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Flex Plates for 3D Printers

Flex Plates for 3D Printers

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What is a flexible build plate?

A flexible build plate, also known as a 3D printer flex plates or resin flexplate system, is a special surface used for 3D printers to facilitate the adhesion and removal of printed parts. It is composed of a magnetic build plate adhesive and a flexible one made of steel, which prevents it from returning to its original shape after bending.

Once installed, after printing, the 3D printer flexplate can be separated from the magnetic panel to facilitate the release of the printed model by gently bending the panel. For this reason, they are made of flexible materials such as spring steel or PEI (polyetherimide) which gives them both flexibility and strength offering several advantages over traditional printing bases: 

  • Easy removal of the printed pieces: reduces the risk of damaging the part when removing it and reduces the time spent separating it from the base. 
  • Improved adhesion of the first layer: The flexibility of the magnetic panel allows the first layer to adhere better to the surface, providing more security during printing.
  • Reduces printing time: by placing a magnetic panel, it is not necessary to wait for the base to cool before removing the figure, although it is always recommended.
  • Longer shelf life: They are more durable than traditional printing bases. 

Green Stuff World's flexible build plates are available in various sizes to choose the most suitable one according to the printer model used. In addition, their hexagonal surface pattern enhances the adhesion of our FlexPlates. They are ideal for printing with a wide variety of materials, including PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, and resin. It is primarily used in FDM (fused filament deposition) and SLA (stereolithography) 3D printers.

How do you install a 3D printer flex plate?

The installation of them may vary slightly depending on the type of printer, although the general steps are usually the same. The first thing to do is to make sure that your printer is compatible with the magnetic panel. Once purchased, to place it, it is necessary to prepare the device: clean panel by removing any remaining liquid resin, if possible, with isopropyl alcohol. Make sure that there are no traces of oil, water, detergent, powder, or any other residue. 

The base must be completely dry. For safety, it is advisable to expose it to UV light or sunlight to remove any remaining liquid resin. In the event that your stainless steel sheet is damaged with a scratch or similar, after cleaning it thoroughly, lightly sand it with a fine grit, removing the imperfection. After wiping it again with alcohol and letting it dry, the large amount of chromium in it will cause it to transform into chromium oxide once exposed to oxygen. This keeps corrosion away. 

In addition, the ambient temperature must be between 21 °C and 38 °C (67 °F and 100 °F) and the humidity between 40% and 60%. If you need to increase the temperature, you can heat the build plate slightly. Once you have controlled these factors, you can install the 3D printer magnetic build plate: 

  1. Before removing the protective tape from the adhesive, align the magnetic surface to verify the positioning.
  2. Unfold about 2 cm from one end of the adhesive protective tape and start to attach the magnetic build plate to the base.
  3. Press down from the center towards the corners, being careful not to form bubbles. 
  4. Slowly remove the adhesive backing by repeating the previous movement until the entire surface is covered. 
  5. Polish the surface by placing the protective tape over the magnetic base of the 3D printer, while rubbing it firmly with your fingertips over the entire magnetic surface. It will be completely fixed after 72 hours.
  6. To place the stainless steel sheet, place it on the flexible build plate and the magnet will hold it in place. Make sure the tabs do not hit the tank. 

Placing this panel on the printer will increase the thickness of the original base, so you will need to level it again. To do this, loosen all the screws to avoid breaking the screen. If you are having problems with adhesion, make sure you are printing on the brushed side (the smooth side is the side that goes towards the magnet). If this is not the problem, try increasing the initial layer time in the data segmentation software. 

How long does a flexible build plate? 

A flexible build plates typically last up to 3 years. Their shelf life is usually shorter than that of rigid printing plates, such as glass or PEI, although their life span depends on several factors: 

  • Material. Spring steel (or flexible steel) is the most common base. It can last from 1 to 3 years, depending on usage. Abrasive filaments and aggressive cleaning methods accelerate wear. 
  • Adhesive layer. Its function is to bond the flexible top sheet to the steel base. As time passes, along with constant heating and cooling cycles, the glue can weaken; causing the top sheet to separate. 
  • Filament type. The more abrasive ones such as PLA or ABS wear out the top sheet faster. 
  • Print removal technique. Forcing or scraping prints with excessive force tends to damage the top sheet and adhesive layer. 
  • Frequency of printing. Frequent use and a large number of prints are directly related to the film's shelf life.
  • Adhesive use. The continuous application and removal of adhesives to fix the prints wear the surface in less time. 
  • Maintenance. Good maintenance will extend its life. For this purpose, regular cleaning and not subjecting the base to excessive force or other types of abuse is recommended. 
  • Environmental conditions. Temperature, humidity, and exposure to an ultraviolet torch light affect the flexible build plate material.