It feels great to print your own designed 3D models, isn’t it? You can print anything you want, including your favorite action figure, unique jewelry pieces or replacement gears to tools and machines.
To ensure flawless, high-quality printed models you need to consider not only the printer model, but also its build plate.
Yes, that’s right. Because it provides a flat platform for 3D printed models, a build plate on a 3D Printer is crucial. It holds the object in its place while it is printed.
There are many build surfaces on the market. The most popular ones are PEI and BuildTak. Both build surfaces have their advantages and disadvantages so it can be difficult for you to choose the right one.
But don’t worry, because once to you get to know deeply about them in this PEI VS BuildTak article, you can make an informed decision about which one to choose.
What is PEI?
PEI, also known as PolyetherimideIt is a thermoplastic that maintains its strength and rigidity at higher temperatures. It resists chemicals, retards fires, and has excellent electrical properties.
As for 3D printing, PEI is a build surface that doesn’t require any maintenance but is used to work with almost all types of 3D printing filaments.
PEI can be used on any heated or unheated print surface without the need for adhesives, rafts or brims. That’s because most PEI surfaces already come with a laminated adhesive backing that you can peel off and stick to the print bed.
PEI is great for use in the long run because you can always reuse it whenever you’re done printing a 3D model. To clean the surface between printing models, you only need isopropyl alcohol. This will prevent any residue from printing models from sticking to other surfaces.
The Advantages of PEI
1. Easy to Install
PEI is very easy to install. Most PEI build surfaces come equipped with an adhesive backing. You can remove the backing and apply it to your print bed. There’s no need to use additional adhesives or even a brim or a raft.
These PEI sheets are ideal if you want an easy installation. This sheet is great for beginners who are often struggling with adhesion.
It is also important to note that some PEI sheets don’t have an adhesive backing, and so they require you to use glue or tape.
PEI sheets can be used by both beginners and professionals. PEI sheets are affordable but allow you to print 3D models faster and produce high-quality results.
You can buy a PEI Sheet for your existing 3D Printer, but some 3D Printers come with one already. This saves you the expense of buying one separately.
3. Good thermal conductivity
PEI is able to withstand temperatures as high as 400 degrees Celsius. This allows you to print 3D models at high temperatures and not worry about the build surface being damaged by overheating. PEI is durable because of its heat resistance.
4. Smooth Finish
The first layer of a 3D printer model determines how good the subsequent layers will be. Since PEI doesn’t cause any interruptions in the first layer, the resulting 3D printed model will have a smooth surface.
5. Requires Less Maintenance
Once you have printed 3D models with them, it is possible to reuse PEI sheets. It is recommended that you clean the build surface with isopropyl Alcohol after each use. The build surface will look as good as new!
The disadvantages of PEI
1. Soft Material That Is Not Easily Damaged
PEI can withstand high temperatures but is susceptible to damage. That’s because the material is soft, and if the print bed is not leveled properly prior to printing, it can lead to permanent damage on the PEI sheet.
2. The Adhesive can become stuck to the Print Bed
PEI sheets that don’t come with adhesive backing need to be applied to the print bed using tape or glue. The process can be tedious and time-consuming. However, the adhesive’s tackiness can also cause delays in removing it from the print bed. It can also cause damage to your print bed.
3. Improper Bed Leveling Can Damage Prints
Another downside to PEI is that if the print bed and nozzle are not aligned properly, it can cause damage to your 3D printed models. It can also be time-consuming to calibrate the components perfectly. You might have to throw away the PEI sheet and filament if you don’t do it correctly.
What is BuildTak?
BuildTak This popular 3D printing build material is used by many 3D printer enthusiasts. It is made from plastic and can withstand temperatures up to 125° Celsius.
BuildTak is versatile because it can work with all types of filaments including PLA, ABS (PETG), PETG, TPEe, HIPS and WoodFill. It eliminates the hassle of changing build surfaces to print with different filaments.
It also comes with an adhesive backing, which makes it easier to apply to the print bed. There’s no need to use rafts or brims for adding support to the 3D printed model.
BuildTak also makes 3D prints easily from the print bed as long as it’s cool. It doesn’t leave any adhesive behind that would impede the printing process.
