It’s 2AM, your 3D printer sits amid scraps of shredded blue tape, you’re trailing Kapton on your shoe, and you’ve just sprayed yourself in the face with your Aquanet hair spray. Sound familiar? I’ve been there. Fortunately, you’ve got options, one of which is BuildTak.
BuildTak is a layer of plastic backed with heat resistant adhesive. It has a pleasing, mild texture, withstands prolonged temperatures up to 125C, and can provide epic amounts of stick for your 3D prints. BuildTak sticks to PLA, HIPS, ABS, PET, ‘Brick’, ‘Wood’, and TPE. If you take care of it, I’d estimate that you could get about 2X the life out of BuildTak as blue tape. It’s good stuff, and it can improve your prints, but it’s not the easiest to use.
For my printers, none of which have a heated bed, I generally use either painter’s tape or Aquanet Super Hold hairspray on glass. For nylon (Taulman’s Bridge), I use a thin layer of glue stick. It all works well for me, but I don’t like the texture that blue tape imparts, and I don’t always want a gloss finish from the glass, so I was really interested in BuildTak for the texture.
The texture is great! You can see a slight difference in texture above between a blue tape part (right hand side) and a BuildTak part. More noticeable, though, is the feel of the surface. The texture on the BuildTak part is much more even, and it feels luscious and premium. For a F-F-Fiddle, I think it’s perfect.
Blue tape is practically free. BuildTak is not. It’s important to take good care of it. Take their advice seriously — don’t scrape it (I scraped the crap out of mine) and touch it as little as possible. Mine eventually lost stiction, even on sections with little use. Was it the glue stick and lots of alcohol to remove it? [Yes, actually, it was. I used 90% isopropyl which I’m told can damage the product.]
On my larger parts I often got too much stick or not enough. Small changes in initial Z-height make big changes in stiction — it takes some patience and practice to get it dialed in properly. Also, I usually level my build plate while the first layer prints. That can be more difficult with BuildTak — it’s particularly hard to see translucent filament against the black surface.
Dan Green from BuildTak reached out to get my feedback, and that was cool. He made some good suggestions and shared with me that they have improved versions of BuildTak in the works as well as a spatula optimized for part removal on BuildTak. I’m excited to see what they come up with! In the meantime, I’ll be ordering a few more.