Cube 3D Printer Hack Lets You Use Bulk Filament

[Chris Nafis] crunched the numbers and found out he could get filament for his 3D printer in bulk for about one-fifth the cost of the cartridges the company sells. This led him to print a feeder for his Cube 3D printer.

We’re skeptical about the Cube 3D printer’s cartridges. They contain a spool of filament, but also include a chip which reports back the filament color and length remaining. We’re sure this provides some nice functionality for those looking to press a button and walk away. But we see it as an annoyance like the laser toner cartridges that stop working based on page count rather than remaining toner.

The solution [Chris] went with still uses the cartridges to ‘trick’ the machine into printing. Basically the interface will tell you that you don’t have enough filament left, but as long as there’s a cartridge in place you can tell it to print anyway. The green adapter he printed has a pass-through for the stock cartridge as well as the bulk spool you see to the left.

201 thoughts on “Cube 3D Printer Hack Lets You Use Bulk Filament

        1. Hi,

          I am the supplier that SolidWorksMagi mentioned. I am happy to say that I am shipping filaments that are compatible with the cube free hacked printers. No more problems with the motor not feeding the filament.

          Currently, I have White, Black, Blue and Green in stock. Please visit for your order or contact me directly.


        1. There’s also formulae for calculating the length of a *Flat* Archimedean spiral Coil given thickness per layer and inner and outer diameters. inner diameter will be fixed for a given spool, outer diameter could be measured. multiply by the height of spool/filament diameter and you’ve got a good estimate for the length remaining if each layer of filament lay directly on top of each other. You’d need to multiply by a constant to properly account for winding style. but that could be found experimentally, or mathematically by starting with a spool with known dimensions and length of filament.

          as to how to measure the outside diameter- maybe a rack and pinion that’s spring loaded to rubs gently against the filament on the spool- (it might stop birds nests on overruns too)
          The pinion’s on the same axle as a large cog. That large cog meshes with a tiny cog (increases rotation rate), and the small cog drives a rotary encoder, If the gear ratio is high enough tiny (linear) changes in diameter will trigger a pulse from the encoder.

    1. Set a series of lasers parallel to each other pointing across (chords of) the spool, place a ‘ground’ plastic/glass ‘display’ on the other side of the spool. Feed them power with a momentary button (maybe use a multivibrator to have the ‘lights’ stay on longer than you hold the button) Instant “level remaining” lights :)

    2. With Afinia 3D printers how it does it that in the computer software (It prints tethered) it asks you how much the filament weight is when you put a new spool (And it tells you the weight of the filament they sell. It is optimised for their own product but you can use any filament), and then as you print it calculates the weight of the print based on how much filament is used, and uses that to keep track of how much filament is left, and how much is needed.

  1. Filament is a weird idea… the entire plastics industry uses pellets…. why turn those into filament in stead of make your printer use the way cheaper pellets straight away

    1. filament is used frequently in welding which I believe is where it generally comes from. Filament is expensive but it is easily manipulated. Think of how easy it would be to transport something like water if it could only go in the desired direction and every gallon would follow every other gallon in the same direction without the need for pipes. because it’s manipulated so easily, the cost of a printer that uses filament costs much less then one that uses pellets. The increased cost per print isn’t so bad when the printer is used for practical purposes because it’s usually only $1 or 2 per print. Also resolution can often be improved by the lack of extra components on the print head needed to regulate pellets. One interesting thing i’m seeing more and more is the development of filament production machines that use recycled prints and abs pellets which will hopefully make printing cheaper.

    2. You are onto a good idea. Plastic pellets are the cheapest form of plastic. In bulk, typical, thermoplastics are about $1 per pound. Probably get some free stuff from the local injection molder that finished a custom run and has left over colored pellets.

    3. Internal logistics imo – pellets need to be melted as well, requiring something of a heated bucket with an opening at the botton, in which there has to be a screw to transport the melted plastic to a nozzle for deposition. Ofc, there’s no way to retract that stream, so you need a stop on the nozzle to stop it from spilling all over… No, all in all, perhaps cheaper from a consumables point of view, but defo a lot more complex hardware needed to be able to process it properly.

    1. I always felt people who buy an UP, afinia, ultimaker, or cube want to print things to support their hobby. People who buy an early gen makerbot, reprap or similar DiY kit want their new hobby to be supporting a 3D printer.

