QU-BD (pronounced “cubed”) is a recent startup that sells parts for 3D printers. They sent us a few of their silicone heaters to review. The heaters were designed for use in a heated build platform (which is required for warp-free ABS prints) and come in three different sized square pads of 150 × 150mm, 200 × 200mm, and a giant 300 × 300mm. They are about 3mm thick and a 100k thermistor is built into each pad for measuring their temperatures.
The build quality of the heaters is quite robust. The pads are made of a flexible fiberglass-reinforced silicone that sandwiches the heating wire. The junction point of where the wires extend out of the pad are additionally reinforced with a piece of silicone. The ends of the wires do not come with connectors so soldering or crimping on a connector to the thermistor wires is required to connect to most 3D printer motherboards. Since the heaters are flexible, they need to be mounted onto the flat surface of the bed a bit differently compared to traditional PCB heaters which are already flat.
I tested the 200 × 200mm pad on a RAMPS board to see how fast the pad heated up and how even the heat was distributed. Because the 100k thermistor didn’t have a thermistor table (which is required for the firmware to calculate the temperature accurately), I used an infrared thermometer to measure its temperature. I referenced the thermometer by measuring our MakerBot Replicator’s heated build platform and the thermometer was only 5 degrees lower which was accurate enough for this test. In Pronterface, I set the bed temperature 100C and started the stopwatch. Within 3 minutes and 10 seconds the thermometer’s readout was jumping between 105 and 110C. As a comparison, the Replicator’s time to heat up its heated build platform (which is smaller at 225 × 145mm but has an aluminum plate which would take longer to heat up) took 6 minutes 15 seconds.
I think the time to heat up the QU-BD heater is quite reasonable, even if it had a sheet of glass or aluminum on it. The MOSFET for the heater on the RAMPS board also did not heat up much above room temperature, which is a good sign that these heaters are compatible with RAMPS boards and their derivatives.
The pads run on 12V and require a sufficient power supply to provide enough current to them. The larger the pad, the larger the power supply is required. The 150 x 150mm needs 300W , 200 x 200mm needs 350W, and 300 x 300mm needs 400W. If planning to run a printer off of only one power supply, make sure to get one large enough to power the electronics, motors, and hot-end.
The QU-BD silicone heater would make a great heater for use in a custom heated build platform or in other heating applications. I only wish there was better documentation on the built-in thermistor so that its temperature can be accurately measured. I’ve been in touch with QU-BD and they seem to be working on it, so hopefully I can update this review soon.
2013 MAKE Ultimate Guide To 3D Printing
- 3D Printers Buyer's Guide — 15 Reviewed
- Getting Started in 3D
- Learn the Software Toolchain
- 3D Design for Beginners
- 3D Printing without a Printer