This Hack Can Refill Your Stratasys 3D Printer

[Dan] has his own Stratasys Dimension SST 768 3D printer. It’s a professional grade machine which does an amazing job. But when it comes time to replace the cartridge he has to pay the piper to the tune of $260. He can buy ABS filament for about $50 per kilogram, so he set out to refill his own P400 cartridges.

Respooling the cartridge must be quite easy because he doesn’t describe the process at all. But the physical act of refilling it doesn’t mean you can keep using it. The cartridge and the printer both store usage information that prevents this type of DIY refill; there’s an EEPROM in the cartridge and a log file on the printer’s hard drive. [Dan] pulled the hard drive out and used a Live CD to make an image. He loaded the image in a virtual machine, made some changes to enable SSH and zap the log file at each boot, then loaded the image back onto the printer’s drive. A script that he wrote is able to backup and rewrite the EEPROM chip, which basically rolls back the ‘odometer’ on how much filament has been used.

[Image Source]

90 thoughts on “This Hack Can Refill Your Stratasys 3D Printer

    1. There are companies that offer material refills and flashed chips to run in Stratasys machines. Argyle is one I am familiar with. Believe the courts have found that there is nothing the companies can do in these instances: they can’t even void the warranties unless they prove the different material/modified equipment caused the problem they are called to fix.

      1. Keep in mind that the print heads heat up to a certain temp and the heaters only put out so much heat. If the material does not melt properly there are a lot of things that can go wrong. As an individual who works with and on these machines on a daily basis If you are putting aftermarket material in your machine I will be able to tell when something goes wrong. Just a heads up the service contracts on the Dimension machines are about $3500 per/yr if you run non-Stratasys materials it will void the contract and the parts add up quickly.

        1. When my Dimension choked on some real Stratasys material, they still wanted $4000 plus labor to fix the print head. I ended up fixing it myself, and certainly voiding the warranty. A Prusa i3 costs less than 3 spools of Stratasys filament, so if the Dimension ever can’t be fixed in house, it’s getting replaced.

          I just realized that we should probably be replacing it already….

    2. Is the link still valid? It seems broken to me. Anyone able to tell me what I could do to do this? I am helping my engineering teacher out. $150, but we have other printers that use the same size plastic, so being able to just swap out the spools…

    3. Hey – so it is 2019 and I am trying to flash my uprint/or hack it fast – uprint SE plus to be able to keep running soluble support in it.

      She stopped and says it is out – but I’ve been just running larger spools – and up until now it has been fine.
      Theres 12 more cubic on this spool but the printer says she is out – ugh – any ideas?

  1. I wonder if you could hook up the diagnostic console to the machine itself, add scripts to automatically “refill” cartridges on boot/cart change and just watch it all through SSH.

    It’d be awesome if you could make the machine hack itself!

  2. No offense, but what dicks take a large, expensive machine like that and then also try to tether you to their crappy refills? I think the higher the initial cost, the more free you should be to tinker with it and it should NOT act like a $50 Brother printer “OMG I *think* I’m out of toner so I won’t print.”

    1. I was looking briefly at printers last night, ink cartridges for our 12 year old all-in-one HP are now about 3x their original cost, and some stores have stopped stocking them. Thanks for the warning about Brother…

        1. Or just shake it – obv old school trick kept our 2006 brother laser printing until – well forever – it never ran out come to think of it and is now in storage – with that same cartridge

      1. My $50 Brother printer seems perfectly content with ridiculously-cheap generic cartridges from random Ebay vendors.

        The printer itself even comes with some verbiage that says, mostly, “Please use Brother ink. It’s just better. But if you use someone else’s ink, it won’t void the warranty. Unless the ink itself somehow breaks your machine, and then you’re hosed.”

        Which really is about the most sensible way to go about it.

        In terms of nefariousness amongst consumer printer makers, Brother is about last on the list.

        (It does complain loudly when it begins to run low on ink, but that’s more because you Really, Really don’t want to ever run it dry: There’s a lot of plumbing in there that wants to always be full of ink, and never full of air, and the print head needs fresh ink available at all times to avoid becoming clogged with dried ink.)

      2. I went through a stint of hunting for free Laserjet printers I could repair if not working or deal with the functions that didn’t work.

        Finally, found a Brother MFC-9970CDW that enabled me to disassemble the HP officejets for parts (only used as a batch scanner since gave up on ink cartridges a decade or so ago… opted to take files to a local print shop or library to have printed since cost less and less waste). Speaking of scanning; I have those PMI/Wavetek NS-20 & NS206/207 manuals, I finally found to invest in, to batch scan and photograph the schematics for this season to update on the Tekwiki I made regarding.

