To try and keep this simple I'm going to explain each part working from the print bed, up through the nozzle, and ending with the filament. This order isn't special and not a guide for where to start or what do do. Instead, take a look through the whole thing and try what you think is easiest.
- Aluminum - A simple base material that can be scuffed with sand paper to increase grip, you wont have to worry about shattering, but can suffer from warping.
- Glass (Borosilicate (Pyrex))- Very flat and smooth, which can leave a great finish on the bottom of a print, but can be challenging to get a print to stick without additional techniques and can break if not handled properly
- Heated Aluminum - The main properties are the same as regular aluminum but the heat improves the adhesion reliability and variety of materials that can be used.
- Heated Glass - The main properties are the same as regular glass but the heat improves the adhesion reliability and variety of materials that can be used.
Bed add-ons and modification
- Painters Tape - Blue tape can be added on top of any print bed. It is known to provide a slightly textured surface that the print can adhere to while protecting the base print bed. It is also widely available, easy to apply, and easy to replace. But, it is not very resistant getting scratched easily and needing to be replaced often.
- Kapton Tape - This tape was originally developed by Dupont out of silicone to work in both high and low temperatures and to be wear resistant. With its great adhesion and wear resistance properties, it should be used on top of any print bed but with another aid (see next three). It is important to know that Kapton tape is expensive for good tape and it can be challenging to install. I recommend spraying your print bed with copious amounts of soapy water, placing the tape down, squeegeeing out the extra water, and letting it dry over night.
- Glue Stick - Not only have I heard great things about using glue stick but I use them every day. There is nothing fancy here just a thin coat of regular Elmer's Glue Stick over the print bed before my prints. Typically you would use this on anything but painters tape but I have heard of people having success with it there too. Finally, when too many layers of glue have build up I just use water and paper towels to wash it all down and start again.
- Hair Sprays - Aquanet is what I hear the most about but any "super" or "extra" hold should work. Spray a one or two even coat on the bed before a print and let it dry before starting your print. I used this same technique for a little over a year and had really good luck with it. The two problems that you run into are, 1) the fine mist of hair spray can get onto everything around the area and 2) it can smell.
- ABS Slurry (only for ABS)- I have heard mixed results about this one. You start off by taking scrap ABS and dissolve it in acetone. You then paint or wipe a thin layer on your heated print bed before your print. The shake up here is the number of variables to get it to work well enough to hold the print but not too well where you can't get the print off the bed. This technique will definitely take some trial and error to get right.
- PEI Sheet - These are plastic sheets that range in thickness from a sheet of paper to over 1/8" and can be put right on top of your base build plate. They work very well with and if you need any extra help a glue stick will work. This is currently the setup that I am using and it has been working very well only not holding on tall skinny models.
It is important to take care of and know your nozzle. This little thing is doing a lot of the hard work. It is upwards of 275°C and has hundreds of meters forced through it. So, keep it clean. The outside of the nozzle will eventually get dirty and all you need to do is scrap off the big things. Our goal is really to make sure there isn't anything interfering with with the very end. If you want to get fancy a company call E3D makes a little silicone sleeve to prevent this. Next, make sure there isn't anything bad going on inside of the hot end. If there isn't a need to take it apart then don't. I try really hard not to take the hot end off of my printers. But, what you can do is prevent anything bad from going into the printer. This is as simple as adding a little filament cleaner (sponge) to wipe off any dust or dirt before it enters the hot end. This works great to increase the longevity of the printer.
Each type of plastic that you print (PLA, ABS, nGen, PET, T-Glase, Nylon, etc.) all have their own settings. It is important to know what the temperature the build plate and hot end should be as well as any the speed you can actually print at. One commonality of all filament is that it likes to be dry. For instance Nylon will absorb water out of the air very very quickly which will ruin it. So, either open and make sure to use your filament or find an air tight container and fill the bottom with desiccant beads.