Printing with Glue Sticks

Using Glue Stick and Why it is a staple for 3D Printing

If you have been around 3D printing very long you have probably encountered glue stick. Glue sticks work like a magic stick to help curling problems called “Warping” and can help you achieve better Adhesion.

I am sure, you have had a 3D-print go horribly wrong because of the first layer coming loose. The issue that most people face when 3D printing is getting their 3D-prints to stick to the build plate or Bed.

If a print does not stick to the build plate properly, then it could move during the printing process which will cause it to fail.

Warping occurs when molten plastic after being molded into its 3D-print shape cools down resulting in shrinking. This typically causes the curling up problem starting at the corners.

Using a glue stick can help your print adhere stronger to the bed, eliminating warping problems due to the print not sticking to the bed. It also helps the completed pint release preventing material like PETG from bonding so well that there is a risk your build plate will be damaged upon removal.

In the rest of this article, we will take a deeper look at what glue stick has to offer and how to use it. After reading you should have a better understanding of glue stick is so popular and you may want to try it for yourself.


Why is it so popular?


So why is it so popular? Is it because glue stick offers the just right level of adhesion/release or is there something else that makes it stand out of the crowd? Yes, the adhesion/release is the primary metric for the selection of adhesive materials. But there are a number of other factors too.

Some of these factors are:

  • Price of the adhesive
  • Availability of the adhesive
  • Ease of use of the adhesive
  • Sustainability of the adhesive
  • Compatibility with a number of materials.

Convenience is a major factor and my belief of why the glue stick is so popular. Not only does it work well but it can easily be picked up at a wide variety of stores and at a very reasonable cost.

Using the Good, Fast and Cheap metric, the glue stick is a rare case where you can have all 3.


Do you still use a heated bed with a glue stick?


Probably, glue stick helps with adhesion but the heated bed is still important. Many people report having luck with just glue stick on a non-heated bed, but if you are going to take on some more challenging materials or have a big print your best bet is to use a heated bed.

The heat from your heated bed helps with the adhesion of your print to the print surface but it is not always enough.

Some cases require glue on the print surface for even better adhesion. Heating temperature depends upon the material used.

The need to use the glue also depends upon the material along with the shape of your 3D-Print.

For materials like Nylon and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), it is recommended to always use glue because to help with adhesion to the build surface.


Do you need to reapply after every print?


No, oftentimes a single application is adequate to work for multiple prints. You should apply a layer of glue every 1-5 prints for the optimum results, but some people have reported upto 10 prints before reapplying the glue.

When you are applying glue, make sure you apply it to the entire area of the bed where the part will be printed.

There are some conditions that may require you to re-apply the layer of glue. For example, if the glue layer becomes uneven, you should completely clean the build platform and re-apply to avoid a print failure.

It is also dependent on the glue and on your tolerance for messy undersides on your prints.

It’s fairly common for some of the glue to come off with the print, so if you want a perfectly smooth bottom layer, your best bet may be to clean the build surface and apply glue for every print.

To wash and re-apply the glue stick is pretty easy. You can also freshen up the glue with a gentle spray of water and re-dry, or have more glue added on top. But all that comes down to your preferred workflow, determined through trial and error.


How is the cleanup?


Cleanup is very simple and can be done with just water and a rag/towel. Adhesive such as glue is easy to clean up and won’t require much effort to get off the bed (Much less effort than to get yourself out of the bed, ha ha).

If you can, remove the bed from the printer, and then carefully wet the bed platform with water, then you should easily be able to scrape or wipe the glue off the bed.

The Bed should be completely dry before you put it back in to use.


Is glue stick required?


The simple answer is No, but it does help. The exception would be with Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol (PETG) where you want to use some sort of release agent to prevent damaging the bed surface.

Glue stick is compatible with almost any type of filament you can find. PETG, PLA, ABS, and Nylon are all well suited for use with a glue stick.

Hybrids also work well on glue stick and have similar performance as the pure fimalements.


Is there anything else that hits the sweet spot of bond and release?


Hairspray is another popular option offering easy availability, low cost, and good adhesion/release. The big disadvantage here is that I find it to be very messy to apply.

Aquanet is the brand most often referenced in the 3D printing Community.

Blue Painters Tape is another common solution and is well liked within the 3D printing community. The issue I most often have with blue tape is its durability.

The tape ends up tearing while removing prints and I have to replace it fairly frequently.

The market is quickly beginning to fill with products to address this need. Some popular names you will find include: Magigoo, Dimafix, Build Plate Wizard with more being brought to market all the time.