10 Best Ways to Remove a Stuck 3D Print

There have been way too many times that a print finished, only for me to find that the print was majorly stuck to the print surface. It can get even worse if the base tears off in an effort to remove the print.

This can be extremely frustrating, especially with the threat of breaking something that took so long to make. After searching for a long time for solutions, I have compiled a long list of what has worked for me and also worked for other people.

1. Use leverage

Manually removing the print is always the first thing that you can try. If you attempt this, be careful not to hurt yourself or break your print.

First, try grabbing the print and moving it back and forth. Then try twisting it side to side.

Sometimes the small amount of force is able to dislodge it, and you’re ready to get on with your next print. If you hear any cracking (especially with more delicate prints) stop immediately.

Using leverage might work for taller prints you make. Try pushing on the very top of your print forwards and see if that helps loosen it up. Cracking noises or breaking layers means you definitely shouldn’t keep going.

If this fails, don’t give up hope. There are a lot of awesome tricks you can try.

2. Dental floss

When I first heard about this, I didn’t think this would ever work. I mean, how’s a little piece of string going to move something that is this stuck?

Surprisingly, it worked! It came off much easier than I thought it would.

To do this, take a long piece of dental floss and hold one end in each hand. Make sure your bed is removed or stable so it doesn’t move around while doing this.

Next, place the floss on the backside of your print. Moving it back and forth while pulling towards you, slowly wiggle it underneath the part.

Once it’s able to fit underneath, keep wiggling it until the print is loose enough to pull off. You can even use a paint scraper to push underneath and pop it off.

If you find that the dental floss slips out of your hands, try wrapping it around your hand once or twice for better grip. Be careful not to get the string stuck around your hand.

Also, the floss can clear a path for sturdier tools to fit underneath. You can even use a flat head screwdriver to pry the rest off.

In the event that the floss won’t fit underneath the print, and it still won’t come off, move on to the next method.

3. Scraping tool

Most 3D printers come with a putty knife just for this purpose. If you decide to use any kind of sharp tool for this purpose, always push away from your body.

Pulling it towards you is a terrible idea. Trust me, I have a scar to prove it.

You can use any putty knife for this, or even a razor blade. Here’s a cool Thingiverse print for a razor scraper.

Be warned, sharp tools can and will damage your bed. When you use these, always try to make the angle as low as possible to avoid scraping the bed.

First, put the sharp edge of the putty knife into one side of your print. If you get lucky, you may find an area of the print that has less adhesion. Try your best to find this spot and get the tool under the base layer.

If you do manage to get a putty knife under the first layer, you have two options. One is to slowly push forward until it pops off. Another is to use take a flat head screwdriver and press it forward underneath the putty knife.

You can buy rounded tools online, which have helped me out a lot with removing prints. Ones with a longer handle can also give your more leverage to get underneath the print.

If you keep trying to no avail, or if the print will be damaged in any way, try something else.

4. Reheat the bed

If you’ve already allowed the bed to cool, then you can try reheating it again.

Turn your bed to 70 degrees Celcius, and the print might be warm enough to pop off. The repeated retraction and expansion seems to do a great job of loosening stubborn prints.

If you don’t have the patience to wait for the bed to heat up, you can use a heat gun. However, this is the riskier method, as you can go overboard and melt your print.

To do this, remove your bed and point your heat gun at the underside of your print. Make sure you don’t hold it there for more than a second, and instead just wave it back and forth.

Every so often, try to move your part manually. Then try to see if you can get a putty knife underneath it. If you notice that the print is getting soft, do not touch it. Wait until it cools down, then see if you’re able to dislodge it.

5. Compressed air

This method I actually figured out on my own. We had a can of compressed air for an airbrush paint set, and I decided to turn it upside down and spray it around the base of the print.

Just in case you weren’t aware of this, compressed air sprayed upside down will freeze whatever it blows on. Make sure to wear a winter glove or something as hand protection.

When I sprayed the freezing air onto the base of my stuck print, it immediately popped off. The drop in temperature caused the plastic to contract, loosening its grip on the bed. This worked extremely well on loosening a print adhered by a glue stick.

An especially stuck print might not pop off right away, but it may be just loose enough to apply a little bit of. This worked very well for me on all the prints I tried it with.

Freezing stuff with compressed air is also just super fun to do, as long as you don’t point it towards yourself.