      I’ve used industrial 3d printers, makerbot cupcake, reprap. All took a lot of time and patience and the quality was mweh… I had a baby said, mweh I aint got time for assembling 8 hour kits anymore so I did some research and chose the afinia because I didn’t want to hack the chip in the cube.

      While holding a baby in one hand I was able to unbox, install and print models from my afinia in 30 mins. I mean your results will vary and I took the hit on the volume and speed, but as far as practical 3D printer to support my hobby, this class of printer isn’t too bad. The software on the afinia was also quite easy to use because I could just download models from mcmastercarr, convert to stl and all the prints were done automatically with supports.

      I’m not a rep for afinia and the speed and size is a little less than desired, but the overall up time of my printer is higher than most of my engineering buddies. Except for one guy… he is kinda just obsessed with tweaking his printer. I’m not sure he actually prints anything but printer enhancements. Nothing wrong with that of course.

      1. the quality difference between the reprap clone I have and the ultimaker was noticeable. easily noticeable. My kids thought this printer was broken after seeing the other prints. Everyone’s response was “but you can tweak it”.

        I have to agree with your assessment.

  2. Honestly do not understand why people buy these over the UP Mini… it’s 1K people, fully enclosed and prints on the same size perfboard as the Afinia / UP Plus, you lose a tiny bit for the super handy rails that let you slide the bed in and out for hot swapping between prints. Chipping cartridges? 3DS can shove it… What do you even do with the ’empty’ cartridges???

  3. This is a neat little Printer. Amazingly I haven’t seen any internals on this. Does anyone know the Micro Controller it runs? I assume it is a arm processor, as most things are these days.

    It doesn’t seem to have enough features to be running embedded linux, but I may be wrong. Any ideas?

  4. I’ll be attempting to implement this within the next week or so, just ordered a spool, keeping my fingers crossed that they haven’t patched it yet!

    any idea what firmware version this was done with?

  5. Can anyone offer a volume calculation for calculating part cost based off the Cubify 2mm thick filament? Also, can anyone recommend a tool or hack for splicing in mid-stream and rejoining filament of various colors? I would love to change the color, but when I tried to push in another filament, the Cubify jammed, and it took a while to remove the piece in the extruder head. Don’t do that!

  6. sites like sells 1.75mm ABS filament for under $20 per Kg. Notice the huge contrast in price. Imagine how much money cubeX makes off a single cartridge that has about a third of the amount for $50.

  7. This old hack does not seem to work for me. I have firmware 2.07, did they change it to prevent this.. I used the same color cartridges, but when I switch to the empty before picking the file on the touch screen, the system says replace catridge in 30 seconds or the job will be aborted? anyone got an older firmware file? or a device to reset the Dallas Semiconductor EEPROM to make the system think the cartridge is full ( i have seen inkjets and toner cartridge devices that reset their “smart chips”? thanks

    1. If you find a solution for firmware 2.07 please inform me.. I didn’t know the printer’s this spec i bought lots of filament from another seller and they don’t useful now. please help me !

    2. I’m having the same issue. this worked for me when i used a cartridge with ‘not enough’ filament, however it wasn’t ’empty.’ But once i used this one with not enough filament, my printer marked it ’empty’ and now there is nothing to do, it always says to replace it

  8. This hack is for 1st version of Cube, now they sell version 2 wih 2.xx firmware. So you cannot upload 1.xx firmware on it. I have 2.05 but have not full cartridge for testing it. Hope somebody will hack eeprom in nearest future…

    1. Yeah I have been trying , the chip is a Dallas Semiconductor 1-wire chip, DS28E01 but not sure which subset. I found a board to allow reading and writing to a DS28E01-100 but it is a different connector configuration. Posted on several forums too. Fasterpast, are you sure this wont work for any of the 2.xx firmwares? it worked as late as April 2013 per these posts, just not sure when the gen 2 firmware started. If someone finds a way to get and load the older firmware, please post it and I will try it.

  9. Hello Guys

    I have a cube 3D, so i am not happy to pay 7 times the price of ABS by original cartridges. We can pay USD 20,00 for 1 KG (Bulk filament), and now we pay almost USD 150,00/Kg by original. I am a design engineer especialized in reverse engineering, programmer also, The cartridges are sold in US for USD 49,00 . The CUBE3D cartridges are protected by a chip from maxim DS28E01, I developed a emulator that solves it, completely legal.

