Gluing the prints to the 3D printer’s build plate in the FDM technology is a very broad subject… There are many diverse solutions, including spreading ordinary glue on the plate, smearing it with an ABS and acetone solution (the so-called “ABS juice”), or using special perforated plates. As I tested most of the solutions available on the market, BuildTak proved to me most to my liking – a special sticker on build plates, which printouts are easy to attach to and to detach from (although there are exceptions, of course). BuildTak unfortunately has a limited lifespan – when tearing the printout off the surface of the sticker, it gets scratched and gradually wears out. Depending on the type of the filament and how much printing is done on it, it is sufficient for several months or… a couple of weeks. Recently, an interesting alternative in the form of a special glue in a spray, called Dimafix, hit the market. Courtesy of Blackfrog.pl, who first introduced it in Poland, we had the opportunity to test it. Here are some of my insights about it…
Dimafix was developed by the Spanish DIMA3D company and is intended to be used in the FDM 3D printers with a heatbed. It provides adhesion between the printed model and the glass. It works for most thermoplastic materials like ABS, PLA, HIPS, or FilaFlex. The adhesion is activated when the temperature of the heatbed exceeds 50° Celsius. When it drops below the level, the “gluing” effect disappears and the models will break away from the plate. Dimafix is water-soluble so it is easy to clean with water.
Dimafix has four temperature zones in which it operates:
- zone IV – temperature 95 – 120°C – maximum adhesion of the printed item of any size and shape; maximum print size tested for this temperature range is 48 cm x 24 cm during continuous 48-hour printing
- zone III – temperature 75 – 95°C – high adhesion for printouts of any shape and the size up to 20 cm x 20 cm; good print quality without curling up even when the cooling is on
- zone II – temperature 65 – 75°C – average adhesion power, designed for simple elements without sharp edges and vertices
- zone I – temperature below 65°C – printouts easily detach from the table after lowering the temperature.
Dimafix costs PLN 57.00 gross and is available on the Blackfrog.pl website. According to the distributor, one pack of Dimafix 400 ml is sufficient for over 100 prints.
Our tests were performed on two 3D printers: Monkeyfab PRIME equipped with a glass plate and HBOT 3D equipped with a glass plate covered with Kapton tape. The test models were printed with three kinds of PLA (Noviplast, Barrus and colorFabb) and one type of ABS (Devil Design).
1. Getting started
According to the information provided on the package, Dimafix is a highly flammable material and should be distributed either outside or in a well-ventilated space. It can be sprayed on the plates at the temperature not exceeding 50°C. I assume spraying it is also not recommended in proximity to the printhead when its temperature reaches 100°C at the time.
The issue of ventilation is quite important too. Dimafix has a distinctive, sweet odor, but it definitely “feels chemical”. After using it in an office room of over 30 m2, some airing was definitely necessary. Generally, the smell which Dimafix exudes is not choking or irritating, nevertheless we do not know what it consists of and what we breathe in. If the producer warns us on the packaging that we need to ventilate the premises or use the product outside, I do not see why anyone would want to be a lab rat and try to check what would happen if we did not adhere to these recommendations. It just so happens that our office is equipped with a large terrace, so there was no problem for us to apply the spray on the glass of the 3D printers outside.
Other than this, the rest is a piece of cake. We apply the spray locally – where the model is to be printed. There is no need to apply the glue all over the plate, and it probably does not need to be covered too thickly. If we spray it gently, the plate gets covered with an opaque “mist”. A larger amount of glue causes it to condense, which, nevertheless, dries quickly we warm up the plate.
2. Working with Dimafix
When the plate is covered with glue, we put the glass on the build platform and start printing. You should of course bear in mind that the platform’s temperature should be lower than the recommended 50°C. After reaching the correct temperature (65°C – 70°C for PLA or 100°C for ABS), the material gets smoothly attached to the plate. After the end of the print, unfortunately, we have to wait until the plate cools down. According to the manufacturer’s information the printout easily breaks off at temperatures below 65°C, but my (relatively short) experience indicates that it is best to do it at the temperature below 40°C. Then, indeed, it is enough to gently pry the printout with a scaper and it comes off the plate. It may not be as easy as in the case of BuildTak, but it is incomparably easier than in the case of a plate lubricated with ABS juice.
After removing the print, some of the adhesive remains on the printout and makes it a little sticky to the touch. However, it is enough to wipe it with a wet handkerchief / cloth and the glue comes off without a problem. There is of course a “hole” on the plate left after the detached print, but if the next model to be printed has a different shape and extends beyond the area devoid of the adhesive, it will successfully get glued to the plate (tested only for PLA).
To continue 3D printing with the next model we must, unfortunately, wait until the plate cools down, which in the case of printing a series of small, high-speed models, is a little annoying. It lengthens the work time, because every time the procedure must be identical – at first, the plate cools down, then we put a layer of adhesive (unless we have a situation as described in the paragraph above), then we wait until the plate warms up again, and only then we begin another print. It is a bit of a nuisance, especially in the case of ABS, where the table must cool down from 100°C and then warm up to the necessary temperature once again. The “keep warm” function is definitely off.
3. The effects of working with Dimafix
Although the sample was relatively small, I can honestly say that Dimafix definitely works in terms of very good adhesion of the print to the plate. Earlier, I printed several elements with PLA on HBOT, in the form of squares of the size of about 4 x 4 cm. The plate was covered with Kapton tape and a thick layer of ABS juice – despite that, two fragments curled up at the edges. When I repeated the print on a plate covered with Dimafix, the printout was perfect. It was similar in the case of ABS on PRIME. The models adhered to the surface of the plate perfectly and there was no problem either with shrinkage or with curling edges.
To conclude, Dimafix is a very interesting solution. For those printing numerous models from ABS it is a much better alternative than the ABS juice, which is much more problematic in use (and I assume that it is more harmful to the health). It is also better than BuildTak, which wears out pretty quickly when used with ABS. In the case of PLA, you can find more interesting alternatives, although the effects of working with Dimafix are also great. The disadvantages of this product include the aforementioned requirements regarding the procedures for its use – spraying the open air or in a ventilated room and waiting for the build plate to cool down / warm up before the continuation of work.
BuildTak after 4 months of usage
If I were to compare Dimafix to BuildTak, then I would probably put it this way: for PLA definitely go with BuildTak, for ABS, in spite of the disadvantages, use Dimafix. In the latter case, we can certainly forget about the ABS juice, which in my opinion is a rather primitive solution, used because of the lack of better options. Luckily, now there is such. It is more expensive than acetone, but definitely safer and healthier (provided we comply to the manufacturer’s instructions).