        The only issue with the Brother is I haven’t found a way to disable the Fax function that attempts to receive on startup that seems like forever and randomly or periodically seems when your ready to scan and print after walking back after a few. Figure need to read into the firmware and study some day as long as I’m confident I won’t brick the stupid machine.

        Now for the two other free prior finds HP Laserjets, that I’m debating disassembling, though got em to work with a few Franklin’s in or a Jackson in… so thinking I can list for free one of these days and pass on.

  3. I for one am certainly tired of all this proprietary bullshit and trying to push goods as services. So I’m all for this ^.^

    Well the only possible ethical problem I can see here is if they had some sort of contractual lease on the machine.

    If they bought the machine outright the they can do any damn thing they want to the machine.

    Just don’t go crying to the manufacturer when anything goes wrong because I’m fairly certain any warranty or service contract is null and void at this point :)

    1. I’m reminded of the contract my old company used to have with Xerox. We paid cost-per-click but they supplied all the consumables and support, even when we thrashed the machine by printing nonstop for days.

      Now, on the other hand, IIRC law is such that a company CANNOT void your warranty for using 3rd party refills. I think it was IBM that caused that law, they sold punch card machines at a loss but charged a premium for the cards. Someone came up with 3rd party cards for cheap and IBM wasn’t happy about it. Fortunately IBM lost.

      1. In the event I remember reading correctly, such legislation has it’s beginnings in the automobile sector. Where manufacturers tried to restrict none dealer repairs to using OEM replacement parts. Given what I have been told by those who can afford to buy new vehicles with the now longer manufacturer warranties, the manufacturers have found a way around the older legislation that they couldn’t require dealer provided service & OEM parts to keep the warranty intact.

  4. Yep, the old “give away the razor, but charge for the replacement blades” business plan.

    Ardent, Alliant, Symbolics (erstwhile computer makers) also charged a premium for peripherals, it didn’t take users (sysadmins, electronic engineers, programmers) long to find ways to make 3rd party equipment work at less than half the cost…

  5. Every time I see this sales aproach it kinda sickens me. They assume all people will look at is the upfront price tag and ignore the fact that you are getting stiffed on the back end (refills, manditory service, etc…)
    Lately the one that I have seen do this is the airlines. I just took a flight on one of Alegiant’s falling apart fleet of old planes. It cost $180 for the ticket, then I got suprised with another $150 for luggage. I expected to pay a bit for the extra piece, but I felt like I was mugged.
    Hopefully people start seeing the dishonesty in this aproach and stop buying from companies that do this.
    Good job on this hack BTW. Spread the word on how it is done and hopefully the company learns a bit of a lesson.

          1. Actually, the two times are closer than you think. The 1.25 hour flight has an hour check-in and wait before the flight, an hour each way to get from parking to the terminal (LAX), 45 minutes to get your luggage, an hour to get to and rent a car…makes the flight closer to 6 hours. (The overhead for a train ride is a LOT less.) Maybe I will take the train next time!

      1. It would be better than getting raped by the TSA. The alternative, don’t fly unless absolutely necessary. Hit the airlines where it hurts.

        Right after 9/11 no one flew for weeks so gov. had to bail them out. That won’t happen in this economy. They can be hurt again.

  6. Hmm, plastic filament………what about weedeater string? I don’t have a 3d printer, but that just popped into my head. It’s plastic, filament-ish, and pretty cheap. If you buy the big rolls, you could probably work out some kind of real simple auto feeder to pull right off the spool. Someone give it a try and let me know. I don’t even know what temp the stuff melts at(heading to garage with weedeater string, a lighter and IR thermometer, just for curiosity’s sake)

    1. Aftermarket Filament is way cheaper then weedeater string. Also weedeater string does not have the same tolerances that must be maintained for it’s use or come on a nice spool, some profiles are not even round. And it is 10x the price of generic Filament. I just did a search on ebay and if you buy bulk .095″ trimmer line it looks to be close in price to generic filament. I am also guessing it is Nylon not ABS. The generic line I looked at is in fact nylon.

  7. I almost bought that machine for our shop, last minutes, literally, last minute, I pulled out due to the ridicules service fee agreement, I explain I have 1/2 million horizontal cnc, and it’s only $1,200 year for service contract, theirs was about $5,000, the said with if a major piece breaks it covers it, I said I could buy a new machine every 4 years for the service contract price!

