My experience with the Prusa textured powder-coated spring steel sheet

I’m a big fan of Jo Prusa and the company he’s built. They put out quality products, and I’ve never regretted paying the price for the Mk3, even compared to the low-cost competitors that sell for 1/4 the price. These pages are a testament to my enthusiasm for Prusa printers and my willingness to work through problems. My experience with Prusa’s quality and support has been stellar in all but one case. This is that story.

Note

This is a summary of problems and attempted work-arounds to a specific problem. Rather than repeatedly repost the same description of my issues in various online forums, I’ve created this page to link to when describing my problems with this product.

tl;dr I waited roughly 14 months after my already-delayed printer to receive the textured sheet. Much to my dismay, my experience with this product and Prusa’s support of it has been poor. Early users have been thrilled with the textured sheet, and many recent purchasers are also reporting excellent results. I, however, have had nothing but heartache. Prints with PETG and PLA result in warping and prints popping loose prematurely. I’m also seeing a spike in complaints on the Prusa forums and reddit 3D printing groups with similar complaints.

Note

I recently have had some success using glue stick on the textured sheet. More details below.

Background

  • I’m quite aware of how to get good adhesion using a variety of print surfaces.

Typical smooth adhesion test results

Fig. 70 Typical smooth adhesion test results

  • I ordered the textured powder-coated sheet along with my Mk3 the first week of January 2018.

  • Shortly thereafter, I was notified by Prusa of production delays and notified that a smooth sheet would be shipped with my order, along with free shipping and a $10 discount when the textured sheet became available. I was satisfied with this solution.

  • My Mk3 finally arrived in late March 2018. The delays were understandable, and I was happy to wait for a better end product. No complaints so far.

  • In roughly May 2019 I received notification that the textured sheet was available. I applied the discount code and free shpping and received my sheet thereafter.

  • My first prints adhered poorly, so I tried using Prusa’s instructions to clean the sheet with 91%+ isopropyl alcohol. PETG adhesion remained mediocre, and PLA adhesion failed on most prints. Applications of 70% to 99% strength isopropyl made little difference. A first print would hold, the 2nd would fail.

Results with PLA after washing textured sheet

Fig. 71 Results with PLA after washing textured sheet

  • I contacted Prusa support via online chat and was disappointingly told immediately that the sheets are consumables. I reminded support that new products have a warranty but they offered no relief. I believe this is a violation of the EU consumer protection law, but those do not provide protection to US customers.

  • I spent 45 minutes trying different and increasingly silly suggestions and sending pictures. The conversation devolved to “try unplugging it” levels of absurdity. Prusa support complemented me on my first layer, but had no fix nor any offer of replacement of a clearly defective product.

First layer print in progress

Fig. 72 First layer print in progress

First layer print results

Fig. 73 First layer print results

First layer print inspection

Fig. 74 First layer print inspection

  • I sent pictures of the uneven surface application on my sheet, but was again refused any replacement or assistance.

Uneven powder-coat application on textured sheet

Fig. 75 Uneven powder-coat application on textured sheet

  • I tried lowering my Live-Z adjustment to the point that I was getting massive elephant’s foot distortion of the lower layers, then backed it up until only a little distortion remained. Results were only slightly improved.

Results of adjusting Live-Z to absurdly-low levels

Fig. 76 Results of adjusting Live-Z to absurdly-low levels

  • I increased bed temps as high as 70C for PLA, resulting in yet more elephant’s foot distortion. Backing temps back to ~65C to eliminate the distortion resulted in poor adhesion.

  • I gave the sheet a wash under hot water with plain Dawn dish soap. Again, little change.

  • Thinking there might be some manufacturing residue, I applied a wash with acetone followed by another wash with Dawn. Adhesion improved for one print, but soon began to fail again.

February 2020 update

User ktrpb posted a suggestion to the Prusa forums indicating success using gluestick on the textured sheet. Although skeptical, I realized gluestick was the one traditional method I hadn’t tried. I applied the last of my Kores gluestick that shipped with the printer and gave it a go. I was (somewhat) pleasantly surprised.

