Pros & Cons of PEI Sheet for 3D Printing
Build plate adhesion must be one of the most common issues for 3D printing makers. But now, to some circumstances, a piece of PEI sheet would be a better solution for build plate adhesion problems. Today, let's get to know what a PEI sheet is and learn how to apply it on our 3D printer.
What is a PEI sheet?
A piece of PEI sheet is usually a sheet of spring steel with PEI powder sprayed over its surface. And PEI, abbreviation for polyetherimide, is an amorphous, amber-to-transparent thermoplastic with characteristics similar to the related plastic PEEK. Relative to PEEK, PEI is cheaper, but is lower in impact strength and usable temperature. Its strong adhesive properties and chemical stability makes PEI sheet an ideal surface for both FFF and FDM 3D printers.
Pros & Cons of PEI sheet for 3D Printing
Why PEI sheet is recommended and become popular in 3D printing?
1st, PEI has excellent mechanical properties, such as high temperature stability and wear resistance that makes a PEI sheet an ideal material for 3D printing surface.
2nd, a PEI sheet is compatible with nearly all types of 3D printing filament, for example, PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, nylon, HIPS. and etc.
3rd, a PEI sheet can be used on either a heated or a unheated printer bed.
4th, a PEI sheet is highly adhesive; you need no glues or tapes anymore; meanwhile, both brim and raft is not that necessary when printing on a PEI sheet.
5th, a PEI sheet provides better heat conductivity for a heated bed.
6th, a PEI sheet offers a smooth finish on the first or bottom layer of your print.
7th, comparing to glass surface, a PEI sheet is much lighter but more heat conductive, hence it avoids layer shifting better.
8th, when printing one piece object, a PEI sheet offers easier removal of the object.
Disadvantages of PEI sheet we should Know
Before using a PEI sheet, we should also be aware of some of its disadvantages.
1st, a PEI sheet has a very soft surface of sprayed PEI powder. To avoid damage your print or the PEI sheet, you should adjust the printer bed well to avoid excessive scraping.
2nd, a PEI sheet can strongly adhere to the printed item; when it happens, please be patient and slowly remove the printed item with care to avoid damaging it.
How to apply a PEI sheet onto your printer bed
Usually, there are three types of PEI sheet you can see on the market, adhesive, non-adhesive and magnetic PEI sheet.
Step 1 - Clean your printer bed
Of course, before applying a PEI sheet onto the bed, it's better to clean the bed first to avoid any obstacles and printing remains.
Step 2 - Trim the PEI sheet if necessary
Some of PEI sheets might be larger than your printer bed. If that happens, place the PEI sheet onto the printer bed and use a knife or other cutting tools to trim it accordingly and with care.
Step 3 - Apply the PEI sheet onto your printer bed
For adhesive type PEI sheets, you should peel off the protective films from one edge and slowly and carefully press the PEI sheet onto the printer bed to avoid bubbles inside the sheet. If any bubble appears, gently scrape it until it disappears. For non-adhesive PEI sheet, you can binder it tight onto the printer bed with clips. For magnetic PEI sheet, just place it onto your printer bed.
Step 4 - Re-level your printer bed
Changing build plate surface can make the printer bed a little thinner or thicker. Thus the last step is to re-level the printer bed to ensure correct leveling for your next printing.
How to Remove Printed Object from a PEI Sheet
Usually, we need only to bend the PEI sheet to pop off the printed object from its surface. But sometimes, some prints can stick too tight on the PEI sheet.
At this time, it's better to spray some isopropyl alcohol over the printed object and let it soak a few seconds. Then it's much easier to pull the object off from the PEI sheet.
This method is strongly recommended to protect both the print and the PEI sheet as some experienced makers had already succeeded in the removal of large objects about 235*235mm.
How to Clean a PEI Sheet with Sticky Filament Residues
Questions like "how to clean Ender 3 build plate" and "What to use to clean 3D printer bed" can be asked frequently by 3D printing makers especially by beginners.
For stiff build surfaces like a glass bed, you can always trust a spatula to remove filament residues.
But on a PEI sheet, filament residues can be much stickier. But no worry!
After remove the print from the PEI sheet, just let the isopropyl alcohol soak a few more seconds. The residues can be removed easily with your hands too. No spatula is needed here! And it won't damage the coated PEI surface of your build plate. Also, this method can be used on other types of build plates if the filament residue sticks too tight.
Now this article has included most common questions in your daily 3D printing with a PEI sheet and come to the ending.
In a word, a PEI sheet is a good option for excellent adhesion of your print at relatively low cost. If you're facing first layer adhesion problems with any other kind of surface, don't forget to try a PEI sheet on your 3D printer.