In a fast explanation Ill just drop in why I dont like some of the newer materials and systems:
Most are consumable. In other words, buy more later. Good for sellers, bad for you
. They get damaged, lose adhesion, and some have materials they just dont work well with.
PP (Polypropylene) sheets are fairly common builplates. They can warp, and if you print ABS they will fuse to it. They get damaged over time because they can be soft while hot. If its a removable flex type, it will go wavy like a 70's disco dancer.
Buildtak (and its various knock offs) is another one that is easily damaged and can randomly fuse (even PLA) with the filament. Throw away. When I have used them, its because I knew I was using the bed surface for that one nasty print with a pain in the ass filament and didnt want it touching my good stuff. Otherwise I use them for mouse pads and under furniture.
Glass (mirrors or even better, borosilicates) We have this already. run AC, a fan, or fart at the wrong time and prints will lift. Hairspray? Messy and unnecessary. Glue stick does work but I've still seen prints lift which is a variable I dont want to wake up to if I dont have to. The composite that has a texture can often (you know who you are, thats most of you) lift, stick too much or not at all when you dont properly clean it. One hint- think of a cast iron frying pan and how we prefer to season them so things DONT stick. Your finger and hand oils do the same thing over time. One final note about hairspray. It get everywhere. If you have random stuff stuck in your beard or crotch, your date wont enjoy dealing with it and neither will your printer, especially fans and moving parts. I have rarely seen 3D printer guys meticulous about dust and things like that. They dont mix.
Magnetic/Metal Flex Plate Systems are the newer kids on the block. Alot of them come with a thin membrane of PEI or a BT type coating that in theory, is close to the good stuff but not quite. The advantage is you are supposed to be able to remove the plate and pop off the print. Guess what? You can. The downside, is just like any other flexible material, they can warp, deform, and get damaged because of that thin membrane, making them ultimately, consumable. They can also be susceptible to the same ambient issues the other can because you typically have your original bed, a magnetic sheet made from ferrite powder and rubber polymer resin to be general. They can dent, deform, and after repeated cycles lose magnetism. Its a insulating material by nature and doesnt transfer heat well. (more work for your heatbed) and then finally, the sheet itself which is usually a spring steel. If you have any experience with metallurgy, armorsmithing and machining, youll know you can deform them when hot. The deformation can be subtle, but remember we are working with machines that also play with close tolerances, especially at the first layer laydown. A few rocket scientists on mushrooms have tried dropping much thicker membranes on them and didnt bother to learn basic coefficients of thermal expansion before pondering the thought. Its why the membranes are so thin. They have to be otherwise the plate, even with the weaker magnet underneath can and will distort. Science, yo. So the trade off is a weaker surface material that can and usually will crack, get brittle, or peel if you make a mistake and fuse the filament to it. We dont want that do we? Buy another one? Nope. Not this guy.
Which brings me to what I prefer. PEI - the good stuff. Not thin crap. .5 or 1mm (1mm is my go to) is for the lack of a better way of saying it, practically indestructible, has minimal cleaning requirements, works well with all material types and doesnt need to be replaced. If theres ONE ideal modification or upgrade I will always suggest it will be this one. Why?
Throw down with me anytime
and show me a single buildplate that doesnt have the problems listed above, and has managed to work consistently for years, especially in the solutions above. Maintenance is simple, you clean it with IPA and periodically refresh it with Acetone. 5+years on the oldest sheets here and they work, look and act pretty much the same as when they were first installed. So far, its only caveat has been with PETG, which it works beautifully but needs a release agent on large prints. Thats just a water washable glue stick (or for large areas, Barney Blood™ which is that same glue stick watered down to a brush on consistency). Prints dont lift under most ambient changes during the print, and best of all, its not expensive. I link a few brands in the article I wrote "Artillery 3D Printers, Parts, Upgrades And Mods"
Part Cooling. This one is simple.
You can get away with the stock duct and fan but it will produce limitations at times. You dont need a degree or spend hours researching volumetric air flow or weeks re-inventing the wheel in SCAD or Fusion 360 to come up with a solution. The hard work was done a long time ago, and all you need to consider:
You want to put cooling on the part, not the tip of the nozzle or on the heater block. With me still? Good.
You want to be able to adjust the cooling amount for different filaments.
Here, we simply got ahold of an adequate shroud (had to modify it a bit, it was a community release and it had issues) but prior to that, we were using one my 10 year old designed after giving him the ground rules for design. It worked great, did the job, and the only reason we changed was I decided to use a different (stronger) fan over the stock one. (The shroud in use now as seen on our live shows and on our line printers can be found in the files section here) If you want a quick shoot to the fans we use, they are also listed in our mods article "Artillery 3D Printers, Parts, Upgrades And Mods".
Considering Printing With High Temperature or Exotic Filaments?
