Finding optimal build surfaces for different filaments is an everlasting challenge, considering that a build surface that works perfectly for one filament can cause a complete disaster with another and ruin the printing process.
While trial and error may seem like a good way of figuring things out, how the filament and the build surface react with each other can put you in scenarios where it becomes pretty challenging to salvage the situation without causing damage to either the build surface or the model.
Today, we will explore whether it’s a good idea or not to print TPU filament on a PEI build surface, a material that is primarily known for yielding excellent results in combination with popular filaments such as PETG and PLA.
So, should you print TPU on a PEI build surface?
As TPU sticks very firmly to PEI, you should never attempt to print TPU directly on a PEI build surface. Doing so will most likely result in the model getting stuck to the PEI surface, and removal attempts will potentially cause damage to both the build surface and the model.
Next up, we will be discussing the topic of printing TPU on a PEI build surface in better detail, exploring how to get TPU off a PEI sheet with minimal damage, and looking at PEI alternatives for printing TPU as successfully as possible.
Should You Print TPU on a PEI Build Surface?
With the high performance it shows with filaments such as PLA, ABS, and especially PETG, PEI build surfaces are undoubtedly becoming one of the most popular choices in 3D printing.
Printing TPU on a PEI build surface is something you should avoid due to the natural strength of adhesion between these two materials being extremely high, consistently creating cases where the TPU gets stuck to the PEI.
In such cases, it’s usually no longer possible to pull the model off the PEI sheet in one piece, with many removal attempts ending up with damage to both the model and the build surface and essentially rendering the PEI sheet unusable for other prints.
While the situation isn’t as bad in the case of textured PEI sheets, with smooth PEI sheets causing the majority of the problematic scenarios, we would still recommend steering away from PEI for printing TPU to be on the safe side.
How Do You Get TPU off a PEI Build Surface?
TPU sticking very firmly to a PEI build surface is a pretty widespread issue, where separating the two materials without causing damage to either the model or the build surface can prove to be challenging.
The first method we recommend trying to get TPU off a PEI build surface is the freezer method. For this method, you will need to place the build plate into the freezer in roughly 10 to 15-minute intervals and try to pull the model off the build surface after each interval.
The idea with the freezer method is to get the build surface to release the plastic, or at least allow you to pull it out without applying too much force, avoiding damage to both the PEI sheet and the model you have printed.
In more severe cases, you may need to scrape the TPU off the PEI build surface with the help of a putty knife (preferably a plastic one for minimal harm), which can cause damage, especially if you aren’t careful with it.
What Is an Alternative to PEI for Printing TPU?
As PEI isn’t the most optimal build surface to print TPU on, finding an alternative that will show a better level of performance is a good idea if you regularly print with TPU filament.
The primary alternative to a PEI build surface for printing TPU is a glass bed, which we can consider to be the best build surface for printing TPU due to the level of adhesion between these two materials being just right.
Unlike a PEI build surface, a glass bed will provide a level of adhesion where the TPU won’t get stuck to the build surface but, at the same time, adhere firmly enough not to cause issues related to bed adhesion.
As a result, we would highly recommend investing in a glass bed if you intend to use TPU filament frequently, as it will be well worth the investment with the quality it will bring to your prints.
Is There Any Way to Print TPU on PEI Without Problems?
Even though TPU naturally sticks very firmly to PEI, which makes PEI very unsuitable for printing TPU, there might be cases where a PEI build surface is the only thing you have access to, and you need to print TPU.
The immediate solution we recommend for printing TPU on PEI is to cover the PEI surface with a material such as Kapton tape or painter’s tape to prevent the TPU from directly contacting the PEI and causing problems.
This way, while you will still be able to use your PEI build surface for the printing process, it will be impossible for the TPU to get stuck to your PEI surface and potentially cause damage to your model or the build plate.
In the worst-case scenario, you can always opt to remove the tape from the surface and apply a fresh layer for the next print, consistently preserving the condition of your PEI build surface no matter what takes place during the printing process.
While PEI build surfaces are highly popular for a wide variety of filaments, the combination of TPU and PEI is unfortunately far from the best due to how these two materials react with each other.
We don’t recommend printing TPU on a PEI build surface due to the two materials naturally sticking very firmly to each other, to the point where the TPU gets stuck on the PEI, making it practically impossible to separate the two without causing damage to the model or the build surface.
As a result, switching to a different build surface for printing TPU whenever it’s possible is the best course of action, but in the case where you don’t have access to any other build surface, solutions such as applying painter’s tape or glue stick to the surface can also help to an extent.