Use Elmer’s Spray Adhesive for 3D Printing

I’ve been using my Creality CR-10 3D printer to build some models. One of the challenges you’ll encounter, if you’re new to 3D printing, is getting your 3D print to adhere to the bed of your printer. If your print job doesn’t adhere to the bed, then it is subject to warping, or worse, total failure. For example, the print in the picture below failed, because one of the pieces got knocked over.
Picture of failed 3D print job
One technique creators use for adhesion, is to apply masking tape to the bed, providing a textured base for their prints. Sometimes this isn’t enough. Ideally, you would have some kind of sticky substance for the plastic to adhere to. While browsing around my local Ace Hardware store, I found a spray adhesive from Elmer’s. Since I didn’t have much experience / data to go off of, I figured I would give this a try. Elmer’s is usually pretty well known for having human-friendly products, such as kid’s glue. My hope was that this would be fairly simple to clean up.

Test #1: Headphone Stand

In order to test out this new adhesion technique, I decided to print a headset stand for my desk. Designed as a clamp mount for a desk edge, this is a fairly bulky print. Its bulk is a good thing though, as that gives it a nice, sturdy feeling. One of the features of this model is the “mouth” of the monster, which a cord can be wrapped around, for those of you with corded headsets.  As you can see from the photo below, the print completed very nicely. The PLA plastic adhered nicely to the hotbed and didn’t show any significant signs of warping. I used a hot bed temperature of 60 degrees celsius, which is the default for Cura’s CR-10 slicing profile.
The screw for the clamp was printed separately. As you can see, the screw also adhered nicely to the hot bed. During the print, the base of the screw was facing the hot bed, and was extruded upwards. There wasn’t any visible sign of warping. One of the techniques I used to minimize warping was to print the pieces close to the origin of the 3D coordinates. Using the slicing software, I moved the 3D model closer to the origin corner of the hot bed. Because larger hot beds, like the 300×300 mm hot bed on the CR-10 can sometimes sag in the middle, printing models nearer to the corner supports can help reduce warping.
Photo of 3D Print - Desk Clamp - Screw

Test #2: Different Headphone Stand

For the second test, I applied another healthy layer of spray adhesive. This print of a different, desktop headset stand took approximately 13 hours to complete. Because I had previously experienced warping on my prints, I made a couple of tweaks before I launched the print job. First of all, I used Cura, my slicing tool of choice, to position the pieces towards the edge of the bed. Second of all, I instructed Cura to start by printing a “raft” as a substrate to the 3D models themselves. For those of you unfamiliar, a raft is just one of several different types of bases that you can apply to your 3D prints. By applying a base to your 3D print, you can improve adhesion to the printing bed, reduce warping of the base of your 3D print, and provide more rigidity to models that may require it during the printing process. In my printing results, the raft adhered very strongly to the fresh layer of Elmer’s spray adhesive. To my surprise, it adhered so well, that it actually pulled up some of the spray adhesive when I pried it off of the glass hot bed.

Adhesive Cleanup

Pretty much everything in life has pros and cons. Elmer’s spray adhesive has many positive traits, in how it helps your 3D prints adhere to the hotbed. Unfortunately, on the downside, Elmer’s spray adhesive is challenging to clean up. You can use a product like Goo Gone or a generic acetone product to clean up the glue. However, this cleanup process takes time and effort, which could be better invested in creating a new 3D prints. Acetone and Goo Gone are harmful chemicals and should be worked with carefully, using proper safety precautions. You’ll want to use chemical-resistant gloves that protect your hands from the harmful effects of chemicals like acetone.
I’ve also seen it recommended online to soak the glass piece in dish soap and water for about 20 minutes, before you try to clean off the adhesive. When I tried this technique, it seemed to work pretty well. Just add some dish soap to your sink, make sure you have hot water (as hot as you can get it), and let your glass bed soak for about 15 minutes. When you try to remove the adhesive, using a lightly abrasive sponge, it will come off much more easily. Anytime that you are cleaning off an adhesive-like product, you will want to make sure that you don’t clog your drains. It would be best to perform this cleanup in a utility sink if you have one, instead of a bathroom or kitchen sink. If you do decide to perform cleanup in your kitchen or bathroom sink, use a drain filter to prevent clumps of adhesive from going down the drain.

Conclusion

Of course, I can’t make any guarantees about your personal results. You’ve probably already realized that 3D printing has an enormous amount of variables, far too many to list in one article. However, based on my personal results, I would strongly recommend trying out Elmer’s spray adhesive on your removable glass hot bed. Because spray adhesives, and really any type of adhesive, can be challenging to clean it off, I would specifically recommend avoiding applying adhesives to a non-removable hotbed. In my case, the glass top is easily removable, and simply held on my a few paper clips. This makes it somewhat easier to remove, although any adhesive introduces cleaning challenges of its own. To ensure that you don’t experience any down-time on your 3D printing exercises, due to hot bed cleaning, you can acquire additional glass hotbed the pieces. That way, while you are cleaning one glass piece from its adhesive, you can continue printing with other pre-cleaned glass bed pieces. Based on my brief research, you can obtain additional glass beds for about $25 each, if you buy a 3-pack. Another option to keep your production output going, would be to purchase additional 3D printers, so that you can run multiple jobs in parallel. Because 3D print jobs typically take hours of time, increasing your capacity by acquiring more printers might be the right option for you. I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @pcgeek86.