    If you have interest email me
    Roberto Oliveira

  10. I have a 2nd Gen Cube with 2.0.3 firmware. I’m trying to swap out the Cube filament for standard 1.75mm like shown here (super easy to do) but the 1.75 seems to be just a wee bit too big for the jet. Does anyone know of any off-brand filament smaller than standard 1.75?

  11. I am using firmware 2.00.
    Although it starts to print with above operation, printing process suddenly aborts with the message “Print aborted Cartridge Error”.

    Did anybody have the same issue? And is there any solution to avoid this trouble.

    I would greatly appreciate if you could help me.

      1. Thanks, but I have a Cube 1st Gen. I have empty cartridges of various colors, and an almost full cartridge. Was just wondering if I will need to get 2 cartridges of my color of choice, empty one, and then try the hack. Or if I need to just match the spool color with the full cartridge. Does it get it’s temperature settings off the full cartridge?

        1. I have a 2nd Gen, but the colour of ABS doesn’t matter, using the CUBE 3D FREE device. The hack published at this post obligated you to have “not empty” and also “empty” cartridges of all colours. The hack at 1st Gen works only if you have 1 empty yellow plus 1 “not empty yellow”, 1 empty red and 1 “not empty red” ,,,,,,, so if you would like to use all colours you will need 2 original cartridges of each colour available … thus is much better to have the CUBE 3D FREE device … you’ll just need a “not empty” ABS and a “not empty PLA”

          1. People saves more than $2,30 per hour using this device, so 480,00/2,30 = 209 hours (~9 days) n the worst case, or USD 192,00/2,30 = 84 hours (~4 days) best case …. so it’s a very nice deal, the amount you save in 9 days allows saving $55 per day for the rest of the printer life ….

  12. You forget that the cube is not a pro printer. Not everybody will print 8 h per day with it. The usual user will print max 10/12h per week. If you sell you device $200/250 ok I could buy it right now. Sending $480 for something that we have no guaranty that it will do the job, it’s not safe for me. I prefer keep the money and buy a Ultimaker or the little Afinia which cost at $1,559 the price of 3 of your devices…

    1. There is a big discount in quantity, you pay just $192, so I suggest to buy in groups, or to resell it and earn money … the problem is that international freight charges are high, to buy just 1 unit alone. I am searching an international shipping company with low price, to allow the price to be lower.

    2. white wolf send me your email then I can give you a special discount. I think it’s important that you use and comprove the device, in this case people will buy with no fears. I guarantee you’ll be very happy using it, specially because actually we can buy 1 Kg since USD 13,50 …. what prints nearly 70 hours ….

  13. I recently purchased the Cube and now i’m so regret because the cartridge is so expensive and I can’t even hack it (I only saw the beginning of this hack page so i have about 10kg of the filament in stock….) . and it runs out so quick. I should have done more research on the Cube not just pick it because it’s the top 2 3D printer.

    Anyway, back to the hack, This is just my theory.
    If the cartridge system works as people says, the ID chip only can be read and can’t be written. The printer must have saved the cartridge ID inside as well as the remaining filament. Then If today we are able to reset the printer back to factory setting or some sort, that the cartridge ID should be erased and it should detected it as a full cartridge,

    I haven’t try this theory yet because i don’t know how to reset/reboot it back to factory setting. If someone knows how please give a try and share it with us. Cheers

    1. The protection chip DS28E01 cannot be copied, and can just be written with a secret. The data are protected by SHA-1 engine. This chips are written by Cubify on an external special device, and it’s impossible to be copied without the secret, thus if you reset the system nothing will change with the cartridge chip data.

  14. I have placed an order from Roberto. I spoked to him on the phone the other day. He said the device should delivery before the end of the Nov. I will be posting up the review of the device once i have recieved it and test it :)

    Roberto. I’m waiting!!!! XD

    Lazman from Brsibane Australia Singing off.

      1. I asked on his Facebook site for a video. What I have seen with some over seas companies is they say a product is ready but it isn’t, they take your money to put into developing the device. Roberto said he is working on a video.

