Getting it together: connecting 3D prints

Untitled 3D printed fine art sculpture - Kevin CaronEven though I have an 8-foot-tall 3D printer that will print up to 4 feet tall, there are times I’d like to make something bigger.

I have done that, as evidenced in the 5-1/2 foot tall sculpture Epic Swoon (below), which was commissioned by PriceCooperswaterhouse in Columbus, Ohio. That sculpture, the tallest 3D-printed piece I’ve made to date, reached its height by placing the main part of the sculpture on a black pedestal.

In all honesty, I have not had much luck yet in matching parts so that they can be put together seamlessly, so the contrasting pedestal was a handsome workaround.

Recently I created another sculpture (right) – well, at least the start of one – by printing 2 sections and sliding them together using slots. The fit is tight and requires no adhesive, but it wouldn’t hurt, either.

So it’s no surprise that Pinshape‘s recent post about using adhesives for 3D prints caught my eye ….

The post goes into great detail about Cyanoacrylate-based super glues, Gorilla Glue, resin welding and filament welding, so I’ll only give an overview here – there’s a link to the post below.

Epic Swoon, a 3D printed fine art sculpture - Kevin CaronWe all know super glue, that amazing adhesive that glues your fingers together before you realize what happened. Well, it works well with 3D prints, too. Popular, easily accessible and quick drying, super glue can be as tricky with 3D prints as it is with anything else. The glue dries so fast that you have to quickly align your parts the way you want them, which can be tricky, but super glue is easy to obtain and works with PLA, ABS and SLA resins.

Gorilla Glue is also easy to find at any hardware store. This polyurethane based epoxy has a considerably slower drying time and greater elasticity than super glue, but it expands as it dries, making it important to not use too much. If you do, the glue can be sanded, but unless it’s a close match on color and easy to get to, it can be problematic. If you need the print to remain rigid, super glue might be a better choice. Gorilla Glue is especially good for TPU and also works with PLA, ABS and SLA resins as well as PETG.

If you’re working with SLA, resin welding is a good way to go. I’ve used this amazing adhesive, which hardens uncured SLA using a UV laser, to glue other things but not yet tried it on 3D prints. But then, according to the article, it’s for use with SLA, and I use PLA and ABS. Still, I might give it a try on some failed prints to see how it works.

The last technique mentioned in the article is filament welding. It uses pre-processed FDM filament to glue together components. A small strand of FDM filament, bound in a rotary tool, is used to create a friction weld where the parts join. That being said, it’s primarily a mechanical bond and thus isn’t as strong as, say, resin welding. It works with all FDM materials.

There’s a lot of other great information in Pinshape’s blog post, so it you’re thinking about combining (or repairing) 3D prints, it’s well worth checking out. Read it here.

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