When we say warp, we are not talking about the daemonic energy in the Warhammer 40k Universe. Warping in 3D prints is nasty and can ruin an otherwise good print. This problem mainly occurs when you are printing very thin or flat objects.
What is warping in 3D printing?
In general warping occurs when there is a heat difference between sections of the print. Like any other material plastic expands and contracts when it is being heated. With PLA 3D printing this effect is even more common than with other materials and is more fatal for the print than many other smaller problems. Especially when you are going for a detailed print for tabletop terrain warping can ruin an otherwise acceptable print. When working with PLA the material is being heated up an then cooled down. This creates an effect like multiple layers of rubber bands glued together. Because of warping the edges of the print will curl upwards and separate from the bed. This will result in less plate adhesion or even loosen the object entirely from the bed.
As you can see in the picture, during the print the mid section of the print contracted and caused the print to lift off the bed. Even the big brim adhesion would not help. The picture below shows what happends to wide terrain pieces when warping occurs. The bended terrain is unusable, so an otherwise well printed terrain piece goes straight to the trash.
How to fix warping
Increase plate adhesion
In essence the approach is to stick the 3D print hard enough to the bed, so it cannot warp or lift off. There are a couple of ways you can increase the plate adheasion during your 3D print. And some are more permanent than others.
Use a heated bed
A heated bed will heat up the initial layers of plastic just below its melting point, thus sticking it to the build plate. Most regular 3D printers currently have heated beds and yours definitely should too! Which temperatures you should be using depends on your material and be sure to check the specific material guides of your material. Most PLA filaments produce great results at 60°C. A bed that is too hot will cause further issues with warping though, because the heat difference between the bed and the circulating air can be another source of warping.
Level build plate
As always levelling the build plate can be the solution. If the initial layer cannot be stuck tightly into the build plate, then the adhesion will not be good enough, and the print will warp more easily. When levelling you should rather squish the material to the build plate so the initial layer sticks properly to the bed. You can check this by watching the initial layer of the print. Is the firt layer being squished on the bed or just loosely layed on top?
Apply an adhesive
To improve the stickyness of the surface you can apply an adhesive to the 3D print surface. You should check what material is suitable in your case. But basically you can spray hairspray onto the buildplate or use a regular glue stick. Both use water solluabe PVA glue as an adhesive and can be easily washed off with water. Especially the hairspray variant will get your printer dirty, though. I don’t recommend it in the long run. If you need to do this, maybe you need to invest in a different kind of bed, as this is mostly only needed with flat glass beds.
Structured build plate
One thing that helps tremendously with plate adhesion is to use a structured build plate. The stock Ender3 plate has a very rough surface and the print will stick to it even when the bed has cooled down. With this kind of build plate there is little to no warping, but the print will be harder to remove. Some switch to a flat glass plate quickly because once the glass plate has cooled down, the print will be very easy to remove. However the adhesion on these plates tends to be difficult. We use a structured glass plate for our prints, which is the ideal middle-ground between ease of use and plate adhesion when printing 3D printable wargaming terrain. These plates are made of glass but have a rough surface. Most of the time these plates have little holes in their surface layer. During the printing process the heated bed will have very good plate adhesion, and when cooled down, the print can be easily removed. Sometimes not even a spatula is needed to remove the print.
The temperature difference responsible for the warping can be mitigated by making sure there is no cool air flowing over the 3D printer. If you take 3D printing seriously you should consider this from a noise standpoint alone. Having an enclosure for your 3D printer will make sure the heated up air stays inside the enclosure and no cool air randomly cools down part of your prints. This is one of the more involved fixes but will help you out in the long run. You could even use a simple plastic bag for this, but most people opt for a simple wooden structure or cheap swedisch furniture.
This is something we do on all our prints. In Cura you can opt in for a brim plate adhesion. This will create an initial brim layer around the object, increasing the surface area on the build plate. This will easily help you stick your prints to the build plate. The brim can be easily removed afterwards. Since 3D printed tabletop terrain always needs a littlte clean up, you will find this not a lot of extra work and always better than throwing away a failed print.
We hope our tips will help you eliminate the warping of your 3D prints.
Happy 3D Printing!
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