Friday, December 16, 2011

Solving a nagging question about print adhesion

Unlike most of you, I don't use an electrically heated print surface.  Some time ago I bought a Rapman 3.1, which used an acrylic 3 mm print table.  I soon discovered that 3 mm was far too thin and quickly warped beyond use.  Switching to 10 mm solved that problem.

After a long time of successful prints, I noticed that with winter causing colder temperatures in the print room I was having more and more trouble getting my prints to stick to the acrylic.  I tried cleaning it and sanding it with little avail.  Electrically heated print tables were just coming available but insofar as printing was concerned, I thought that things were already complicated enough without adding that sort of equipment to my Rapman.

I had an IR heat lamp in the lab, detritus of another experiment, and discovered that using it on a tripod to raise the temperature of the acrylic print table above 40 degrees Celsius measured with a non-contact IR thermometer gave me consistent adhesion.  I soon discovered that I could turn off the IR lamp after 4-5 print layers with no ill effects.  It was not needed for the rest of the print.

The rig looked a bit like this...

Note that the lamp is placed at a 45 degree angle to the acrylic print table.

I soon noticed that adhesion at the near side of the print table was much less firm than that at the back and less firm at the left side than the right.  I attributed this to various things, uneven heating being one of the possibilities.  While the left/right difference made sense the front/back difference didn't seeing as the IR lamp was aligned with the left/right axis.

Cranking the terminal heating temperature before starting a print to about 50 degrees solved most of the problem for the center of the table and I was able to print along the front/back axis with reliable success.  Unfortunately, the back side of the print area seemed to have the print pad melting into the acrylic while the front side would separate easily.

It made no sense.  I thought for a while that it had something to do with the acrylic plate and rotated it with no effect.  Swapping ends and sides always left the back side of the print table very firmly attached to the print pad.  While that wasn't a horrible situation it was annoying, because it meant that processing the printed objects after separation became more time consuming.

A few weeks ago, I purchased a FLIR E30 thermal imaging camera with the intention of learning more about what was happening with prints as they were being laid down, the ultimate goal being building in advanced heuristics into my Slice and Dice app which converts STL files into Gcode.  I also had hopes about eventually doing some research into what actually happens thermally with extruder hot ends with the notion that I might be able to design a better one.

Yesterday, the E30 arrived and I decided that a good beginning exercise might be to look at the distribution of heat on my acrylic print table when I used the IR lamp in its standard configuration to heat it.  The results were quite unexpected.


The lamp put down a marked hot spot at the upper right rather than at the right as I expected.  The upper right was exactly where I had the most trouble with print pad melting.  Obviously, the IR lamp did not give even heating when tilted but overheated in on the upper right.

This was nasty.  I had previously thought about using several smaller IR lamps at the corners of the Sampo printer that I have been developing.  If the smaller lamps behaved like my single, large one, however, this might not be a good idea at all.

I then got to thinking about how IR lamps are actually used in food heating cabinets.  They are almost always placed point straight down.  I rearranged my tripod to place the lamp almost vertically over the acrylic print table.

That sorted out the temperature distribution problem...


Guy said...

a patch of 1/4 inch construction cloth hung a couple inches in front of your lamp would absorb and re-radiate heat in random directions, thus acting as a diffuser spreading, smearing and smoothing the heat distribution if you had to hang the light at an angle. You could probably even bend the cloth to focus or spread the heat in various ways.

Forrest Higgs said...

I'll have to try that! Thanks! :-)

Ivor O'Shea said...

Great tip! I'm using an acrylic print bed myself and had noticed issues also as the temperature dropped in my garage. I'll have to get a heat lamp to keep it (and me) warm! :)

Forrest Higgs said...

I doubt if a heat lamp alone will provide enough heat to keep you AND the printer warm in a garage in winter unless you live in a very mild climate.

RichRap3D said...

Even heated beds seem to suffer with low ambient - I'm having a really bad time getting anything to stick for the full print to my Heated bed in the workshop below 12 degrees C so I'm temporarily printing inside over the colder months to combat that.

Forrest Higgs said...

Interesting observation. Are you able to measure the temperature on your heated bed when the ambient is that low? The print room temperature here is between about 18-25 depending on the time of year.

RichRap3D said...

I don't seem to be having any issues with temperature measurement, the thermistor is bonded well to the bed and is insulated, I can see it's reading and regulating correctly.
I have tried bed temperatures from 50 to 75 Deg C for PLA and at low ambients they do not stick for the duration of the print.
Tried hot end of 175 to 225 Deg C, makes no difference.

Over 17 degrees C I do not have any problems at all on Kapton, PET or Glass.

I still can't quite explain it, but at least have a work around until I can further investigate heated build chambers.

Unknown said...

Interesting observation!!I'll have to try that! Thanks! :-)
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