[Ben Heck] Builds The Ultimate Glue Gun


For how many can be found on the workbenches and in the toolboxes of makers and hackers the world over, finding a glue gun that does more than just heat up and drip glue everywhere can be a challenge. [Ben Heck] finally solved this problem with a hot glue gun that’s more like an extruder from a 3D printer than a piece of junk you can pick up at Walmart for a few dollars.

By far, the most difficult part of this project was the glue stick extruder. For this, [Ben] used a DC motor with a two-stage planetary gear system. This drives a homemade hobbed bolt, just like the extruder in 99% of 3D printers. The glue stick is wedged up against the hobbed bolt with a few 3D printed parts and a spring making for a very compact glue stick extruder.

The electronics are a small AVR board [Ben] made for a previous episode, a thermistor attached to the hot end of the glue gun, a solid state relay for the heater, and analog controls for speed and temperature settings. After finishing the mechanics and electronics, [Ben] took everything apart and put it back together in a glue gun-shaped object.

The finished product is actually pretty nice. It lays down constistant beads of hot glue and thanks to a little bit of motor retraction won’t drip.

You can check out both parts of [Ben]’s build below.

42 thoughts on “[Ben Heck] Builds The Ultimate Glue Gun

    1. to me it feels like he only explains the really basic stuff, and then shows off all the expensive tools he has without really going into too much depth. i also feel like a lot of his designs could be improved upon with a little bit more thinking.

      1. The show does not have a huge budget and usually there is a very short amount of time to produce the episodes so that is why he does not go into a super amount of depth or take a lot of time for a design. Think about the last time you built something, did you spend more than a day thinking and improving the design? These designs are often done on the fly in order to get the episode done. It is a whole different challenge when you do not have time to think through a design or do a lot of iterative improvement.

        Also sadly a fair number of people have said they find those detailed parts boring so some of that stuff gets glossed over.

        As far as the tools, he has them for his business, not utilizing them in episodes would not make much sense. I would not call that showing off.

        1. I think I remember Dave Jones saying that the budget for the Ben Heck Show is quite high, although he wasn’t at liberty to say what it was. Do you know what the budget actually is?

          1. Dave was talking about video production/editing and why he doesn’t want/afford a person to edit his videos while TBHS has a camera person and professional graphics, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se3Gts4u1vs

            On the other hand, Dave has the luxury of being able to work on a video until it is done while Ben has a schedule to meet and advertisers to please.

            Having access to a professional editor doesn’t necessarily mean he has an equally large material budget. Most of the gear that he uses is stuff he bought for his day job or his pinball design project.

      1. +1

        The most accurate way I can describe what KipKay does is that he makes Hacking Infomercials – Filmed for the average person who doesn’t know the difference between leaded & unleaded solder (or even what solder is in the first place), as he focuses more on the ‘wow’ factor of the before & after result and much less on the details.

        Ben Heck I feel manages to tread the fine line between human technical manual and KipKay, and does so very well, producing and modifying some great things that actually work and educates you with enough details for you to plug some search words into google and usually turn up decent ‘further reading’ information on the subject that interests you.

    2. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t post or share anything related to actually building his gadgets. Such as schematics, bom, source code, gcode, etc. Some us would like to build or improve upon his gadgets.

  1. Come on — Ben’s show is great and it is nice that Element14 sponsors them. Shouldn’t we continue shows like the Bob Pease show, EEVBlog, MikesElectricStuff and (…?) Now the sponsorship is obvious and the raspi plugs are aplenty but this is cool nonetheless!

  2. It really depends on your skill level, If you’re new to this and need someone to learn you a few things, a show like this will help put everything into perspective and you are appreciative of it. I hate to admit it, but that’s were I find myself these days.

    My day job is fixing appliances and heating and cooling systems, Taking a class on that after 20 years of experience is not something that’s going to advance my skill level at this point. but for someone who is learning the trade it’s great. This is one such show for me, I found it very instructive.