    1. we bought the Fortus 400 MC and our new service contract is $12000 per year. There goes any savings that we may have got from testing our parts for fit, form and funtion before we have them machined. It is a total rip off.

  8. It always makes me sick seeing this kind of garbage pulled on buyers by companies. It should be illegal, but instead it is a legal minefield to defeat…
    It seems standard practice now, but fabrication machines, from the simplest inkjet and up, should NEVER have lockouts for non-manufacturer material beyond a simple “Are you sure? This voids your warranty!”.
    Anything more is simply unethical.

    Great hack!

  9. Kraftwurx, in conjunction with sister company digital reality agree that forcing you to buy refills for manufacturing via 3D printing is like selling you a HAAS cnc mill and then you can only get your blocks of aluminum and steel from HAAS.

    Sell the machines, focus on that and you will be successful. If you try to be controlling, the makers will destroy you, reverse engineer things etc.

    Why do you think there are so many low cost/open source 3D printers coming on the market?

    1. i bought a car. i run whatever oil i wish….I bought a Bridgeport CNC mill, I use wahtever material I wish and tool bits. I buy a 3D Printer…I refill it with materials that are exactly what the OEM sells but a fraction of the cost. They refuse to service it…I say…oh yes you will! IIRC!

  10. Hello!
    I’m looking to hack a SST 768 to convert it to a Elite. Anyone have a Elite printer and can explain to me what are the specific hardware and software difference between the two?

    Next, I’m looking to use the Fortus Insight software ti create the toolpath and hack the exportet CMB file to make it readable to the Catalyst EX. Anyone interested in this challange?

    1. Hi, i have a dimension bst and now buy from bolson materials. they are cheaper than stratasys and they supply a spool and chip to load into the original outer casing.
      i would love to get a permanent fix on the material issue. thanks

    2. I also have the stratasys insite 9.1 software for my Fortus printer. I would like to use the same software for one of the open source printers that seem to need G code. Does anybody have any idea how to convert this software to use on other printers?

  11. Dimension is just screwing themselves with this. Like a lot of companies, the place I work does runs of only a few hundred items. Say 300 and the injection mold is $3000 – that’s $10 added to the shot price. A Reprap can make the parts cheaper, so could a uPrint, (with better quality and less BS) but Dimension charges so much the injection mold is actually cheaper so we mold instead of buying their machines! INSANE.

  12. If the problem is that the printer registered the used chip by its serial number, then the chips I have are diferent serial from the ones you have, would it be possible change the chip used on my printer to a new reffilled cartdrige and put it in another stratasys printer? this other printer would not have that serial registered and should show as new cartdrige correct? if any of you people want to try this out please let me know, my email I have plenity of chips from all the cartdriges I have used. I am located at mexico city by the way. If anybody has done this before please let us know if it worked.

  13. Hello and thank you for the precious info. I have just bought a Dimension 768 but I don’t have the software Catalyst.
    Do you know where can i download it or find it for cheap? A copy is also nice.

  14. Note since there are hundreds of different types of ABS and other materials, you really do take the health of your machine into your own hands if you use generic materials. The ABS typically has a wide range of melt temps within a grade of material and in various types (injection, extrusion, etc.) The software and hardware are matched to the material in the Dimension lines. The old adage of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” and caution should apply.

  15. Hi,

    We use 2nd party spools for our Dimension Elite. We get them with new chips and sent the old chips back to reset. So wouldn’t it be easy to “just” reset these. Does anyone have an idea to do this? I searched, but nothing found. Only messing with the harddisk of the printer…

  16. My Dimension BST needs a head/heat/nozzle block. Apparently I have to buy the motoors, nozzles, wiring and frame to get the last part the filament touches before being squirted on to the plate. Tragic! Any body got a beast for salvaging?

  17. We have a BST. It went all daffy one day. No action, and the circuit board LEDS blinking on/off in unison. First, the switch mode power supply, ($2256 from stratasys), A “pull” on e-bay was $130. Next, the power distibute board had no 12V or 120V DC output. Found and jumpered a broken PCB trace in one of the embedded levels of the PCB, $2495 saved. Piggy back supply,($512), had a bad switch chip, ($11). The extruder channels in the head had a small obstrucion in the “M” section. Whipped up a 120VAC adjustable pulse width supply. Hooked up a Fluke thermocouple meter to the thermo output. Dialed in the temp. and started inserting/retracting the plastic while forcing as much compressed air as possible fron the nozzles backwards. Solved. NOW I need the crtridge heater for the head, (they don’t like being handled after they have worked). I can’t EVEN get a return call from a rep. the factory folks won’t sell, now I’m stuck buying a $3952 assembly for lack of a $30 part. Go figure.

