Make your own plastic friction welder

diy-friction-welder

[Fran] shows us how to build a plastic friction welder. It’s a method of connecting plastic pieces. While it’s new to us, apparently this type of tool was given to kids about forty years ago to use with craft project (when plastic was all the craze).

The tip of the friction welder is a styrene rod. If it’s spun fast enough the friction will cause the material to heat to the melting point, depositing a bead of styrene into the joint. The tool seen here is a cheap DC rotary tool acquired from Harbor Freight. It really did a horrible job, but [Fran] discovered that it was the power supply that was under-rated. When she replace the wire that feeds it and used her bench supply it spit out 16,000 rpm without any trouble. The welding rods can be found at the craft store and fit the chuck of the tool quite nicely. You can see her demo in the video after the break. The seam she’s working on comes out very strong, surviving a slew of violent whacks on the workbench.

We’ve seen a few other methods of welding plastic. One used a tool much like a soldering iron, the other depends on ultrasonic waves and clamping pressure.

 

Comments

  1. geoff says:

    I just tried this with 3mm PLA filament and welded two junk prints together. All I used was a simple Dremel 200. Super easy.

  2. bkubicek says:

    does this work with 3d printing Pla?

  3. Phil F says:

    They had these toys about 15 years ago too, it was a car that you could drive into the wall and bits would fall off, then you could ‘weld’ them back on.

  4. Bloodlock says:

    I think it will work better with a drehmel… 30k rpm… =X

  5. DainBramage1991 says:

    I will be trying this…

  6. vonskippy says:

    Interesting – if somewhat obvious (i.e. welds are stronger then glue joints).

    But Fran, please learn to edit, you have 2 minutes worth of info dribbled out in a 13:41 minute video.

    With video, It’s all about the pacing.

    • n0lkk says:

      In that friction welding, plastic “glue” are essentially the some process, softening the plastic so the material from the pieces being joined can flow together I was somewhat surprised at the results. I’m guessing that friction welding can make up for sloppy preparation that could make a bad glue joint, and that welding ads extra material in a fillet that glue doesn’t.

      In the event Fran is reading these comments. Don’t worry about the editing, just put your time into making videos with interesting content. This video has no more superflerous material than those by the engineering guy( who buy the way probably has a paid staff writing a script directing editing his videos) the videos made by the Hackaday staff et. al. Challenge skippy here to edit the video down to two minutes and not create a dry video.

    • chome says:

      You should see some EEVBLOG videos then, usually >40 minutes long and maybe half has actual content.

  7. Alex says:

    Neat. I’m impressed by how strong it is at the end, I figured it would have been very brittle.

  8. wg says:

    The original was from Mattel and called the Spinwelder. I had one waaaaay back when and can still remember the smell of hot plastic.

  9. Dovepistil says:

    Harbor Freight also sells a real plastic welder for cheap, but it needs a compressed air supply (boo!). Then it occurred to me, without even trying it, I’d bet the farm that my $100 Circuit Specialties hot air rework tool will work as a Jim Dandy plastic welder! Of course, you will need a rod (It is best to use a rod of the plastic you are welding). Be sure to work the “triangle”. Orient the hot air stream so that each of the parts being welded get one third of the heat, and the rod gets one third. It’s legal to tool a nice weld fillet before everything solidifies, using a bit of appropriate diameter wood dowel with a rounded end.

  10. jimbob says:

    sweet baby jesus, i’ll never watch another of that woman’s videos again. 14 minutes of video for 3 minutes of actual useful information and demonstration.

    • salsaman says:

      jimbob, had you considered maybe skipping ahead or speeding it up if it wasn’t good enough for you? Use your buttons.

      And Fran, ignore jimbob! Your videos are MUCH better than most rambling vloggers.

  11. Al says:

    Nice job Fran, thanks for the cool info.

  12. Tom the Brat says:

    That’s impressive!

    I build things with styrene. I’ll have to try it. I bet with some practice she’d get nicer looking welds.

  13. RicksDIY says:

    Great info, I’ll have to give it a try with my dremel and maybe build up one just like you did with the Harborfreight special. Some people don’t mind non edited videos…you can always skip around…better to get it up than to spend a bunch of time editing…It’s content not necessarily quality that people want.

    Thanks…

  14. Balloonman says:

    I have the same little rotary tool. Think I will rewire it and attach an external switch.
    I am quite impressed with the video. I’m wondering if I can put this to work repairing broken parts on my R/C monster truck.

  15. Great video Fran, thanks for that!

  16. RunnerPack says:

    I was going to ask if it works with ABS and other plastics, but it seems it does. Now someone needs to try these: http://www.harborfreight.com/50-piece-plastic-welding-rods-41602.html
    I haven’t really looked at them closely in the store, so they might be too fat for the largest collet insert.
    I’m definitely going to try this with some old model kit sprue pieces, though.

  17. Galane says:

    How about polypropylene and polyethylene?

  18. James says:

    I accidentally did some friction welding of ABS the other day, I was cutting some discs out of old printer shells with a holesaw to put together into pulleys and thought I’d be smart and cut out several at once, of course once the first disc was cut it spun with the holesaw and the friction against the next layer caused the two to weld themselves together.

    Kinda like this, except in plastic, on my drill press.