    1. Eh, hammers and problems. ME people make clever, robust one off solutions, even when they shouldn’t. EE people make clever use of the same solutions on different problems, even when they shouldn’t.

    2. Yeah that’s my problem with the guy. Everything he makes needs an arduino and a maker bot/laser cutter/ect to build. When usually the solution is extremely simple.

      In this case all you need to “fix” a glue gun is to get rid of that stupid pistol grip that’s never worked and put a manually turning screw instead. If you want to motorize it fine…. install a motor with forward/reverse to control the screw.

      It’s ridiculous to put that much tech in a device that normally costs 5 bucks, especially considering the pcb will be so close to a heat source and it’s likely to go bad after a while.

      But these are the kinds of “solutions” you get when you have element14 as a sponsor.

      1. I’m pretty sure he did an episode explaining how you don’t need his tools and materials to make the same things he makes. It just makes it easier/prettier when you have a laser cutter or 3d printer.

    3. I suppose the constant pressure, constant feed, and the retraction features could be done mechanically, but he also has the temperature regulation feature I had wanted in a hot glue gun but couldn’t find before at any price, and adding features to the idea of a hot glue gun that are nice to have.

      I have a soldering iron that I can set its temperature. In getting up to temperature, it pumps 60 watts to the iron, then stops. Then it applies whatever heat needed to keep that temperature, but no higher, to avoid burning out the tip or the workpiece with too high of a temperature. A couple years ago, I was looking for the same feature in a hot glue gun – so that it’s not trying to burn itself out. For hot glue, a regulated temperature means more a consistent viscosity.

      I didn’t end up putting any work into making my own because I don’t use hot glue guns as much as he seems to. That was also before I learned some techniques in building 3D printers, and that seems to be how he got his inspiration as well.

  3. Do we really need fabricated statistics like “99% of 3D printer extruders use a hobbed bolt” to help sell a story? Since HACKADAY changed hands; the lack of simple fact and spell checking has been disturbing. Attention to detail would certainly improve appearances and imply that quality information being presented. While it isn’t impossible to understand, the synopsis is riddled with errors; nearing the definition of word salad.

    1. It has always been that way. Yeah the writing on this site wouldn’t even pass a freshman english class, but their competition isn’t any better. Good writing is not what this site has ever been about.

      Really the only consistent and factual writing I consume is only available on dead trees, or from The Economist and New Yorker. If you care about that sort of thing I recommend those sources. Comparing writing like that to blogs is like comparing the math skills of Fenyman to chimps at the local zoo.

    2. Unfortunately, the spell checking was bad even before HaD changed hands ;-) I hate to think of the number of times I’ve seen “it’s/its” and even “their/there”. I told them about it once but sadly it didn’t have any effect.

      Why do people have trouble with something as simple as this? Just remember that an apostrophe stands for a letter missed out and you won’t go wrong.

      As for the hack – I would like to see this working on a 3D printer! Has anybody done 3D printing work with standard hot-melt sticks? It would be really neat because of the range of colours you can get.

          1. “…….stands for a letter missed out OR A POSSESSIVE…..”

            “it’s” ambiguous. your saying implies that i should always use an apostrophe because it covers all the options.

          2. For a start, have you heard of capital letters?

            I don’t see what’s ambiguous:

            “What’s that animal? It’s a cat.”
            “What colour is its fur? Its fur is white.”
            “Carl’s cat is white.”
            “Carl’s cat’s fur is white.”

            Where do I imply that one should “always” use an apostrophe?

  4. im not so mad about this, to be honest, its the best hot glue gun extruder I have found, and for my project it could be a big help.

    The problem is that there is no parts available, I can’t find any stl’s to try this or fork it myself.

    I also thought it was strange that he spent a bunch of time making a hobbed bolt, then just showed up with a new one and a different motor all together in the second video. anyone else catch that?

