Since I have a 3D printer, I worked primarily with printing ABS. I tried multiple methods for adhesion (various soluble glues, ABS juice) but always had the most success with hairspray on clean borosilicate glass, as long as I print with a bed temperature above 75 °C and inside an enclosure.

So I wonder, if it is known, why and based on which chemicals the hairspray method works so well?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hairspray is not ABS specific - it is just in need of a very strong bond. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Oct 16, 2019 at 8:39

1 Answer 1


First of all, not all hairsprays work. The chemicals in hairspray that causes the bonding is "VA/Crotonates Copolymer", it is also called "vinyl acetate/crotonic acid copolymer". Most commonly known as PVA, which is also a filament used as water soluble support material. This is a synthetic polymer created from monomers.

When heated to a certain temperature this ingredient becomes sticky, this makes the filament stick to the plate. It is the double bonded Oxygen molecule that makes this happen. This is not only present in chemicals you put onto the bed, but also the chemistry of certain bed materials. Quoting our own Ryan Carlyle from this thread, A replacement for Aquanet Hair Spray?? Wolfbite by Airwolf:

Most of the popular build surfaces have very similar underlying chemistry. That's because they all rely on diffusion welding for adhesion. The molecular chains at the interface slightly dissolve into each other.

Gluestick active ingredient - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyvinylpyrrolidone

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Aquanet and liquid PVA glue active ingredient - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyvinyl_acetate

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If you're familiar with organic chemistry, what you see here is an identical polyvinyl backbone chain, and functional groups that both have a ketone/ester double-bonded oxygen adjacent to a space-filling component. (The space-filling component probably decreases adhesion so the print can be released.) And guess what? Permanent build plate surfaces rely on the same underlying chemistry:

Lexan also has exposed double-bonded oxygen on a polymer backbone: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycarbonate

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Kapton also has exposed double-bonded oxygen on a polymer backbone: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapton

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Acrylic also has exposed double-bonded oxygen on a polymer backbone: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poly(methyl_methacrylate)

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PET also has exposed double-bonded oxygen on a polymer backbone: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyethylene_terephthalate

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Now, if you look at some common solvents for filaments, what do you often see? Double-bonded oxygen on small molecules. Here's ethyl acetate (dissolves PLA) and acetone (dissolves ABS):

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These molecules are still diffusing into the filament polymer, but they're so small and mobile that they are able to completely liquefy and dissolve the plastic.

Isn't chemistry great?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Isn't PVA what's in common white school glue (Elmer's in the US)? $\endgroup$
    – T.J.L.
    Oct 16, 2019 at 14:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @T.J.L.Yes, white wood glue and white school glue also contain PVA (polyvinyl acetate), it is a PVA dispersion in water. $\endgroup$
    – 0scar
    Oct 16, 2019 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ Very old article (comparatively) I know, but there are two plastics called PVA. Polyvinyl acetate, the glue, and polyvinyl alcohol, the dissovable-in-water filameant. Very different beasts. $\endgroup$ Mar 23, 2023 at 1:12

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