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Welding plastic with a soldering iron?

RELATED TOPICS: PLASTIC
Q: Does anyone have any information on welding plastic? I've heard of it being done with a soldering iron, and even plastic rods. Can that be done? Thanks.

- Robert Lillibridge
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

That's a good, basic modeling question, Robert. Glad you asked!

For our purposes, there are two ways to join materials: Fusion and adhesion.

Adhesion simply means connecting two pieces by introducing a substance that creates a bond between the two materials. Super glue, epoxy, and contact cement are examples of this method. The glue attaches itself to the surface of each piece and creates a bond without altering the composition of the pieces being joined together.

Fusion (welding) melts the pieces together to create a seamless joint. When done properly, the two pieces literally become one, and technically there is no longer a "joint." This happens when welding steel, and it also happens when two pieces of plastic are joined using liquid plastic cement. Liquid cement softens both edges, and the pieces are squished together to create a strong, seamless bond.

This can only happen when joining similar materials that can be softened (like kit styrene pieces). Dissimilar material, or pieces that won't "melt" together (like resin) must be joined by adhesion.

So in a nutshell, you're already "welding plastic" every time you use liquid cement. Using a soldering iron to melt and join two pieces of plastic would be overkill and almost impossible to control; stick with liquid cement.

One point to consider: Too much liquid cement can be as ineffective as too little cement. Never use the applicator brush that's attached to the screw cap of a liquid cement bottle. Dedicate a small, round paintbrush to the task of applying liquid cement so the liquid goes exactly where you want it.



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