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Posted on October 05, 2022

Finding The Best Glue Stick For 3D Printing

In 3D printing, people often have trouble getting their prints to adhere to the build surface properly. If the print doesn't adhere correctly to the build plate, it could move during the printing process, which will result in its failure.

Thankfully, manufacturers have devised a number of solutions to remedy this. In most cases, heat is used to improve the adhesion of the print bed while preventing warping and wrinkles (heating the print bed prevents prints from cooling too rapidly, which reduces contraction) on many 3D printers. 

However, many manufacturers have adopted a simpler approach - for instance, using a glue stick to make a sticky surface on the build plate. In this article, we’re going to let you in on the most useful information about using glue sticks with 3D printers and how to choose them.

Gluing 3D Print Parts Together - Finding The Best Glue Stick for 3D Printing

In most cases, cyanoacrylate, or super glue, is the best choice when it comes to gluing 3D-printed components. The glue is easy to use and quickly dries. With this technique, you can achieve great results, a strong bond, and virtually invisible seams. 

3D printer bed adhesives come in many different types, making it difficult to decide which one is best. The purpose of this article is to simplify your options in order to determine which is best for you and how to use it.

First, you have to understand just how using glue sticks can help and why makers even need them.

Warped 3D Prints & Why They Happen

Thermoplastics expand as they heat up, then shrink as they cool back to their solid state. As a result of this transformation, there is some tremor in extruded plastics, eventually resulting in 3D print distortion. In simpler words, as layers contract, colder layers push against hotter layers and warp the print. 

And if this happens with the more heated layers beneath the colder ones, the 3D-printed object struggles to hold on to the build surface, curling upwards as a result. Adding insult to injury, the issue may arise after a large portion of the print job has been completed, causing an otherwise flawless print to be ruined!

So, what can creators do to prevent this from happening? 

There are some general tips you can refer to in case you’re new to the 3D printing world. For example, you must remember that your print cannot stick if your build plate is not flat. When checking whether your build plate is level or not, use a measuring instrument to check the distance from the nozzle to the bed. 0.1mm is the minimum distance. 

Testing the level of the bed can also be done with a piece of paper. When the piece of paper slips underneath the nozzle, you’ll know that the bed isn't level enough, so you'll have to adjust the screws to make the gap smaller than 0.1 mm, which will prevent the paper from slipping underneath.

There could also be a problem with the first layer printing too fast. The first layer should not be printed too fast. Otherwise, a bond between the plastic and the build platform may not be possible. Due to this, it is usually a good idea to start printing at a slower speed to allow the plastic to bond to the bed.

As long as the entire 3D-printed model was kept at a constant temperature continuously, not even the tiniest corner would warp. Unfortunately, this is almost impossible to achieve. So, what’s to be done?

My Print Won’t Stick to Bed - What Do I Do?

A strong connection between the first and second layers of your print is crucial for building the rest of your model. Later, problems will likely arise without a solid foundation for the first layer. You probably already knew that, but did you also know that there is no universal solution for this issue?

There are different plastics that adhere better to different materials. Because of this, many printers include a special material for the build platform, which is optimized for the materials they are using. 

For example, some printers use a BuildTak sheet that adheres well to PLA. Alternatively, some manufacturers use heat-treated glass, like Borosilicate glass, which works very well with ABS. You can still use a special build platform material to help with adhesion if your printer does not include it. 

You can start looking from the BuildTak shop to start a happier printing now, or keep reading to find a cheaper (and admittedly more troublesome) method: using an adhesive.

Using Adhesive

In previous sections, we talked about how improving the adhesion between your bottom layer and the print bed could prevent corners from lifting. Usually, this involves coating the bed with something sticky before printing begins.

It is possible to choose from various glue sticks, sprays, mixtures containing ABS slurry, tapes that adhere to the print bed, and even print surfaces that have great adhesion on their own. For now, we will stick to the glue sticks, but you can learn more about the other methods through research.

With the addition of glue, the adhesion between the print bed and the glass is enhanced, while the glue provides protection as well. Additionally, a print is also less likely to move with adhesives. Remember that the print will fail if it moves even a little during the printing process. 

In addition to adhering glue to the complete bed, you can also apply glue to just the parts that will print. You can apply glue before each print if you apply a thin layer. When you see glue buildup (an uneven surface with pits), use warm water to clean the bed. Once the bed is clean, use a paper towel to dry it. 

You shouldn’t worry about damaging the surface as the bed is waterproof. 

Benefits of Using Glue Sticks

In the end, bed adhesives have the same purpose, no matter how cheap or expensive they are: preventing warping, stretching, print failures, and reducing waste. In addition to being affordable, glue sticks come in a bright color that makes it easy to see where they are applied. 

Glue sticks are usually the preferred method for heavier models since they offer a stronger hold than other methods (like using hairspray). Many people also use glue sticks as a go-to adhesive since they are commonly found around the house. 

Glue sticks have the following benefits:

  • The prices are reasonable.
  • You can find them almost anywhere.
  • By using them, you can ensure the print is centered on the glass plate by seeing where the adhesive lies.
  • It is easy to clean them off since they are water-soluble.

The Best Glue Stick for 3D Printing

Traditional manufacturing glue sticks is the best options for 3D prints. Glue sticks’ results are excellent, the bond they create is strong, and their seam is almost invisible. Make sure you're ready before using it. 

