Research

Twisting Free

During 3D printing, small plastic strings are left behind when the nozzle pulls away from the part.

Anyone who’s dealt with hot glue guns is familiar with the long, thin tails of glue they leave behind. 3D printers suffer from a similar problem with the nozzle pulls away from viscoelastic materials like plastics and polymers. Little tails, like the ones seen above, are left behind on the part and must be cleaned away by hand. The source of the trouble is the elasticity of the fluid. Pulling on these liquids stretches them into long thin strands as the molecules inside the fluid resist. But researchers have found an alternate method to break the liquid cleanly: twisting.

When a viscoelastic liquid bridge gets twisted, the liquid undergoes what’s known as edge fracture, an elastic effect that creates an indentation that forces its way inward and breaks the bridge’s connection cleanly. Since the technique only requires spinning the 3D printer’s nozzle when detaching, it should be relatively easy for printer manufacturers to implement! (Image credit: 3D-print – T. Claes, illustration – H. Hill/Physics Today, animation – S. Chan et al.; research credit: S. Chan et al.; via Physics Today)

3 comments
      1. Katy

        There are hot glue guns that have different tips you can attach–it wouldn’t be wildly difficult to create a spinning tip that would be compatible with those threads, or even just create a spinning adapter that would connect to both the glue gun and the tip.

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