Three-dimensional printing spiders

back-and-forth glue application yields silk anchorages with high pull-off resistance under varying loading situations

Jonas O. Wolff*, Marie E. Herberstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


The anchorage of structures is a crucial element of construction, both for humans and animals. Spiders use adhesive plaques to attach silk threads to substrates. Both biological and artificial adhesive structures usually have an optimal loading angle, and are prone to varying loading situations. Silk anchorages, however, must cope with loading in highly variable directions. Here we show that the detachment forces of thread anchorages of orb-web spiders are highly robust against pulling in different directions. This is gained by a two-step back-and-forth spinning pattern during the rapid production of the adhesive plaque, which shifts the thread insertion point towards the plaque centre and forms a flexible tree root-like network of branching fibres around the loading point. Using a morphometric approach and a tape-and-thread model we show that neither area, nor width of the plaque, but the shift of the loading point towards the plaque centre has the highest effect on pull-off resistance. This is explained by a circular propagation of the delamination crack with a low peeling angle. We further show that silken attachment discs are highly directional and adjusted to provide maximal performance in the upstream dragline. These results show that the way the glue is applied, crucially enhances the toughness of the anchorage without the need of additional material intake. This work is a starting point to study the evolution of tough and universal thread anchorages among spiders, and to develop bioinspired ‘instant’ anchorages of thread- and cable-like structures to a broad bandwidth of substrates.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20160783
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number127
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • spider silk
  • biological glue
  • peeling
  • thin film
  • piriform silk
  • nanofibre network

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