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ABS Glue: Weld, Cast, Texture, and More!

Posted by Luke Chilson on

Looking for an easy way to permanently fuse printed parts? Want to smooth, texture or paint printed walls? Need a way to cast ABS at room temperature? All this and more awaits you with this handy concoction.

Here's a handy concoction to have on hand when working with ABS regardless of whether or not you use a 3d printer. We're calling it ABS Glue (thingiverse ' thing'), and it's pretty awesome. So far we've used it to...

  • Fuse printed beams and assemblies
  • Fix broken parts
  • Smooth & Texture ABS surfaces
  • Cold Cast ABS in printed PLA Molds
  • Print ABS/PC without a heated bed
  • and More! (spoiler: Glow-in-the-Dark ABS Rocks)

Make it!

Warning! : This mixture is a basic ABS Cement and as such all the same precautions should be taken as when using store-bought ABS Cement or straight acetone, especially providing adequate ventilation during use. At no time should anything be dumped down the sink. Acetone and skin aren't friends, try not to let them spend much time together. If this mixture gets on your hands, there is the possibility of absorption through your skin from the defatting caused by the Acetone. This isn't finger paint.


Materials from which you make ABS Glue

Gather Materials:

  • Nail Enamel/Polish Container (or other solvent resistant container, preferably with a brush set in the cap)
  • Acetone
  • ABS Filament of choice
  • Something with which to clip above filament
  • Rags are handy for messes

Assemble:

1. Empty and Clean Nail Polish Container

Acetone is the active ingredient in nail polish so a good rinse at full concentration should do an effective job of cleaning it out. Once clean, fill container approximately half full and seal the cap. (Acetone is highly volatile and will quickly evaporate away if the cap is left off for too long)

2. Fill container approximately half full with Acetone and seal.

Acetone is highly volatile and will quickly evaporate away if the cap is left off very long

3. Snip filament into pieces

4. Drop into Acetone until container is about 3/4 full

5. Swirl and wait

If your impatient like me you'll go back and check it EVERY 5 MINUTES to see if it's done...it won't be. Light concentrations can be ready to use in under an hour, heavy mixtures can take as long as day to be fully suspended.

6. The mixture should be ready when it is relatively free from lumps and of the desired consistency. Add more Acetone or filament to get needed thickness (if you filled it only 3/4 full there should still be room).

"Say, how thick do I want this stuff anyways?"

Basic welding needs less filament, casting and painting does well with more, smoothing and texturing is anywhere in-between depending on the degree to which you wish to modify the surface. If your bottle is left open too long the Acetone will quickly evaporate leaving a pudding-skin like texture; simply add more Acetone and mix.

I keep a bottle of each filament that I commonly use so I am able to match it to the job. Natural is always a handy one to have around as it contains no added pigments.

Four colors of ABS Glue

From left to right: Black - Natural - Neon Green - Glow

Wait; Glow? Yes, this process works with Glow in the Dark ABS.

Glow-in-the-dark ABS glue

Fuse and weld

We originally started using this to create beams longer than the build envelopes of our printers. Fusing separate pieces together is as simple as brushing some of the glue along the interface and gently pushing them together. Depending on the type of joint and the amount of glue used it can take a few minutes to fully set. Once set, the joint is often the strongest part of a print. This beam of Plastic T-Slot is made from 4 pieces and has a total length of over 400mm.

3D Printed t-slot sections welded together with homemade ABS glue

Closeup of weld on joined sections of 3D Printed plastic t-slot

There it is, a clean good looking seem. Fusing multi-part prints and repairing broken pieces is now quick, easy and looks good. I love it.

Speaking of fusing. If you're having trouble with prints sticking to the build platform, painting a bit of this on the bed before hand can go a long way towards keeping that part flat on the print surface, just be careful when you try to pry it off.

Shine and Texture

A use that definitely has potential and one we have had reasonable success with is using the brush to smooth, shine or texture a surface. A smooth glossy surface is difficult and would take a bit of experimenting with different concentrations and brush textures. Sanding before helps though is not necessary. On the beam below you can see how different amounts of ABS Glue produce a different effect. The top right side produced a very smooth surface using less than the face below it but more than the quick brushes done on the left, it all comes down to experimenting.

Finishing with a brushed-on application of ABS glue

Placing wax paper or Polyimide Tape covered aluminum over the surface until it sets is another option to try. Want a bumpy surface or porous look, try pressing heavy grit sandpaper onto the surface. Scales; a mesh screen. Similar methods are used with Sugru. Here. However unlike Sugru, which cures, you have the opportunity to repeat the process as many times as you like.

Cold Cast ABS

The suspended ABS mixture can also be poured into casts to create, well, anything...To show this we printed the ProtoParadigm Logo set .5mm into a block of PLA.

ABS glue applied to the recesses of a PLA mold

The PLA isn't affected by the Acetone and will evaporate away leaving the ABS Behind. Multiple applications will completely fill the mold with ABS. To create a smoother surface, I found it helps to pour a little straight Acetone or a light mixture of Acetone and filament on the top. I don't think this would work where large amounts of ABS need to be deposited but for small things it works quite well.

Print Without a heated Bed

Normally printing with plastics like ABS and PC require the use of a heated printing surface. If one is not available you can stick get your prints to stick without heat by brushing a light mixture across the print area before the print. The ABS acetone mixture can create very well bonded first layer and if too much is used  you may risk tearing the Polyimide or blue-tape off the heat-bed during removal.

More!

Paint Glow-in-the-Dark ABS on a mirror or glass and send a friendly message to your house-mates.

Glow-in-the-dark ABS glue painted on glass in the dark

Lower your life expectancy by bonding a glowing thermoplastic to your nail (Please don't though, it's probably a bad idea).  Please excuse the unpracticed application.

ABS glue on a fingernail - don't do this.

If you make some of this stuff and find it helpful or come up with other cool uses. Tell us about it. Or better yet, take a picture and send it to us at pics AT protoparadigm DOT com.

Update:

It has been correctly observed that MEK (also available at hardware stores) can be used instead of Acetone. MEK will provide a longer working time which may or may not be beneficial for your application. It is in general a more active solvent, better at dissolving ABS, but also a bit nastier of a chemical.

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