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Sometimes, when making things with thermoplastic (I have Thibra; the other big brand here is Worbla), I want to be able to use other objects as models (like if I need a small cone I could wrap it around a sharp pencil, or if I'm making something that needs to fit onto something else, or making a mold of an existing object, etc.).

But about 90% of the time it ends up sticking very strongly to the model I've molded it around. I've had this problem with an unexpected range of materials, including (but not limited to): aluminum (polished and rough), mild steel, stainless steel, tool steel, brass, copper, wood (of varying porosity, from walnut to maple), ABS, PVC, LDPE, HDPE (the most surprising), polypropylene, polyester resins, polyurethane resins, polyurethane finishes, and on and on.

Name it, and I've probably made a hot gooey mess on it. With thermoplastic. (You're disgusting, get your mind out of the gutter!)

So that's a long way of asking: How do I keep this stuff from sticking to the models?

I've tried removing it in various stages of cooling, but, it doesn't seem to make a difference.

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I've never used the stuff, but it has a reputation for sticking to everything. Have you tried a release agent? I'll offer some speculation on what should probably work (the first things I would try in your situation).

  • If the shape of the object lends itself, wrap it with oven parchment paper. That's impregnated with silicone, takes high temperatures, and not much sticks to it.
  • If you aren't worried about preserving surface detail, dilute silicone caulk with mineral spirits to a thin paint consistency and coat the object with it. Give it a few days to completely dry and cure. It won't be very durable, but you may get several uses out of it before you need to peel off the coating and apply a fresh one.
  • Dust the object surface with powdered graphite or talc.
  • Coat the object with WD40 unless the solvents will attack the object, in which case, just apply a coating of oil or a thin layer of petroleum jelly (Vaseline).
  • If the object won't melt or distort, dip it in melted wax and use a hot air gun to melt off all but a very thin layer of the wax. The hot plastic may melt more of the wax or bond with it, but it should still release from the object.
  • If you can't get a decent layer of graphite or talc to cover the object, coat the surface with WD40 or oil. Use that film to hold a good dusting of graphite or talc.

You may need to try a few different things to find what works best on a particular surface.

Another thing that might help release it: stick it in the freezer overnight. The plastic will become less elastic and you might also get differential shrinkage of the plastic and the object.

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  • Great ideas. Ok, I've got wax paper (no parchment paper), WD-40, various machine cutting oils, and a spray mold release on hand. Going to try those all now on some particularly bind-y materials (I've got some flexible PVC that almost permanently bonds to it, it's the worst case). Will report back.
    – Jason C
    May 1 at 22:49
  • Oh, yeah, the mold release (Mann Ease Release 200): Nailed it. 👍 Black Swan cutting oil, and 3-in-1 oil both kinda reduced binding but not that much (Black Swan worked a bit better). And, lol, do not use WD-40. It actually made it like 100x worse than my control -- I actually ripped the PVC trying to pull the thermoplastic off, haha. While I only tested 4 things, it does appear that silicone is far superior to oils here. With the mold release it popped off with no effort and no damage to either surface. It was the only one that didn't end in me deforming the thermoplastic.
    – Jason C
    May 1 at 23:26
  • (I wonder what was up with the WD-40... it was kind of unexpected.) I've got photos btw but whether or not I ever transfer them from my camera to my PC is kind of out of my control, lol. Also just realized I forgot to try wax paper.
    – Jason C
    May 1 at 23:28
  • 1
    @JasonC, maybe you should sell WD40 as hot melt glue. :-)
    – fixer1234
    May 1 at 23:45

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