Why Is Glue Needed For 3D Printing?
When you’re getting ready to tackle some 3D printing projects, it’s time to check off the essential items that you need. Of course you have your computer, the 3D printer, and filament. Cha-ching! All set, right? Well, not quite. At least not if you want to have the best possible chance of success when it comes to creating the parts and products you imagined.
Don’t forget the glue! Having the right glue for 3D printing is an absolute necessity. Bed adhesion and parts bonding are two of the most important aspects of 3D printing that are often overlooked or ignored because some enthusiasts think they’re either unimportant or that the types of glue that you use are inconsequential. How wrong they are!
Let’s take a quick look at what these processes are and why you need glue for them.
If you’ve never heard this term, it’s one that you’ll become familiar with as you spend more and more time with 3D printing. When I first started, I was having common issues with parts not sticking to the print bed and corners and edges ending up curling or being in poor condition. That’s when I started looking for what was wrong and came across bed adhesion.
Bed adhesion is simply the act of your print actually sticking to the print bed or print plate. During any 3D printing process, the first layer is always the most important. If this first layer does not stick (or adhere) to the print bed, you’ll be in for a long day when the subsequent layers start getting deposited. That’s where bed adhesion and using glue come in.
One of the easiest ways to handle an issue with bed adhesion is just to apply a layer of adhesive or glue to the print bed directly. This way, that crucial first layer — and all subsequent layers — should stay in place, including all corners and edges. This leads to far more consistent parts and finished products that you’ll undoubtedly be happier with.
This one is a bit easier to think about and imagine, even if you haven’t dealt with it before just yet. But the other aspect of 3D printing that may require you to use some glue is when you’re trying to bond parts together. Sometimes the final product that you’re creating is too big or too complex to be created on its own and requires the use of multiple parts that are bonded together.
That’s where glue comes in! You’ll be happy to hear later on in this article that the vast majority of parts and pieces can be bonded with a simple glue that many people already have laying around the house. But there are also other types of glue that are ideal for specific applications, and even some more innovative methods of bonding that are worth looking into.
Best Glues For 3D Printing
To make it easier to find exactly what you need, I’m going to separate this into two sections. First, I’ll go over the four best types of glue for dealing with bed adhesion issues. Then I’ll show you the three best types of glue on the market for bonding 3D printed parts together.
Let’s dive into the good stuff.
Best Glue For Bed Adhesion
Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Stick
The easiest (and arguably best) type of glue to use for bed adhesion is Elmer’s Disappearing Glue Stick. If you’re into arts and crafts or you have any kids around the house, there’s a decent chance that you already have some of this stuff laying around. If not, you can pick up a 4-pack of glue sticks for just $3 on Amazon and you’ll be set for a long time.
A glue stick is perfect for bed adhesion because it’s super easy to apply, easy to clean up, and has just the right amount of stickiness. It’s strong and sticky enough to hold the print down as desired, but it won’t cause the print to stick to the bed and require too much force to remove it like some other adhesives on the market. Some 3D printing materials adhere more than others and will be far too sticky if used with other adhesives.
And last but certainly not least, the Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Stick is… purple! That might not seem like a benefit of any kind, but it actually makes it super easy to tell where you’ve applied glue so far and where you haven’t. This makes it simple to refrain from overapplying the glue or missing any spots, so always opt for the purple glue over any sort of clear glue!
While the glue stick above is great for most applications, you might want to consider something that was designed specifically for 3D printing in the first place. That’s where Magigoo comes in. Created by Thought3D, Magigoo might look like a normal glue stick at first glance, but it’s actually a liquid rather than a normal glue stick.
Deposited through a membrane at the end of the stick, you apply Magigoo just like a glue stick, and the design applies a super smooth amount that’s exactly what you need. Just keep it moving on the print bed so you don’t over apply it anywhere, and you’ll be good to go. This design also prevents it from making a mess or spilling everywhere if the tube is knocked over.
Without a doubt, the best feature about Magigoo is that it deactivates naturally when the print bed is cooled. Since it was designed for this specific application, the special formula releases its hold on the print after you’re finished printing, making it simple to remove the final product without damage. It’s much more expensive than a normal glue stick, but it might be worth it since you can buy a tube of Magigoo specific to different printing materials.