Your printer as shipped can gleefully print PLA and Periodic PETG filaments all day without any modification. However, if you decide you want to go for it and work with higher temperature filaments like ABS, Nylon, etc, you'll have to consider some upgrades. This applies to regular printing with PETG as well if you happen to use a brand that has a higher print temperature than the 230c upper range on the Artillery printers.
All you need there really is a "All Metal Heatbrake" and that can easily be found by searching for a E3D Volcano compatible brake (Up to the recent models) and the newest use E3D Kraken (smooth) brake because the newer ones have a smooth bore and are secured in the block with 2 grub screws.
As for exotic filaments like Carbon Fiber, Glow in the Dark, etc, there are a few schools of thought, and for us here, the math proves its just simpler and more cost efficient over time to stick with stock level nozzles and simply throw them away when they degrade. This approach serves two purposes:
You get into the habit of doing regular maintenance and inspections on your printer. You should.
You save money and time over the longer term.
ABL (Auto Bed Leveling) Sensors
If your printer comes with one, you're already there. For those printers (all brands) that dont, do you need them? Absolutely NOT.
They wont "get you better prints". They wont make a uneven bed even. Do they work? Yes. For what they do but are they necessary? Nope.
Wait Earl, what did you say? You contradicted yourself.
Let me explain then. ABL and MBL...
They are just another way to compensate for uneven beds, require hardware upgrading (and for some of you, out of the scope of your ability- its not a novice upgrade operation) and really cant solve anything MBL doesn't already. Why can I say that? A 20 minute firmware update vs. printer hardware modification, bracket printing or purchase, wiring, soldering, etc.
These systems that compensate for your print bed being uneven dont solve the actual problem, only (using the word a second time for clarity) compensate for it. The underlying issue in extreme cases means a bed change, but most of the time its a solution to help out with the ever present variation almost all print beds do come with and they DO work for that. Your next question to ask yourself is what would be the easiest? The solution is already present in a simple firmware update.
If you prioritize the underlying reason you need a sensor you'll find alot less grief and even find yourself not even needing one. Simple as that. If you think a sensor will help you with a misdirected problem of bed adhesion, you are simply wrong. First layer adhesion and lay is a process you must learn, and once you do you wont give it a second thought.
Which leads us to, actual bed replacement.
You can pester (whatever brand) support for a replacement of a seriously warped bed. Problem there is people more often than not consider a bow or bump in the middle too much to deal with, but truth be told, its common among printers using glass beds. After the process is all said and done, you might end up with the same thing. Why?
Remember those ABL sensors and MBL (mesh bed leveling) solutions we just talked about? They came about long before glass beds did. Its because chasing a perfectly flat build plate is difficult and when you are trying to maintain a surface to 10 or 15 thousands of an inch tolerance on any mass produced build plate is unlikely. You can get close.
By far the best (slightly advanced) solution is simply put, a aluminum replacement. Before you get all crazy about the thought, its a simple change IF you are able to either:
Make a sandwich.
Drill a few holes.
Its not rocket science. I'm finishing a more "in depth" article on this. Ill update here soon, but the basic explanation is just this...
You can simply source a plate online, inexpensive at that. I've called all over the country in the USA here and the average is about 10-15 dollars. Some locations will even drop the holes in for you. Otherwise, it takes no special drill bit or even a drill press to do it yourself. There are a few commercial solutions, but if you dont mind forking out for something your kid can do, more power to you.
The Sidewinder X1's plate is simply 12" x 12" and the Genius is 9" x 9". The holes are spaced 200mm for the Sidewinder X1 and 140mm for the Genius, centered on the plate. I would never recommend the "glue on" screws because they can shift over time and even fail. I dont like remote possibilities. Match the print surface I mentioned above with a bed like this and you have a permanent solution for under $50- even less if you shop a bit.
The surface you follow up with is up to you, but my recommendation is the PEI I mentioned above. Doing so insures years of dependable use with no surface changes or replacements needed, ever, and more than likely as we can attest to, never any adhesion problems.
And Finally (for now)...
Main Board and/or LCD
Lets clear something up right away. This/these will NOT give you better prints. I'm not going to spend much time on this because it's not worth trying to argue with those out there that want to disagree. I will just say if you want to learn, great. Its your machine. But dont fall into the misconception that it will improve your prints or do anything for outside of a new interface, add more settings for you to concern yourself with and quite possibly, damage other parts of your machine if you do not do it right the FIRST TIME.
I'll just follow up here with a display of various prints done with stock machines sans the build plate surface I mention, and a fan upgrade (thats not even really needed). It's my hope to at least give you something to think about. You can spend countless hours (as some do) constantly upgrading and updating their machines if thats your thing, but make no mistake, you dont have to. Take your time and learn the things you SHOULD and you'll come to the same conclusions more than likely anyways. Visit our video libraries, participate in our live shows and dont be afraid to ask questions.
The Artillery machines (as with most) are designed and generally working printers when you receive them. If any solution or advice starts off with "Add this, or buy that" just objectively look at what problem it will actually solve, or if it really will at all.
As Always, Enjoy.