It cures in a matter of seconds, so be prepared! Ensure that all parts are properly aligned before it cures, then hold it tight for about a minute. Once it has cured completely, let it sit for a few more minutes.

The classic method of using hot glue can also be used when attaching parts made of 3D-printed materials. But be careful, as it will be visible where hot glue has been applied despite the fact that the bond is quite strong. 

Note: When designing 3D-printed parts, you should consider the thickness of hot glue, which is at least 2 to 3 mm.

Photo by Scott Sanker on Unsplash

Gluing 3D Print Parts Together - Different Methods

Bonding two or more 3D-printed parts may be necessary for a variety of reasons. In most cases, you will need to print a part that is larger than your 3D printer. This is only natural, as there are some designs that are too large to 3D print in one piece. 

It is, therefore, necessary to glue the parts together. But, different filaments and materials require different methods and glues.

For instance, PLA is a renewable material used in 3D printing, similar to corn starch. There are many advantages to using it over other materials, but adhering to the bed of a 3D printer can sometimes pose a problem.

Every method has its pros and cons, so it's best to examine them all and choose the one that best suits your needs. No matter what technique you choose, make sure the surfaces to be glued together are smooth and clean before applying glue; you can flatten any bumps by sanding.

See which glues are best for PLA, PP, and Nylon!

Gluing PLA

PLA is an excellent filament type for 3D printing, but sticking to the print bed can be difficult. These tips should help you resolve this issue and have more success with 3D printing with this common filament type.

For most PLA projects, an adhesive will be the easiest way to glue it together, so you might be wondering which glue is the best.

The best glue to use when gluing PLA parts is cyanoacrylate glue. It doesn't matter what brand you use: Loctite, SuperGlue, Faeel, or any other instant glue. Since all these products come in small tubes, you don't have to worry about them spoiling if you don't use them for a while.

However, it should be noted that not all materials adhere to the build plate with bed adhesive. As an example, PLA adheres well without adhesive to heated build plates.

Gluing PP

Polypropylene (PP) consists of a thermoplastic “addition polymer” formed by combining propylene monomers. There are numerous applications for it, including packaging for consumer goods, industrial plastics used in transportation, and innovative devices such as living hinges, and fabrics.

There is nothing new about warping and shrinking thermoplastics during 3D printing among the types of thermoplastics available to hobbyists and professionals alike. You will maximize your success when 3D printing with polypropylene by using the right surface and a polypropylene bed adhesion solution. 

It may also be advisable to use an enclosure depending on the temperature conditions in the workspace. We recommend using BuildTak bond for polypropylene to get the desired results from your print.

Nylon (Polyamide) & Poly

A popular 3D printing material is polyamide, which is often utilized by companies that specialize in 3D printing. There are many advantages to it: it is affordable, has interconnected pieces and components, and can be finished in many different ways.

Due to adhesion issues, the 3D printer will need to have a heated plate (about 80 degrees Celsius) to print nylon. Taking care of storage is also important to prevent it from absorbing moisture (hygroscopic material), affecting future printing.

We recommend using BuildTak bond for Polyamide (nylon) and Polycarbonate to get your desired results.

How to Use Glue Stick for 3D Printer Bed Adhesion

Before applying glue, make sure your bed is level. Then:

  • Prepare your build surface by heating it up
  • Begin by applying glue from one corner of your bed to the other in a long downward motion
  • Make sure you apply the glue evenly by using reasonable pressure
  • To see a matte finish, wait a minute for the glue to dry.

Tips for Using Best Glue Sticks for 3D Printing 

Make sure that the print bed is completely free of plastic from previous prints before beginning a print. If there is any plastic on the bed, scrape it off with the bed scraper provided. The old glue can be washed off the bed with warm water - do not use soap, as it will damage the finish.

It is possible to bond most 3D printed materials successfully with superglue, with the exception of flexible materials. Upon curing, cyanoacrylate creates a rough surface, susceptible to breaking if applied to elastic materials.

The same can be said for other polymer-specific glues, although they may be more difficult to find. For example, silicone glue takes several hours to set, which is why you should fix your parts until it has cured. 

In contrast, some types of PU glue cure quickly to their initial strength.

It's always a good idea to print a small test part before applying any adhesive. Make sure it's not so stuck you end up damaging it (or even your bed) when you try to take it out!

Avoid getting any superglue on your skin since it is a fast-curing glue. Make sure your hands are protected by gloves. Use old newspapers to protect your furniture while you work. Make sure it is out of reach of young ones, as well.

The bed can be fully submerged and thoroughly washed. However, you should refrain from using the dishwasher.

Photo by Minku Kang on Unsplash

Conclusion

Sometimes, building 3D prints can be challenging because 3D objects don't stick to the plate. The edges should not be shifted, crinkled, or curled. These problems can be eliminated, however, when you choose a suitable adhesion material for your bed. 

We tried making everything about finding the best glue stick for 3D printing clear in this blog. Make sure the print bed is coated with glue using the supplied glue stick. 

As you may have gathered, 3D prints usually work better with glue sticks than hairspray, albeit not significantly. There are times when glue sticks stick too well and are difficult to remove, particularly when the 3D part covers most of the bed surface. 

That’s why we recommend using high-quality surfaces and eliminating the trouble of having to apply and wash glue each time.