BuildTak – Is it Worth it?
Recently I have been trying out a popular solution to the 3D printer adhesion problem we all face. There are many solutions such as blue tape, Kapton tape, glass and the list goes on. And then there is the debated one called BuildTak. There are several conflicting views on this product ; many complain about it’s big price tag, more on that later. But is it worth it?
The actual BuildTak
So what do you get for your money then? Well you get a set of basic instructions telling you that you need to level your bed and reset the nozzle height, but you knew that anyway. So what is the BuildTak, well it is a thin sheet of a a smooth mouse mat like surface ( best way I can describe it) with some adhesive on the back with a protective film on the back that you peel off.
The application is surprisingly easy if you take your time. You will need to clean your printer’s bed first with something like isopropyl alcohol to clean it and remove any debris. You can also cut the BuildTak to make it fit, however there are a lot of sizes that will most likely fit your printer. I applyied the BuildTak as a you would with a screen protector for a phone using a card to press it down to avoid air bubbles. If you have air bubbles that will make your bed higher in some places and not in others, but in short you’ve got a problem. I can see bubbles forming under the BuildTak quite easily, although if you take your time you should be able to manage it. Then of course you will want to level your bed and set your nozzle height. Now that’s the first hard part of the BuildTak getting the first layer height right. The first layer is now more important than ever, you obviously can’t have it too high and if it’s too low you damage the BuildTak ( more on that later on). So setting the nozzle height is much more of a slow process as the instructions recommend you start too high and work your way down, which is what I did. But in fact the usual method of using paper worked perfectly. However you do not want to have your nozzle too low as you will damage your BuildTak.
So let’s cut to the chase then: What is the adhesion like then? Well unsurprisingly it is very good; The BuildTak really grips onto the first layer and keeps it stuck to the buildplate. I’ve had no problems with the adhesion even to the point where I set the first layer height too high and it didn’t affect the print. The mouse-mat like surface is smooth and keeps the plastic stuck down, this will also help with warping. Pretty much most plastics are supposed to adhere to the BuildTak, I have tested ABS, PLA and PETG and they all worked great. However you will need to keep in mind that BuildTak is not a single product that can be used by itself, it won’t replace a heated bed. The get the full potential of BuildTak you would want to use it in conjuction with a heated bed. You wont be able to print ABS with high success rates on a non-heated bed just with BuildTak, so bear that in mind.
I have to say removing a print is (mostly) a pleasure. All I do is get a flat knife blade and scrape under the part. BuildTak sell a spatula to do this however it costs €19,99 which I think is a bit much for a spatula when you can just use a cheap knife: I got a exacto knife set for about £5 from Amazon. So sometimes the BuildTak adheres to your print too well and it can be a bit of a problem to remove so you have to take some time with it, this is where a removable bed comes into good use.
So as you probably know 3D-Printing, especially if you have a reprap like me, it isn’t always plain sailing. This is the same for BuildTak. I keep mentioning nozzle height here because that is the main problem, if you nozzle is too low it will destroy your BuildTak which I have done. It leaves marks and indents in the BuildTak making it hard to use that section. Unlike solutions like tape the BuildTak is very sensitive to bed levelling and nozzle height which is a problem as if you spend £15 for a sheet and you occidentally destroy it first print, well that’s expensive for a single print.
Right so how long does it last if it is treated well? Well there’s another issue, there isn’t a stated figure. The BuildTak website says it is “Durable and long lasting” however no figure. Well it all depends on how you treat it. Lots of people have varying levels of success with their BuildTak. There are some methods to try to revive BuildTak such as sanding it with fine sand paper but once it’s worn it’s pretty much worn. Some people who treat the BuildTak well report just over 200 hours of printing.
Right so you’ve seen the evidence, is it good value? Well to be honest in my opinion BuildTak cost a lot for what it is. Sure my prints have never stuck better however when they go wrong I can say goodbye to that expenisve BuildTak. However if you treat it well you can get some good use out of it so maybe it might be of value for you. Especially if you print a lot and don’t have to worry about adhesion
So should you get BuildTak then? Well it’s up to you, if you’re new to 3D-Printing I would tell you to stay away from BuildTak until you are confident with your printer and being able to not destroy the BuildTak. However if you are good with your printer you might want to take a look into BuildTak and give it a go, personally I think it costs too much especially if you have to change it out often compared to the value of tape and how much use you get out of that. And with tape you don’t have to worry about damaging it. So I hoped you found my article interesting and if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments below and I do my best to answer them. If you liked this article please support us by using our forum and comment below!
I just ordered BuildTak for my 3D Printer! Great post!
Is there other surfaces that are affordable and work as well? From what you write about, this is not worth it for even a professional printer.
How difficult is it to remove from the existing build surface? Any easier with glass vs aluminum?
I was trying to be as careful as I could with buildtak but found that after a few hundred hours the plate is simply just unusable. Disappointing. Doesn’t seem worth the money at all if its so fragile and virtually impossible not to destroy.
I was wondering how thick it was? Is that why you have to adjust your nozzle hight? because it’s thick? I don’t understand why it messes up if the nozzle is to close? What causes the marks in it if the nozzle is to close- Does the force of the plastic being pushed out of the nozzle when it’s to close cause it to indent/ make marks in it? I think I will stick tape for now being new to 3d printing. Thanks for your review and letting everyone know the good and bad side of it. Some of us (me) don’t have a big bank account to pay for something that could mess up after the first use. This might have saved me some money! Thanks!