  19. n0lkk says:

    Fran and her lab must be pretty far out if she tables she refers to by their number. Not sure what age group these where targeted to in the the early ’70s I don’t recall seeing these at all In the event it wasn’t in the Sears Christmas wishbook it would have been unknown. At that time this small town didn’t have a variety store anymore, and the hardware store didn’t have much of a Christmas or toy sections yet. A fast spinning motor with a hollow shat would allow longer welding rod to be use, taking less time to change out short rods.

    There is this for sale; http://www.overstock.com/Sports-Toys/Discovery-Kids-Toys-Power-Plastic-Welder/4290074/product.html
    And this too; http://www.harborfreight.com/plastic-welding-kit-with-adjustable-temperature-96464.html?utm_campaign=SEO&utm_medium=Inbound_links&utm_source=linking

  20. Trust says:

    I am surprised she has all her fingers the way she uses that box cutter…

  21. Chris C. says:

    I wonder if the melt zone penetrates far enough into the parent material that the weld bead can be shaved flat, while still retaining a fair amount of strength.

  22. Neil B says:

    When I was young, I had a “Power Spark Welder” which was basically the same thing as this, except there was a ring of sandpaper toward the tip that scraped flint when spinning, producing crazy sparks inside of an orange plastic cover on the front of the tool. The welds were actually very strong if done correctly, and it was tons of fun. Here is one I found online: http://www.amazon.com/Accessory-Legends-Batman-Action-Vehicle/dp/B0013G6KN6

  23. Whatnot says:

    So basically this works with many plastics, but you need a thin rod of the material first.
    I wish I could think of some way to get those easy and cheap, but my mind goes blank for the moment.

    Anyway it’s a good tip.

  24. Matt says:

    Finally. A decent use for those unusable bits of filament I have left over. There is only so much abs glue you can make with it :)

    I tried it with 1.75mm filament. Works great, you need to swap it out quite regularly though!

  25. Awesome video, I am going to get this setup in my personal hackerspace. Fran is wickedly hot, if I weren’t already married, I tell you :P

    Roo

  26. jbthbt says:

    The best HDPE welding rod I’ve found so far is the tear away ring that comes on 5 gallon paint and drywall mud buckets. My grandparents have some ocean kayaks they use on a river and the bottoms get torn to shreds. A soldering iron style welder and a few strips of lid tear away strip and we were back in business.

  27. biozz says:

    if you told me 10 years ago that you would one day see women on the computer stick weld plastic togeather i would have said nuts to you! (and cried because i was 11)
    XP but seriously nice job there! never thought of this! … nice use for my old dremel X3

  28. Nice job indeed. Never thought of that method!

  29. RP says:

    I wonder if you’d get better (deeper) penetration of the plastic by pushing the spinning rod rather than pulling it along the weld line.

    I just tried this with a smooth metal rod in the Dremel but it just creates loose balls of melted plastic without joining. I suspect that because the metal never really heats up, it’s just acting like a grinder and chewing out the plastic instead of getting it really hot.

    • Whatnot says:

      Nah it’s nto just the heat, I’ve cut in plastic where the edges melted, but when you don’t add material it just cuts.

      Otherwise you could also just use a soldering iron, but you’d only poke holes if you tried.

  30. nes says:

    Nice demonstration. I will have to get some styrene rods and give this a try.

    The same technique works on metals too. It’s how iPad bezels are joined together apparently:

  31. Khordas says:

    Looks like this works on metals too, given a jig to apply sufficient pressure.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friction_stir_welding

  32. I had one of those toys as a kid. I don’t remember many of the details, but there were “welding rods” that were white and rivets that were black. Can’t for the life of me remember what I was putting together (it was almost 40 years ago). I had this gun thing that simply had a DC toy motor in it. The rivets and rods slipped onto the shaft. Sometimes, they’d spin on the shaft (before any melting happened) and were useless.

  33. Ren says:

    Wow! Now I’ll be able to fix a lot more of the toys my daughter breaks!

  34. Joe Bob says:

    IS this different that simply using hot melt glue gun?

    • Nick says:

      entirely different concept. in friction welding you are melting the edges of the pieces to be joined and adding extra material in the form of the melting welding rod. makes for a much stronger bond than hot glue

  35. bob says:

    Cool, Fran! Like the presentation format too.

  36. rob says:

    They still make them for kids here in the uk, Gr8 kit scrapheap welder.
    Runs on D batteries and is basicly a prefitted chuck, a DC motor and a momentary push switch designed to take thier propiatry rods.

  37. Rodger Cleye says:

    I enjoyed the video mostly because of Fran’s genuine amazement at her own success. That said, while you are at Harbor Freight why not buy the plastic welder kit for $14 and use the long welding rods they sell too? You wont be stopping every 1.5″ and have better melted welds.

  38. Nice hack. I, also, thought it would rapidly come apart under stress, which just goes to show how wrong you can be. Mind you, these days, I never mind finding that for years I’ve had it all wrong: instead I think of it as a golden opportunity to move forward.
    BUT, has anyone tried this with Perspex ( maybe Americans have a different term ) It’s poly-methyl methacrylate and doesn’t melt: it only softens then burns. Glue joints are very strong for this material and possibly welding would not be an advantage.

    bruce

  39. artag says:

    Would a draughtsman’s electric eraser work (e.g http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/AM-Bruning-87-300-Electric-Drafting-Eraser-Erasing-Machine-/111224182941?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19e57a589d) ? Not sure if it’s fast enough, but the useful feature is that the spindle is a tube – you can put a long stick of plastic right down the middle.

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