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3D Printing School: Kapton Tape Application

03 Dec

kapton_header-2

I’ve decided to put together a series of posts covering topics that I either:

  1. Find myself rewriting every time someone asks me about them.
  2. Would like to read but no one has written yet.
  3. Have seen mentioned but not as well visually documented as I would like.

 

So here’s my first post on applying Kapton tape. I found this recommendation on the Makerbot Operators Google Group about a year ago and it has really changed the way I get my printer set up.

I’m writing this post showing my Makerbot Replicator 2X, but I believe the steps should work just fine with any 3D printer with an aluminum or similar build platform.

Tools required:

 

Step 1: Remove the used tape (if present) from your build platform.

kapton1

 

Step 2: Line the interior of your bot with paper towels. I do this to protect the internal electronics that live below the build platform of my bot.

kapton2

 

Step 3: Lightly coat your build platform with window cleaner. This acts as a lubricant for the Kapton tape.

kapton3

 

Step 4: Start by cutting a piece of Kapton tape slightly larger than your build platform. Then apply it directly to your the pre-moistened build platform. The tape will slide around on the cleaner while wet and should be easy to position.

kapton4

 

Step 5: After positioning the tape use your hand squeegee to push any excess window cleaner and air bubbles out from beneath the tape. Repeat step 3 and 4 as needed to cover your entire build platform. 

kapton5

 

Step 6 (optional): Cut off any overhanging tape with an X-ACTO knife. This isn’t mandatory but if you’re going through all the trouble to apply new tape it  might as well look good!

kapton_exacto

 

Step 7: Heat your build platform to your normal operating temperature (for me thats 110c). Once your platform has come to temperature you may notice steam bubbles form beneath your tape where some leftover window cleaner remains. Push these bubbles to the edge of your build platform to release the steam. Most of the really small bubbles should “bake off” after being heated for awhile.

kapton_heated

 

Note: I would recommend letting your build platform cool before preforming the next step.

Step 8: Using paper towels (or a microfiber cloth) wipe your Kapton tape with isopropyl alcohol. This should remove any oils from your skin that may have come in contact with the tape during application. Cleaning your tape with alcohol should ensure better adhesion between your print material and build platform.

kapton_alcohol

 

That’s it! You should now have a smooth and clean build surface ready for 3D printing!

kapton_finished

 

This method of tape application has worked really well for me. If you have any questions (or any suggestions on how to make this process even better) please leave a comment below.

 
  • http://cymonsgames.com Joe Larson

    I found all my tape prolems went away when i switched to hairspray on glass. Better finish too and freaky good stick. Pops right off when it goes back to room temperature. Definitely worth the upgrade.

    • http://thenewhobbyist.com/ Chris Krueger

      I haven’t worked with glass build platforms but I’ve heard good things from Replicator 2 owners lately. Sounds like a solid upgrade for super smooth bottomed parts.

      I really haven’t had adhesion issues even on long (~10 hour) prints just using straight Kapton. I’ll look into the Aquanet approach if that changes though ;)