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I have a Flashforge Creator Dual.

One corner of my print bed is warped down. I am thinking about having a steel print bed made so it would tend to stay flat.

Has anyone tried this?

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Whether you should use steel or aluminum depends on the construction of your print bed stack. Either will work, but there are trade-offs involved.

Various considerations that may come into play:

  • A flat sheet of aluminum has better stiffness/weight ratio than a flat sheet of steel. If weight/mass is a concern, such as with a Mendel style moving Y-bed, aluminum may be superior to an equivalent stiffness steel sheet. On the other hand, steel has the superior stiffness/thickness ratio, so if the total thickness of the plate is constrained, such as by the printer's mounting hardware, steel may be higher performance. In short, for sheets of equivalent stiffness, aluminum will be thicker but lighter. That may or may not matter for your specific printer.
  • Differential thermal expansion can be an issue, depending on what the plate is attached to. For example, rigidly bolting a steel sheet to an aluminum sub-frame will cause the structure to warp when its temperature changes. Likewise for bolting an aluminum sheet to a steel sub-frame. Bed mounts that "float" will not cause warping in either case.
  • All kinds of rolled sheet metal may have a tendency to warp when heated/cooled, due to residual stresses and grain alignment effects from manufacture. When people want extreme dimensional stability for the flattest and lowest-warp print bed possible, an aluminum cast tooling plate material such as MIC 6 is usually used. The MIC 6 sheet is then precision ground to be flat. Of course, that adds cost.
  • Neither aluminum nor steel is a particularly good bare print surface. Either will need some kind of adhesion layer, like Kapton tape or gluestick. The adhesion layer matters far more than the type of metal underneath.
  • Aluminum sheets are often used as heat-spreaders to even out the bed temperature of heated beds. This is very important when heaters are smaller than the total bed size, or have hot spots. (Most heaters do have hot spots.) Steel is a relatively poor conductor of heat, so the surface of the bed will take longer to heat up and will be less even. That may or may not be an issue, depending on the printer and desired materials.

So, it's really a holistic design decision. Aluminum is far more common because of its thermal properties and lower weight, but steel print beds (particularly with permanent adhesion coatings) are often used too.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1, this answer has helped me in my design. However, en lieu of the Kapton tape, or gluestick, a PEI sheet could be used, as used in the Prusa i3 MK2. 12"x12" PEI sheet is available for around $15 (Amazon) to $20 (eBay). It can be secured using either bulldog clips or 3M 468MP adhesive sheet. $\endgroup$ – Greenonline Nov 27 '16 at 19:17
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I would consider getting another aluminum build plate for the following reasons:

  • Lightweight. Aluminum is a very lightweight metal, making it suitable for most machines that have injection molded platform arms. This reduces potential sagging of the arms and overall load on the -Z- axis stepper motor.
  • Conductivity. Referring to this simple Google search for heat conductivity, aluminum is significantly more conductive than steel (205 vs 43 respectively) with copper at about double that of aluminum.
  • Availability. Aluminum is already a widely used material for 3D printing, so finding one will be relatively easy and probably cheaper than having a steel build plate custom made.

In conclusion, I personally would not recommend using steel for your build plate as aluminum seems to have the most benefits. Yes, steel will be more rigid and durable, but I don't think that these should be variables that are significantly more beneficial over aluminum.

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  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't really answer the question "can I use steel instead of aluminium?". It just lists some advantages of aluminium, but that doesn't rule out steel as an alternative. I would imagine you can quite happily print on steel. $\endgroup$ – Tom van der Zanden May 12 '16 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ Updated my answer to elaborate. Technically, the OP could use steel, but my personal opinion is that it is not a good idea. I tried to avoid expressing my opinion by highlighting the benefits of continuing to use aluminum. $\endgroup$ – tbm0115 May 12 '16 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ If you are talking Stainless Steel, it is a HORRIBLE thermal conductor (AL is 20x better). It might make the heated bed almost useless. $\endgroup$ – markshancock Jul 18 '17 at 7:29

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