If you don’t have a can of compressed air laying around, don’t go out and buy one just yet. There may be another method on this list that will work even better.

6. Dissolve the adhesive

Another thing you can try is to dissolve the adhesive using isopropyl alcohol. Whether the adhesive you used is tape or a glue stick, the rubbing alcohol will dissolve it really well.

Simply pour a small amount around the complete base of the print. Let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes, and then wipe it off with a paper towel.

If it was tape you used, then you probably can just pull the print right off. There may be tape still stuck to the bottom though.

For a print stuck with glue, the alcohol will dissolve the glue just around the edges, possibly allowing you to get your putty knife under and pop it up. If you can’t fit it under, try letting the alcohol sit for longer.

It’s possible that the print might just be too close to the bed to allow the alcohol to seep under. If that’s the case, try a different strategy.

7. Freezer

This technique is the one that I use the most, as it is extremely effective. It is also probably the easiest method to do.

Clear out a section of your freezer large enough for your bed and print, and place it inside. Leave the print in there for 20 minutes (or more if you want it to be extra cold).

This will probably make the print pop off in the freezer without even touching it. In case it doesn’t, a little bit of pressure should make it come off.

If a glass bed was being heated, immediately putting it in the freezer is probably not a good idea. Hot glass has been known to shatter if it is cooled rapidly. I don’t know the science behind it, but just be wary about that.

After the print has been in the freezer for a long time, the plastic will be much more brittle than before. Let it warm up before doing any work on it, as it’ll be much more prone to breakage.

If you have a freezer nearby, this is one of the first methods you should try.

8. Ice cubes

If your print can’t fit in the freezer for some reason, you can try the freezer method on a smaller scale.

Grab a bunch of ice cubes, place it on a flat surface, and place the bed on top of it. Make sure that the ice is directly below where the print is, so that the coldness is transferred through the bed.

Let that sit for as long as it needs to, but make sure melted ice doesn’t drip on anything important. When the print is ready, attempt to pull it off. You shouldn’t need a lot of effort if it has been properly cooled.

I recommend letting it sit on top of the ice so that you don’t have to hold the cubes against the bed. I’ve done that and my fingers got cold very quickly.

To make this even more effective, rub some ice cubes on the print where it touches the bed. The stuck material could use all the help it can get.

9. Hot water

Hot water can also be used to remove adhesives, just not as effectively as rubbing alcohol. I actually use hot water to remove the glue from my bed after each print.

Remove your bed with the print and put it into a sink. Turn the water on as hot as you can, and just let it run onto the base of the print.

Wiggle the print around and see if it loosens up at all. Leave the water running onto it for a couple minutes, then attempt to use a putty knife to pry it off.

You can also combine hot water with the dental floss method I talked about before, which is an extremely effective combination.

If all goes well, it should come off without much effort at all. There are more effective methods, but this one will be pretty effective.

10. If all else fails…

These methods are for your last resort only. If you have tried every possible method, and just can’t seem to effectively loosen it, then try one of these. These methods will result in the destruction of the impossibly stuck print.

Heat gun

If you have a heat gun, this is the better solution to use. Put on something for hand protection (like an oven mitt) and bring your print bed into a well ventilated room. It would be best if this is done outside.

Next, put on some sort of breathing protection like a niosh mask to avoid breathing in fumes of melted plastic. After you have these protective items on, you’re ready to go.

Take the heat gun and a putty knife, and completely melt your print. Try to focus on the base layers as much as you can, and periodically try to scrape if off with the putty knife.

If you do this just after pulling it out of the freezer, it may be more effective. The contraction from the freezer then rapid expansion might make the process easier. Your print will definitely not survive, but at least you will have a clean bed again.

Alternate methods

If you don’t have access to a heat gun, you can try using a hammer. First let it sit in the freezer for 20 minutes, then wack the print as close to the base as possible (without hitting the bed). This should make the whole print fly right off.

If you’re lucky, the print might not even be damaged. The possibility of damaging it is too high, however, so I didn’t include this as one of the better methods.

For some people, the entire print comes off but leaves the stuck base layer. In the event that this happens, run the bed under hot water while pushing on it with a putty knife.

Jay Simmons

Jay Simmons is the main writer for The 3D Bros. He has several years experience working with 3D printers, and is the the co-owner of Cubold Manufacturing, LLC.

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