        1. Hello Guys

          Don’t be worry …. the device now is working under a prototype board. The definitive boards are now under manufacturing, within few days are ready to assembly on automatic machines. I am manufacturing 1000 boards, so soon they are ready to ship. I think that this week the video is available on the net. I developed this device thinking in my own problem, because I was angry with the price of the original cartridges, in Brazil costs USD 130,00 per 300g, insane. I am a design engineer specialized in reverse engineering, and Senior programmer also, more than 20 Years of experience, I always unblock everything. I won’t waste my time with false information. The picture on website is temporary, when the definitive boards will be ready, the definitive picture will be available. I know why people are anxious to see working, because nobody in the world reach the objetive to unblock the chip with SHA-1 engine, but I developed a very clever solution, and now is being patented worldwide. All my life I worked with much more complex things, is not a single chip that will stop me. If the engineers from Cubify develop any solution to try to block my device, I will have a new firmware update for my device and will unblock again. The device was tested on Cube 3D firmware versions 2.05 2.06 2.07 and 2.08 …. working 100% perfect since 1 month ago. Nobody needs to update the firmware in the future I printed until now more than 300 hours using bulk filaments. I concluded that is a good printer, the problem is just the price of the cartridges. I am very happy, because now I am paying since USD 13,50 by bulk filaments from Taiwan, the material is better than the original from Cubify. I just now printed a big castle, 14 hours printing, if I had used original cartridge it would require 70% of the full cartridge, this in Brazil ~USD 90,00 and using the reel of filament I used 20% of 1 Kg, so USD 3,00 …. plus insane taxes of Brazil USD 5,00 …. LOL

    1. Hello my friend

      Thank you for your payment. Soon your device will be shipped to Australia. I hope you ddo a trip to Brazil soon, next Year is the worldcup, it will be nice !!!! I will keep you informed about the device. I am manufacturing 1000 units, due to the high sales …. Everybody is angry with the Cubify cartridges price.

  15. Now available a special hack device for CUBE X, duo, trio …. check on … the devices are completely undetectable by printer firmware, perfectly legal by all international laws. and works with all firmware versions, impossible to be blocked, however nobody needs to update to newer firmware future updates …. people will save a lot of money. as I am saving now LOL

    1. Howdy from Colorado… I’ve researched this enough to know it would solve several challenges I’m experiencing and I am interested in a Cube3Dfree for my 1st Generation Cube Printer. However, due to replacing the head so many times(NEVER PUT YOUR CUBE IN AN ENCLOSED CHAMBER!!!) my budget requires locating a group purchase plan. So, if anyone is also interested, please contact me. Also, Roberto… does your invention also allow a simple switch setting to allow my 1st Gen Cube to be able to use PLA? Or, am I forever destined to continue using ABS filament only?

      1. have you not been able to get the hack to work? i tried for so long with my 1st gen cube and am finally going with no problems at all. in the end just needed to downgrade to 1.0.6 and use the original hack, where i change from a non empty cartridge to an empty cartridge right before i click the print file. i’ve set up a new filament feed and am using octave filament with no problem whatsoever.

  16. I’m new to all this 3D printing stuff, and bought a first gen cube (firmware 1.10). I’m trying this hack to use a reel of 1.75mm abs filament for a reprapper I bought from ebay. The empty cartridge is black, the reel is black but the filament keeps slipping in the print head. Are not all filaments the same? Is there something in the print head I need to adjust (temperature, tension), or do I just need to buy the ‘right’ filament? In which case, can anyone tell me which is the right filament I need to get this hack to work?

    Thanks in advance.

      1. Thanks for the reply. Yes I noticed that the filament on the ‘standard’ reel was slightly thicker, but as most people said it worked with the 1.75mm filament I thought maybe I just got unlucky and bought the ‘wrong’ type and it had a higher melting temperature or something.

        So, before I buy any more reels of (standard 1.75mm) filament, is there any particular brand that anyone has got working reliably? (And did you have to tweak the print head first?)

    1. OK, I finally got around to opening up the print head, found the plate the pulley was attached to and slackened it off slightly. It worked! It gave me the ‘not enough filament’ message which I clicked through, and it printed! Yay!

      However, now I have another problem.

      The display panel was unresponsive and thought it might be a firmware problem, so I re-updated to v1.10 (which is what I was using before.) Now when I selected print it said the cartridge was empty and didn’t give me the option to continue. I tried loading a full cartridge to get to the file selection screen and then swap it out for the empty cartridge. But when I tried to print it said ‘Cartridge Removed’ and I had 30 seconds to replace it before the print aborted. Aaaargh!

      Have they updated their firmware to prevent this hack? If so has anyone got a link to an earlier version of the firmware (.hex file) that still works?