For another type of glue that was designed specifically for 3D printing bed adhesion issues, you should consider Stick Stick from MatterHackers. As a website dedicated to selling 3D printing supplies and supplying enthusiasts with everything they need to get into the hobby, MatterHackers is a great place to look. You’ll find a heck of a lot more things than just glue!
But when it comes to glue, Stick Stick is one of the best options on the market. The bottle is designed to work in a similar manner to how Magigoo works, meaning it’s super simple. Just shake it up, remove the lid, and flip it over. Gently run the applicator end of the bottle along the print bed and you’ll get the perfect amount of adhesive as you go.
The adhesive will dry once the print bed starts to heat up, and it will deactivate once the plate starts to cool, just like the product above. So all you have to do is wait for the print to cool and you can simply pop it off without risk of damage. Just clean the print bed with warm water and it’ll wipe away with very little elbow grease. Easy to use from start to finish!
Scotch Purple Glue Stick
I know, I know. Another purple glue stick. Since you’ve already read about Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Stick above, I won’t spend too much time going into the nitty-gritty details here. But the Scotch Purple Glue Stick is another great option and works wonders without breaking the bank, costing just $5 for a two-pack from Amazon.
As a glue stick, this is very easy to apply and you can get an even coat all over the surface of your print bed in almost no time at all. Additionally, with its purple hue, it’s super simple to see where the adhesive is and where you still need to apply more. For a cheap method of bed adhesion that works wonders, you can’t go wrong with either of the purple glue sticks in this guide!
Best Glue For Bonding 3D Printed Parts
Like I mentioned much earlier in the article, the easiest type of glue to use when it comes to bonding 3D printed parts together is super glue. You may even have some laying around the house, but if not, don’t worry. You don’t need any sort of special 3D printing-specific super glue or anything, and you can pick up this pack of four tubes from Scotch for less than one dollar per tube.
Super glue is incredibly easy to use and it cures quickly, which makes it an ideal choice for quickly attached parts and pieces of 3D printed material together. With how fast it cures and holds things together, make sure you’re ready to put the pieces together before you start applying it. And also try your best to keep it off your skin and fingers, or it can be a pain (literally!) to remove.
If you’re able to attach flat surfaces or surfaces that were designed to fit together, it will work wonders. If the edges and surfaces are a little rough, just take some sandpaper lightly to the areas you’ll be gluing to improve the area of contact. Lastly, I recommend doing this work on a dedicated workstation or with some sort of plastic or paper protection to cover furniture and other surfaces.
PVC Pipe Cement
As the name suggests, I really am referring to the type of plumber’s cement that’s used by, well, plumbers! Designed to attach PVC and other plastic pipes to one another, this special formula reacts with plastic and basically forces the two pieces to fuse together. But these cements are usually colored, so the attachment points might be visible after it cures, so keep that in mind.
The bond created by plumber’s cement is incredibly strong, but I must say that it’s not the easiest type of glue to use for bonding parts together. This product usually has a twist-off cap with a spherical applicator at the end, designed to apply a liberal amount of cement to the faces of PVC pipe. Great for plumbing, but can be difficult to apply in moderation.
Since this type of glue has to react with the actual plastic in the filament, the surfaces can’t be dirty or greasy, or else it won’t react as well. Also note that the materials need to be some sort of plastic, like ABS or PLA to work. Any non-plastic 3D printing material will not work with plumber’s cement.
3D Printing Pen
Now this one is a little bit different than any of the other types of glue on this list, but it’s definitely worth considering — using a 3D printing pen to attach other pieces together! A 3D printing pen is basically a small 3D printer that can fit in the palm of your hand which you can use to pretty much draw and doodle in 3D, like the 3Doodler Create+.
Most of them work by heating up the filament to its melting point and then extruding it through a hot tip, much like a hot glue gun. And while you certainly could just use a hot glue gun for this, a 3D pen can attach the pieces and parts together with the exact same material that they’re made out of themselves, including even the same color!
If done carefully, this can create a nearly seamless transition between components. That said, this method of bonding is not as strong as any of the others, so I wouldn’t recommend using a 3D pen to connect any parts that are mechanical and/or functional. It also requires a bit more money than the other types of bonding, since you have to buy the pen itself. But you’ll also have another method of 3D printing from there and moving forwards!