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Joining and Gluing ABS

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a great choice to make prototypes, crafts, hobby or art pieces, and production parts because it is strong, easy to cut, carve, sand, finish and join.

Gluing ABS

When using adhesives or other tools to work with ABS, always follow all of the use and safety instructions of the manufacturer and do not forget to use personal protective equipment to keep you safe. Working in a well ventilated area is always a good idea even with "low VOC" adhesives.

ABS can be joined using common adhesives including "model airplane cement", ABS "pipe cement", all grades of cyanoacrylates including liquid and gel versions of the products, epoxies which harden in 90 seconds to 5 minutes or cure slowly, polyurethanes, and structural acrylic adhesives.

If you are making a model where one piece fits into another and is then jointed, make sure to allow a bit of room between the parts for the glue. Always dry fit your parts in advance to ensure a good fit prior to applying the glue. If you are making a flat joint between parts, use dowels or other mechanical means to ensure the alignment of the parts while the glue sets. It is always a good plan to clamp parts into the desired position for gluing, taking special care not to get any glue onto the clamps.

One of the major considerations when joining ABS is the intended use for the resulting part.

If you are making a visual model which will not be exposed to high temperatures and does not need to be water tight, all grades of cyanoacrylates (Crazy Glue) including liquid and gel versions of the products are an excellent choice because it is a clear liquid and it creates "invisible" joints".

ABS can also be bonded with UV curable adhesives to form strong bonds, but if the clear ABS includes UV stabilizers, UV curing will not work. We recommend avoiding UV curable adhesives. If you are making a functional model which must withstand exposure to high temperatures or is water tight, or both, ABS Pipe Cement or ABS transition cement from Oatey is the best choice for bonding ABS. It can be purchased from your local hardware store, Walmart, or on-line. ABS Cement is typically colored so you must make sure that you will like the look of joints based upon the color of your model. Be sure to wipe off excess glue quickly where you do not want it, as it often dries in minutes or less.

When using any glue, avoid spilling it on areas not being glued as it will soften the surface and may leave blemishes you will need to sand out later. ABS can also be "thermally bonded" by spin welding, friction welding, heat welding, or ultrasonic welding which we will cover in subsequent blogs and in our upcoming YouTube channel.

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