Build Surface Comparison
One of the most popular questions we get from customers who are first introduced to our Fula-Flex 2.0 is about the difference between PEI & glass. Or PEI & polycarbonate. We'll break down the difference between our smooth & textured PEI and compare them to the most common stock surfaces! I'll be trying to actively remove any bias I may have considering the PEI Fula-Flex is the only build plate we offer, but there's a reason we chose PEI over anything else :D
- Smooth PEI
- Textured PEI
This is our flexible build surface with a PEI film applied to spring steel. PEI first rose to popularity as a build surface due to its sticky filament nature when heated and it's release properties when cooled. It sticks very well to materials like PLA & ABS, but too well with materials like PETG & TPU. Those two materials are similar to PEI in chemical composition and like to chemically weld themselves to the bed. That's why we recommend using materials like glue stick or Windex as a separation layer to keep from destroying the smooth PEI film. Remember that it is not limited to Fulament PEI; it applies to ALL smooth PEI sheets. Aside from those two materials, smooth PEI rocks at holding down prints when needed and releasing them when it's done.
Textured PEI is our latest evolution of PEI flex plates. It was designed to fix the issues of smooth PEI and can print PETG & TPU without any hassle or separation layer. It also features increased adhesion properties over the standard smooth PEI for all materials! And to add a cherry on top, it leaves a fabulous satin pebbled finish on the bottom of your prints! We are very proud of our textured PEI's adhesion strength and longevity. We've had textured sheets from over two years ago that show minimal wear!
Since day one, the old classic glass has been a staple in 3D printing and has served our community very well. It's affordable and does a good job of providing adhesion. Like PEI, it can hold parts down when heated and release them when cool. Although PEI still provides better adhesion, glass comes pretty darn close. The main issue with glass is the need for a perfect first layer. If your bed is not perfectly level, your parts will not automatically release. Unlike our PEI flex plates, where you can flex the pieces off, you'll have to pull out the scraper for glass. This can be both frustrating and dangerous. Before the days of Fula-Flex, I can't count the number of times the scrapper slipped off the glass and stabbed into my poor hand. On top of the convenience of flexing, I find that PEI is better for some of the more advanced materials like ABS, PETG, and Nylon.
Photo by CNCKitchen
I would consider polycarbonate the king of adhesion. Materials stick to polycarbonate as if they've been super glued. Before Fula-Flex, my favorite build surface was applying a polycarbonate sheet to glass. Parts always stuck, but I found myself replacing the surface every few weeks as parts would permanently bond to the surface. If I did manage to get the parts off, I would also tear the PC surface with it. I've tried polycarbonate in both sheet and flex plate form, but neither of them could hold the test of time. But if you are a master at leveling and want maximum adhesion, I would recommend polycarbonate over our Fula-Flex.
Obviously, out of all the options, textured & smooth PEI are my favorite. Yes, we make the Fula-Flex and are inherently biased, but we offer PEI by choice. If I thought anything else was better, we would have made build plates using that material! What is your favorite build surface? Let me know in the comments!