When you’re done with printing, you can clean the build surface with warm water or isopropyl alcohol for your next use.
Benefits of BuildTak
1. Easy to Install
BuildTak comes equipped with an adhesive backing you can peel off and stick to the print bed. Since it doesn’t require additional adhesives, such as glue or tape, you can save your time going through the additional steps.
2. Compatible with Different Filaments
BuildTak’s versatility is due to its support for a wide range of filaments such as PLA, ABS, PETG and TPE, HIPS and WoodFill. It makes it easy to swap build surfaces between printing with different types of filaments. Also, it allows for faster printing.
3. It’s easy to clean and remove
BuildTak has an adhesive that is simple to apply and take off, which is unlike most DIY build surfaces. The adhesive won’t get stuck to the print bed and consume your time in cleaning it up. This makes it easy to print multiple 3D model in one go.
4. Smooth Finish
The filament adheres to the printing surface evenly during the creation of the first layer. The rest of the layers will adhere to the surface well, and the end result will be smooth. After printing is completed, the object won’t warp.
BuildTak can be used with different filaments, and it can also be re-used. This makes it more expensive than other build surfaces. Beginners might not find BuildTak a good choice when they’re learning how to print 3D models because any damage to the build surface can lead to a waste of money.
2. Can It Lose Its Adhesive
After the sheet has been used for a while, the adhesive can become loose. This means that you should keep a few BuildTak sheets on hand in order to easily replace them with new ones.
3. Requires more maintenance
Although BuildTak can still be used, the adhesive can easily come off if it’s not properly maintained. When the adhesive starts to wear, you can gently rub the surface with sandpaper or a steel wirebrush.
Even if filament residue remains on the build surface it can take a long time to clean it.
4. Prints can be damaged if they are not aligned correctly between the nozzle and print bed.
The filament nozzle should not be aligned too close to the BuildTak sheet. This can cause damage to your 3D printed models. The nozzle can also burn a hole in the BuildTak surface.
Compare BuildTak Vs PEI
PEI is a thermoplastic material that can withstand very high temperatures, ranging from 345 to 400 degrees Celsius. You can print multiple 3D models in one go without worrying about the build surfaces getting burnt.
BuildTak on the other hand has a plastic surface that can withstand temperatures up to 110 degrees Celsius. If you use this build surface, you will need to keep in mind that it doesn’t exceed the stated temperature range.
BuildTak comes in 13 sizes to fit in different print beds. PEI is one size that must be cut to fit in the print bed.
PEI is available in one size. However, it can be ordered in different thicknesses. Thinner sheets are easier to fit in the print bed, but more susceptible to damage. Thicker sheets can be more sturdy, but if they are positioned on the print bed, air bubbles could form between the sheet & the bed.
PEI can only be used with ABS and PLA. BuildTak is compatible with a range of filaments including ABS, PETG, TPE and HIPS. BuildTak is the best choice for those who want versatility.
You can print 3D models up to 100 hours with a BuildTak sheet. PEI sheets allow for more printing. PEI sheets are more durable than BuildTak because they can withstand higher temperatures.
PEI doesn’t require maintenance. After you have printed your 3D model you can wipe the surface with Isopropyl Alcohol for your next use.
On BuildTak, on the other hand requires regular maintenance to ensure the best results. It can stick to the print surface so be patient and use sandpaper or a steel toothbrush to remove it.
PEI is less expensive than BuildTak. PEI is cheaper than BuildTak, and a single sheet will allow you to print more pages than BuildTak.
Comparative Chart for PEI and BuildTak-
Requires less maintenance
More maintenance is required
With adhesive backing, it is easy to install
With adhesive backing, it is easy to install
PLA and ABS
PLA, ABS, PETG PETG, PETE, TPE and HIPS.
It’s never a bad idea if you choose a build surface that works perfectly with your Ender 3 or other 3D printers. You can be sure that your 3D printed models will look perfect if the base layer is well adhered.
Both BuildTak as well as PEI offer high-quality prints every time. However the small differences in cost and versatility can affect your preference.
Now that you are familiar with the differences between PEI & BuildTak build surfaces, it is time to decide which one to put on your 3D printer.