Our 3D printer, the MakerBot Replicator 2 as well as many other models do come with a plexiglass (acrylic) build plate and while you might have no serious trouble printing smaller 3D models on it, you may experience some issues when you start using more of the available build volume. The problem with the plexiglass build plate is that it is not that even as it may appear and every millimeter and even a part of the millimeter may be important when 3D printing something. In our case the Replicator 2 did have about 1 millimeter difference between the printing nozzle and the print bed at the edges as compared to the gap near the center of the build plate. This is easy to notice when you level the build plate using the three closer to the center points and then the print nozzle moves at the left and right edge of the build plate.


What we did was to look around for an option for a glass build plate for the MakerBot 2, there are quite a few options available. Even Makerbot offers a glass build plate upgrade for the Replicator 2, however it comes at a pretty high price of $250 USD. So we have opted out to go for an alternative solution that should provide the same results at a much affordable price. After checking a few alternatives we have selected to use the Performance 3D GLASS BUILD PLATE for Makerbot Replicator 2. This upgrade is available for just $50 USD without shipping and does provide much better results. We’ve received it and have already installed the new glass plate and the results are really great – the new plate is really even across the whole surface when leveling it. So we can definitely recommend this glass build plate as a great and much more affordable alternative to the original glass upgrade from Makerbot. We have ordered some other of the Replicator 2 upgrades offered by Performance 3D, so we are going to be installing them as well and trying them out very soon as well.


Normally a lot of 3D printers rely on 3M Blue Masking Tape to cover the build plate with. This specific tape offers good adhesion to the built plate, provides an even surface and most of all is great for 3D printing parts over it. The reason for that is because the tape has slightly uneven surface and is enough heat resistant to provide a good adhesion of the printed part on it. The not so good side of things is that the 3D blue masking tape is pretty expensive and you can relatively easy damage it while you are trying to remove the 3D printed model from it when it is finished, especially if the model is pretty small or flat. So we did some tests using different types of tape in order to see if they will be able to provide similar good results like the tape from 3M, but will cost less. Unfortunately these tests did end with only partial success, nevertheless we are going to share our findings as they might be useful to some of you…


We did try using Kapton tape over the Blue masking tape on the build plate that we already had and while it is enough heat resistant, the parts printed on top may not stick that well to it. We have observed some of the edges of larger printed 3D models starting to warp and that is something that you would want to avoid. For smaller 3D prints however the Kapton tape with PLA filament does work pretty well and the bottom part of the model ends up shinier and smoother than when printing on other rougher surfaces.


Trying out the common white painter tape that is much cheaper alternative to the 3M Scotch blue masking tape it does not work out that great. The main problem that the common white painter masking tape has is that it is not so heat resistant and the glue can start to let go, even though the object you are printing on top may initially stick very well to the tape it can start to warp at the edges. With that said however the white masking tape could still be useable for smaller 3D prints. The advantage it has besides the lower price is that you can easily remove the tape from the build plate and with it the 3D printed object will very easily be removed from the build plate.

We have also tried other different types of tapes, but unfortunately the results we’ve got were not that good. The main problem was low heat resistance in most of the tapes that ended up in the glue giving up or the tape starting to curl, also the 3D printer part starting to warp at the edges is another common problem. With Kapton tape and the common white masking tape you can pretty much have good results when using on printers that do not have a heated build plate and printing PLA. On printers using ABS filament for printing and a heated build plate the Kapton tape should work much better however, so you can try it.


3D printer filaments do come in many different colors, but sometimes you may not have the right color you need to print directly using it and instead can just spray paint your printed object that is using different color filament. We are using spray paints designed for painting lexan bodies for radio controlled models (RC cars) as they work pretty well, providing good paint coverage, sticking well and remain on the painted object even when you are flexing it (something that may be a problem if using auto paint sprays). You can of course try with different types of paint, using acrylic paint with a brush or an airbrush may also provide good results, especially if you want to paint details in different colors and not the whole object in a single color. On the photo above you can see a sample 3D printed object using transparent PLA filament for printing along with a spray can of black RC car color paint.


Here is the result of doing just two layers of coating of the transparent 3D printed object with the black paint – it is no longer transparent and the paint has very good coverage. The finer detail of the object is preserved, but if you add more layers of paint on top you could see that some of the finer detail may not be visible anymore, so you should be careful. The resulting paint creates a matte color finish, so we have a matte black, but if you want to have a glossy effect you can add on top of the paint a layer or two using a clear coating spray. Just be careful as there are two types of clear coating sprays available – one is resulting in a glossy coating and the other is for matte coating, and since the paint you use will most likely already have a matte effect covering it further with clear matte spray may just add some extra protection.