  18. Hi, I have a Dimension SST 1200 and the material cost is killing me. The cost of the Argyle replacement material is good, but still quite expensive. I am looking for a hack that would use another supplier’s material on a large spool. (Some materials cost $15/Kg) The spool could be outside the printer and fed in via a hole in the cartridge. Also need a hack for the chip to reset when needed.

    1. I would suggest not to buy a Stratasys at all. We have 2 of them (Dimension Elite and Objet30). Both are just crazy expensive in material use. The Objet30 is just mental. It uses liquid material and when you want change material it cleans out the whole system first. With 2 times switching materials we ended up with 1 liter!!!! waste material. And it takes an hour… Besides that it uses support material all around the object, even on top. Such a bad design… For the Dimension Elite we used to use cheaper cartridges with hacked chips, but this gave bad results because the melting temperature is different. Unfortunately it is not possible to adjust the temperature of the machine (Stratasys thought about that too). Results were more brittle products, because the plastic didn’t melt good enough. So hacking the machine and use cheap spools is cheap, but be aware of the lesser print qualities. Or you have to be able to adjust the melting temperature.

      Stratasys is just making tons of money on material. Way too much in my opinion. Just like HP printers with their expiring and highly protected ink cartridges.

      1. Just a heads up, on your Objet30 if it is printing support material on the top of the part, you have your setting in Objet Studio set for Matte finish. If you change it to print in glossy mode, you will only have support material in the critical spots. However, your part finish will not be uniform throughout. Wherever the support material touches model material, it will be a matte finish.

    2. With the help of a few online resources I was able to build a Raspberry Pi based reprogrammer. Now I reload the material cartridges with 3DXTech 3DXMax filament (the exact same raw plastic as used in the stratasys P430 cartridges) for about $35-40 a pop. We saved about $5k in cartridges this last years (we print a LOT). I use them both in our Dimension Elite and 1200ES and it works flawlessly, though I did have to modify some cartridges because of the difference in spool size. Email me at if you need some help. I could even build you a reprogrammer if you’re interested. I’ve thought about building some if there is a market.

    1. This is probably way too late to help you, but in case anyone else is wondering, I had the same thing happen, and managed to remove the extruder head, clean it, and reinstall. Removing the melted and burned-on plastic was the hardest part, A large rotating wire wheel was the best tool I found to get the plastic off without damaging anything else too much. I had to replace the thermocouples, but only because I damaged them trying to cut the plastic off another way.
      The second hardest part was aligning the head after reinstalling so the two nozzles were at the same height. A machinist’s gauge block and some feeler gauges worked very well for that.

      1. I’ve also killed my thermo couple when removing the head which was caked in support material and had damaged the wire to the firesticks.

        Anybody know what thermocouple replacements can be used?

        The firesticks I purchased were over priced originals as I couldnt read the specs. But for anyone else with the same issue you could probably by much cheaper ones matching the specs.

        The purchased “originals” are marked “70W 120V GC heat KA20-05337/1” and are 45mm long by approx 6mm dia. Am sure you can buy much cheaper ones elsewhere.

  19. Hi

    I have a fortus 400 mc and would like to upgrade it so that you can use the full envelope currently it is set to the small size. Has anyone done this before?

  20. Our STEM program has a mojo printer but we won’t be using it for this exact reason. We can not hack the programming and we certainly are not going to waste our precious budget on $500 filament. For the price of a few we can by a new printer that runs at a 10th of the cost.

  21. I have just returned to my old school and the BST 768 is in a corner with dust on it, I intend to re-spool the old cartridges as suggested in this and other posts, however, I was wandering if there is an alternative to the print bases £120 for 24. Is it possible to print onto a dummy base with tape on it?

  22. There was an much newer post on here that got in to the nitty gritty on the encryption for the chips and contained step-by-step instructions for making a chip re-writer using a Raspberry Pi. I can’t find that post now! Can anyone help me out?

  23. does anyone know if anyone has figured out how to re write the stratasys f170 or f120 material cartridges. I would pay handsomely to anyone who figured this out and could sell me a cartridge re writer

  24. Anyone knows what Support Material P400 SR is because i want to refill my Cartridges. And is there any possible way to change the Temperatur on my Sst 1200es. I refilled my Cartridges with the same ABS as used before but i want to see which Materials I can also use so a Stratasys Model/Support Material list would be very helpful!

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