    1. Yep, I saw that. He changed the gear motor and ditched the hobbed bolt for a gear. Also, as far as parts go, he could list the part # and sources he used for the project and that would make the video much better while distancing the show from the “look what Io can do” feel. Show notes would be a great addition (I cannot find any).
      I do like his show though and it gets me motivated to try new things. So in as far as that goes, he succeeds.

  5. In the first video he is stating that one of his major goals is to integrate a retraction mechanic, to pull the glue-stick back when releasing the trigger. In video two you can clearly see how its meant to work but I think this system is flawed as the retraction-gear is really far away from the nozzle. This way he will have a uncontrolled glue-stick for the last ~40mm or so, as the retraction gear is so far back, that it will pull back only the new inserted stick – not the one on the nozzle currently heating up.

    He could put a bit of glue on every new stick before inserting, so the new stick could take a hold to the previous one. But this is not possible if the gun is already empty and no glue is coming out anymore. He would need a reminder to alarm him about the remaining glue-stick-length. Or he can build the retraction module way further down to the nozzle.

    Anyway. I watch his show from time to time but I dont like all these jumpcuts and fancy animation and he NEVER gets deeper into the topic. He just gentle slides above the surface. Its more like entertaining then learning something. I guess the people watching it, love the instant-gratification after only ~10 Minutes of watching.

  6. surprisingly, these are not my concerns with hot glue guns …

    – Dripping is only a problem if you buy the cheapest possible. I spent 20 Eur for a Steinel Gluematic – much less dripping compared to the cheapest ones.
    – I’m not using hot glue for any visible seams or markings – I don’t care about constant feed

    Features I would like to see:
    – have an audible “beep” when pre-heating is done – this feature is available for some soldering irons. Usually, I turn it on, wait 1 minute (not yet), wait 15 minutes (oh right – ready now but I almost forgot)
    – have adjustable temperature. Sometimes I need fast-curing glue (to not burn your fingers), sometimes more heat gives more time for alignment

    1. You really must get a better soldering iron. Here’s the one I use:

      I bought it back when SparkFun was still selling it. Just timed it form completely off to 350 degrees celsius in 10 seconds.

      And here’s the one they’re selling at SparkFun now:

      It seems like it should be a better iron then the other one, but if you look at the manufactures page for it, their temperature graph implies that it takes around 60 seconds to reach full temperature.

  7. Wow, a lot of chatter about hot glue guns of all things… Firstly, unless you are on a production line that uses hot glue in a process that is repeated thousands of times a day, you simply don’t need anything like this and if you are on a production line you probably have a commercial glue gun that is already advanced beyond the craft store varity anyway. Also, I have always viewed hot glue as a really shoddy way of gluing things beyond tacking a wire run down or strain relief or supporting a large cap from flexing, etc… where a crappy, dollar store hot glue gun works just fine. This is in the same realm as breaking out a laser transit to hang a simple picture on the wall. Engineering Overkill

    Find a better way of gluing things than hot glue while you’re at it…

    1. “Find a better way of gluing things than hot glue while you’re at it…”

      I’ve seen a few commercially produced things which have wires etc. inside stuck in place using hot glue, even the hot glue gun I bought this year had its wire held in place with dabs of hot glue!

      I think for prototyping & one-off builds it’s great stuff, but yeah if you’re making commercial products you probably should be looking for a different solution.

  8. I enjoy some of his shows but what I can’t seem to find (granted I haven’t searched real hard – but feel I shouldn’t have to anyway) the source, parts list etc for his builds.. Does he share them as open source or just show off what he makes and that’s it??

    Am I missing something here?

    1. You can leave the on-time constant and vary just the off-time (or vice-versa). That is “pulse width modulation” and results in varying the frequency. I don’t know if that’s how he implemented it, but I’d be reluctant to say he was “flat out wrong”.

  9. Some of the spelling, grammar & punctuation complaints I see are riddled with 3rd grade errors, themselves, eh?!?

    As for “hobbled bolt” useage, some of us are humbly well beneath many here and/or come from a different area of hacking or building and appreciate that some seeming minutiae are spoken of briefly or glossed over and not simply passed over in their entirety.

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