Testing full-bed adhesion after application of gluestick to textured sheet

Fig. 77 Testing full-bed adhesion after application of gluestick to textured sheet

This was a full-bed print using 3D Solutech PLA with 0.5mm extrusion widths. Previous attempts would result in curling and peeling of the PLA throughout the print. Adhesion was good enough to successfully complete the print, a marked improvement.

Next, I tried multiple small parts with PLA.

Testing small PLA part adhesion after application of gluestick to textured sheet

Fig. 78 Testing small PLA part adhesion after application of gluestick to textured sheet

One part popped loose after the bed cooled down, but this is a significant improvement. Unfortunately, the adhesion tower print failed near the top. While now mostly usable, this surface is a far cry from what Prusa originally advertised.

I will continue to test with other materials, but at this point, I’m giving the Prusa textured sheet a 7/10. It works (no thanks to Prusa support) but requires monitoring. It is “usable” but still disappointing.

Comparison to alternatives

After much frustration, I ordered an equivalent clone sheet from TheKKIINNGG on Amazon. Much to my delight, it performed exactly as the Prusa textured sheet was originally advertised. Infrequent cleaning with isopropyl alcohol is all that us needed for consistently good results using my typical bed temps and Live-Z heights with PLA and PETG. No brims or skirts are required. I’ve completed more than a dozen 16-30 hour full-bed multi-part prints in PLA with few problems.

Small PLA part prints on TheKKIINNGG textured surface

Fig. 79 Small PLA part prints on TheKKIINNGG textured surface

What has been truly disappointing has been Prusa’s response…

  • Product cleaning instructions have been edited to remove mention of using acetone and other methods proscribed for early versions.

  • Product usage instructions have been edited to include warnings about the need to use brims for PLA and poor adhesion of small parts.

  • Product video notes have been edited to include disclaimers for the textured sheet, even when the video still shows Jo Prusa happily applying acetone to a textured sheet.

Even more disappointing has been the recent spike in new user reports of adhesion problems using the textured sheet and the dismissive response from Prusa and members of the user community on both the Prusa forums and reddit. Most remind me of a tech support to Microsoft where the suggstions are clearly being made to get the caller/poster to go away.

At this point, I can only conclude that…

  • The Prusa textured powder-coated spring steel print surface does not perform as originally described for many users.

  • This product was originally advertised as the ideal surface for all prints, claiming superior adhesion along with the textured appearance. The powder-coated surface was described as more durable than the PEI sticker surfaces. Prusa has since ninja edited product descriptions and maintenance instructions to alter the original cleaning recommendations, indicating that the coating is thinner and more fragile, and include disclaimers for printing with PLA and small parts, suggesting that brims be used for reliable adhesion.

  • The consensus of a large percentage of the active online community is that the textured sheet is great for PETG, but poor for PLA. Mine is suitable for neither.

  • New users should be directed to the smooth adhesive-backed PEI surface if only buying one surface, ordering the textured sheet only as an alternate.

  • Other manufacturer alternatives should be considered.

While many of the recent spate of problems printing PLA on this surface may indeed be due to user error, no recourse is provided to those who diligently follow every suggestd step only to have continual failures.

Prusa builds and sells great products. Their support is second to none. Their handling of the textured sheet has been abysmal and poorly handled. They clearly want the issue to go away, raising questions about how they might handle similar product disappointments in the future as the company grows beyond its early open-source, reprap ethos.

Fortunately, alternatives are now readily available. Competition is the best response to poor service.

  • TheKKIINNGG and other low-cost clones are now available. While I’m not a fan of ordering from the clone knock-off manufacturers, and TheKKIINNGG had a spotty record themselves early on, their v4 version of the textured sheet is superior to Prusa’s.

  • BuildTak offers a smooth adhesive-backed PEI surface using an adhesive that is much easier to remove and repair than Prusa’s. Pricing is somewhat higher, but the cost of postage evens out to many locations.

  • PrintedSolid offers a blank spring steel sheet that is considerably thinner and flexible than Prusa’s. Here again, once postage is considered, it is price-competitive.

I still like and support Prusa the individual and the company, but they have really let many of their customers down. Prusa has chosen to ignore my problem and those being encountered by many trusting users. This is my response.

Contact and feedback

You can find me on the Prusa support forums or Reddit where I lurk in many of the 3D printing-related subreddits.

Last updated on 20200217