z-axis will align itself accordingly to the print bed. If you are having adhesion problems, changing the z-offset should be used as a last resort. Where this method is most helpful is in situations where you are working with a thick build plate or if you are printing on a substrate.
It is imperative that your print surface be clean before you start 3D printing. If there are any inconsistencies, like leftover glue or filament stuck to the print surface area, it can cause first layer adhesion problems. The best cleaning technique for a print bed depends entirely on the build plate material.
If you are working with a glass print bed that has filament or adhesive residue on it, start by removing the glass bed from the 3D printer and scraping the residue off using a dry scraper. From there, you can wash the plate with soapy water or window cleaner. It is also a good idea to give your glass build plate a final wipe using Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) or acetone. These cleaning products will help to remove any remnants of grease without damaging the glass surface. You can also follow these cleaning steps with a removable borosilicate glass print bed.
A PEI build plate can also be cleaned with water and soap or IPA to remove residue. To ensure the thermoplastic bed surface remains smooth in the long-term, you can also wipe it down with acetone once a month or so. It is important not to use acetone on a thermoplastic build surface too often as it can erode the material. Ultimately, a clean, smooth print surface can help the critical initial layer of a print to adhere.
Temperature settings plays a big part in the final quality of a 3D print. Thermoplastic filaments like PLA, ABS and PETG harden as they cool, but if printed layers cool too quickly, the materials can also shrink, which causes layers to pull away from the print bed and warp. Using a heated bed, especially for higher temperature materials, can therefore help to improve bed adhesion.
More than that, choosing the right bed temperature and nozzle temperature for different types of filament can also improve print outcomes. For example, ABS filament prints best with a build surface heated to between 90°C and 110°C and a nozzle temperature between 230°C and 260°C. PLA, for its part, prints best with a heated bed of between 60°C and 80°C and with a nozzle temperature of 190°C and 210°C.
If you are still experiencing bed adhesion problems with certain 3D printing materials, it can also help to increase the print bed temperature by a few degrees as the first couple of layers are extruded. As the print continues, you can lower the bed temperature back to the recommended degree.
Another reliable way to improve your 3D printer bed adhesion is to apply an adhesive directly to the build platform before you start printing. There are a number of adhesive products developed specifically for 3D printing, such as Magigoo and Stick Stick. Some of these dedicated adhesives are even designed with specific materials in mind. For example, Magigoo sells adhesive sticks tailored to polycarbonate (PC) and nylon (PA).
However, there are also several DIY solutions for bed adhesives: many makers have found glue sticks to be a reliable option, while others use hairspray or blue painter’s tape (best for PLA filament) or Kapton tape (best for ABS filament) to create a grippier print surface. If you do decide to use an adhesive coating on your 3D printer’s build plate, it is important to clean your build surface after the print is complete, otherwise you risk glue buildup and an uneven print surface.
If your 3D print isn’t sticking to the print bed, tweaking your print settings in slicer software can often help fix the issue. For example, setting the print speed for the first layer of your print to be slower than the rest of the build can promote better adhesion. A slower deposition rate for the first thin layer of a 3D print will help the filament to bond with the build surface.
Other slicer settings that can be implemented to improve bed adhesion are rafts and brims. These are features 3D printed alongside your part to improve stability and reduce the chance of warping. A raft essentially acts as a base to your 3D printed part and ensures that your print adheres to its surface, rather than the build platform directly. A brim consists of a 3D printed border than connects to and extends from the edges of a 3D printed part. Brims are effective at anchoring the edges of a build to the 3D printed bed and are typically easier to remove than a raft. Most slicer programs, like Cura and Simplify3D, offer automated raft and brim features.
Another method for improving first layer adhesion is to change your 3D printer build surface. Some desktop FDM 3D printers have a removable plate meaning that you can swap out the build plate for a new one should the original be damaged. But even if your print bed is in fine condition, it could be worthwhile to think about using different build surfaces depending on the material you are printing with.
Glass is a common build plate material due to its stiffness and thermal resistance, however for many filaments it does not provide good adhesion. For this reason, many makers also use additional build surfaces like PEI sheets or Buildtak to improve first layer bonding. These can be applied directly to the existing build plate and are particularly effective for high-temperature filaments like ABS and PETG.
These seven methods can help you with troubleshooting your 3D printer adhesion problems. Sometimes a single method—like adding a layer of glue to your print surface—will do the trick. In most cases, however, making various adjustments will result in the best adhesion and high-quality prints. In sum, ensuring a level 3D printer bed and a clean build surface, as well as using adhesive aids, and having the right print settings and printing temperature will have the best print results.
 Tractus 3D, 2020. “ABS Filament” [Internet] https://tractus3d.com/materials/abs/ [Accessed April 13, 2022]
 Tractus 3D, 2020. “PLA Filament” [Internet] https://tractus3d.com/materials/pla/ [Accessed April 13, 2022]
 Magigoo, 2022. “Magigoo Pro PA (Nylon)” [Internet] https://magigoo.com/products/magigoo-pa/ [Accessed April 14, 2022]