Why Is My PLA not Sticking to Painter’s (Blue) Tape? (Solved!)

Getting the strength of adhesion between the build plate and the plastic has always been one of the most challenging processes in 3D printing, as the interaction between different filaments and build plate materials can be a mystery at times.

On the other hand, while not the most consistent solution to the issue, applying material that interacts well with most filaments to the build plate, such as Kapton tape, offers a convenient fix to the bed adhesion problem in most cases.

Today, we will be discussing the issue of PLA filament not sticking to painter’s tape, also known as blue tape, a material that 3D printing enthusiasts commonly use to create an extra layer between the plastic and the build plate and improve bed adhesion.

So, what can cause PLA not to stick to the painter’s tape as it should?

Below, we have listed the reasons that can prevent PLA from sticking to painter’s tape:

  • The painter’s tape is low-quality.
  • The surface of the painter’s tape is not clean.
  • The nozzle is too far from the print surface.
  • The initial layer print speed is too high.
  • The first layer cools down way too quickly.

In the upcoming sections, we will take a more detailed look into the reason that can prevent PLA from sticking to painter’s tape, find out what we can do to get the PLA to stick successfully, and discuss the purpose behind using painter’s tape for printing PLA.

Why Is My PLA not Sticking to Painter’s (Blue) Tape? 

Considering that PLA should naturally adhere well to painter’s tape, it can definitely be a bit of an odd situation when you observe that your print does not correctly stick to the surface.

Below, we have listed the most common reasons that can cause your PLA to not stick to painter’s tape correctly:

  • Low-quality painter’s tape – If the painter’s tape you’re using is cheaply made, it may not show the qualities that make it a suitable surface for 3D printing, with adhesion issues being one of the problems you can face.
  • Dirty painter’s tape surface – If the surface of the painter’s tape is not completely clean due to staying out in the open for a prolonged amount of time or due to usage, the dirtiness can prevent the PLA from adhering to the surface correctly.
  • Too much space between the nozzle and the build surface – Improper bed leveling and Z offset configuration can cause the nozzle to be too far from the build surface, preventing the plastic from gripping the painter’s tape firmly enough for it to adhere correctly.
  • The initial layer prints way too quickly – Printing the initial layer too fast causes under-extrusion, which will reduce the strength of adhesion between the PLA and the painter’s tape.
  • The initial layer cools down way too fast – Using a too low nozzle temperature or too high fan speed during the printing of the first layer can cause the initial layer to cool down before it can form bonds with the painter’s tape that are strong enough.

It’s worth mentioning that while we have gone through the most common reasons, this list isn’t exhaustive by any means, as practically anything that can prevent PLA from sticking to any print surface can also prevent it from sticking to blue painter’s tape.

How to Get PLA to Stick to Painter’s (Blue) Tape?

Fixing the issues that prevent your PLA from sticking to the painter’s tape is definitely possible with some effort, so don’t give up on using it to get your PLA to adhere better to the build plate just yet.

Below is a list of solutions we recommend applying to get PLA to stick to painter’s tape correctly, which should cover most of the common causes:

  • Replace the painter’s tape with a better quality one. The 3M ScotchBlue painter’s tape is widely regarded to be the best option for 3D printing, which is what we would recommend trying if you haven’t already.
  • Wipe the surface of the painter’s tape with isopropyl alcohol. This process will allow the PLA to adhere to the painter’s tape better by removing any residue that may have gathered on the surface. 
  • Ensure that the bed is level and that the Z offset is configured correctly. Correct bed leveling and Z offset calibration are vital for a healthy 3D printing process, regardless of whether you’re using blue painter’s tape as a surface. As a rule of thumb, the space between the build surface and nozzle should always equal the thickness of a standard paper when the nozzle is homed on the Z-axis.
  • Reduce the initial layer print speed. Using an initial layer speed that falls in the range of 25% to 50% of the actual print speed will ensure that the 3D printer prints the initial layer correctly and give the layer enough time to bond with the painter’s tape.
  • Increase the initial layer temperature and decrease the initial layer cooling fan speed. Using an initial layer temperature 10 to 15 degrees higher than the actual printing temperature and reducing to cooling fan speed to a level between 0 and 20 percent will give the first layer enough time to form strong bonds with the painter’s tape before solidifying.
  • Apply glue stick to the painter’s tape. If all else fails, applying a glue stick to the blue painter’s tape will create a layer to which PLA is likely to stick correctly.

What Is the Purpose of Using Painter’s Tape for Printing PLA?

While adding an extra layer of material between the plastic and the build plate can sound odd at first, considering that it’s the build plate’s job to hold the model, applying painter’s tape to the surface comes with some significant benefits.

Applying painter’s tape to the build surface offers a cheap and easy way to combat adhesion problems (both not sticking enough and sticking too much) and protects your build plate, making it an excellent addition for printing PLA and many other filaments.

On the other hand, as there are also some downsides to using painter’s tape, such as requiring frequent replacement and creating problems for the bottom surface of the model, we recommend using it on a case-by-case basis rather than utilizing it for every print.

Wrapping Up

Since the primary purpose of applying painter’s tape to the build surface is to increase the strength of adhesion between PLA and the build plate, it can be confusing to see that PLA is not sticking to the blue tape as it should.

Issues related to the painter’s tape itself, such as low-quality or dirty tape, initial layer misconfiguration, and problems with the nozzle’s positioning due to factors like an unlevel bed or an incorrectly configured Z offset, can all contribute to PLA not sticking to painter’s tape.

Fortunately, as you also have the option to print without the tape, you can quickly narrow the factors down and find out whether the tape or the 3D printer itself is causing the problem in your case by running a test print on the build surface itself.

Happy printing!