DIY Wire Spooler with Clever Auto-Tensioning System

[Solarbotics] have shared a video of their DIY wire spooler that uses OpenBeam hardware plus some 3D printed parts to flawlessly spool wire regardless of spool size mismatches. Getting wire from one spool to another can be trickier than it sounds, especially when one spool is physically larger than the other. This is because consistently moving wire between different sizes of spools requires that they turn at different rates. On top of that, the ideal rate changes as one spool is emptying and the other gets larger. The wire must be kept taut when moving from one spool to the next; any slack is asking for winding problems. At the same time, the wire shouldn’t be so taut as to put unnecessary stress on it or the motor on the other end.

There aren’t any build details but the video embedded below gives a good overview and understanding of the whole system. In the center is a tension bar with pulleys on both ends though which the wire feeds. This bar pivots at the center and takes up slack while its position is encoded by turning a pot via a 3D printed gear. Both spools are motor driven and the speed of the source spool is controlled by the position of the tension bar. As a result, the bar automatically takes up any slack while dynamically slowing or speeding the feed rate to match whatever is needed.

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Finding A Use For Surplus Filament Spools

If you’re a heavy user of a 3D printer, or a welder, you’ll know the problem of empty spools. You’ve used up all the filament or the welding wire, and you’re left with a substantial plastic spool. It’s got to be useful for something, you think, and thus it’s Too Good To Throw Away. Before you know it you have a huge pile of the things all looking for a use that you know one day you’ll find.

If you follow the example of [Chuck Hellebuyck], you could use them as wheels for a small go-kart (YouTube link). He 3D-printed some hub adapters for the spools to use skate bearings, mounted them of threaded axles to a classic wooden go-kart frame, and set off downhill wearing his stock-car racing helmet.

Of course, [Chuck]’s go-kart is a bit of fun, but it’s probably fair to say that 3D printer spools are not the ideal wheel. Those rims aren’t particularly durable, and with no tires he’s in for a bumpy ride. Perhaps a tire could be found to fit and a tube placed within it, but that would start to sound expensive against those cheap off-the-shelf wheelbarrow items.

But the project does raise the interesting question: what exactly do you do with your empty spools? There have to be some awesome uses for them, so please share yours in the comments. Meanwhile follow Chuck’s go-kart adventures in the video below the break.

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The FilaWinder


The latest addition to the line of 3D printer accessories is the FilaWinder, a tool for winding your filament neatly onto a spool. If you’ve abandoned buying your filament by the reel in favor of making your own from cheaper pellets—such as the Lyman Extruder, the Filabot Wee, or other alternatives, including the winder’s companion product, the FilaStruder—then you’ve likely had to roll everything up by hand, perhaps after it flopped around on the floor first.

The FilaWinder spools for you while the filament extrudes, using a sensor to adjust the winding the speed to match extrusion rates as well as running it through some PTFE tube to gently coil it as it moves along. Perhaps most important, the FilaWinder provides a guide arm to direct the filament back and forth across the reel as it spools up, to keep it evenly distributed. Swing by their Thingaverse page for a list of printable pieces and their assembly guide can be found here, as well as on YouTube. You can see an overview video of the FilaWinder winding away after the break.

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Power drill solder spooler

[Scott] over at has posted an instructable detailing how to use an Arduino and a power drill to spool solder. The Arduino senses the speed that the drill is going via an opto interrupter and a laser and adjusts with a servo hooked to the trigger. While we don’t think many people will be dying to spool some solder, this system might be useful for all kinds of things, like winding yarn or making coils.