      1. I managed to find an old v1.07 firmware file hidden in my profile (searched for .hex files) so uploaded that to my cube. Now when I use the cartridge switch trick I get the ‘not enough filament’ warning that I can click through and still print! So looks like the latest v1.10 firmware has been patched to prevent replacing cartridges.

        I’d still be interested if anyone has a version of firmware later than v1.07 that still works.

        1. I have same problem with yours in updated firmware v1.10. I also knew the older version of firmware can make the cube use bulk materials. However, I cannot reach any previous version of firmware… how can I get the 1.07 or earlier? I have only v1.09 and v1.10 hex files…

          1. These are the hex files I’ve got for my gen1 cube: v0.24, v1.00, v1.06, v1.07 and v1.10.


            v1.10 doesn’t allow the cartridge swap trick. v1.07 does allow you to change cartridges, but doesn’t reset the amount of filament left in the ’empty’ cartridge as outlined by Kevin and others. v1.00 does reset the filament amount, but has a bug that stops the ‘firmware update’ button working. If you use this one, you’ll have to do a factory reset to start the cube in firmware loader mode. (Hold the round function button on the front of the Cube and plug the machine back in while continuing to hold the button. Note: this will remove all your saved settings!)

  17. I have got a question about the chip (eeprom) in the cart. What i have understood that the chip contains the amount and the color of the filament. When you feed the printer with your own supply (not with the original kart), the ‘amount’ data still decreases in the chip. What happens when the printer says when the amount is zero? Does it still work or stops?

  18. Not sure if anyone would be interested in this, i’ve been printing using a generic reel of plastic until the cartridge status changed to empty. I didn’t realise it would stop me from printing once it thinks that the cartridge is empty.

    Anyway, i figured there may be a way of editing the firmware, to stop it from checking for the cartridge in the first place, or make it think it’s full.

    I was able to load 3D Touch firmware straight onto the Cube printer, the menu worked, i could set the extruder temperature and manually extrude some plastic. The bed moved on one axis only.

    I’m sure there’s someone out there that could modify the firmware! I can modify, and have changed menu text, but need to actually change the routine that looks for the cartridge!

    1. Hey Kevin

      The firmware images are available for decompiling. However no one has listed opened the printer and found out what processor it is using. With that information… perhaps things could move forward.

      1. Whatever it is, it’s the same as the 3D Touch that they offered under the name of bits from bytes.

        I figured they’d just taken this design and refined it into the Cube. As i say, the cube booted straight up, and i could access everything. I should imagine there’s a few changes like I/O mapping and things like the extruder being direct drive rather than a motor and pulley.

      1. Which version of firmvare do you use? I’ve tried 2.07 and it doesn’t work, but after rollback to 2.00 version everything works perfect! Thank you for sharing this bug.

      2. Hey Dan. Thank you very much for sharing this information, so far works perfect, the printer works without cartridge while the message is abort print in the screen. Thanks again!

        1. Hi Max. I am about to try Dan’s workaround on my 2nd Gen. cube running 2.08. What third party filament did you end up using? Just want to makes sure the thickness won’t be an issue. Thanks. Bobo

          1. Yes, fully tested.

            Reset my empty cartridge to full about 5 times now.

            Downgrade to v2.0, put new cartridge in, start print, change to empty cartridge, abort print. It then writes the info from the full cartridge to the empty one.

            I then upgrade back to 2.08 and then continue to print with the empty cartridge.

          1. If you make a very small printing file(just one layer…) and after start printing with a full cartridge and change it to an empty cartridge during heating time. The Cube will owerwrite the empty cartridge with the full and you will get 2 full cartdidges.

          2. This is what i have found.
            On v2.0 install new full cartridge, choose print file, swap for old empty cartridge, when print finishes the printer then writes to the empty cartridge and re-sets it to full.

            I then upgraded back to V2.8 and print with an empty cartridge. When it runs out, i’ll just re-set it with V2.0 again.

        1. Kratter,
          were you able to get it to actually overwrite a cartridge by swapping them before it starts? does it tell you to replace a cartridge within 30 seconds still?
          and you are using a cartridge marked ’empty’ not just one without enough material, correct?
          thanks for the info

          1. Fuck You Roberto,

            You are to mis-informed people so you could your overprice crap! You are not contribute the topic, you are fuck pest! Stop hijack this post with you cheap tactic!

    1. jp,
      I have mine working now with 1.06
      i have a black cartridge marked as empty and one that is just running low
      (not sure exactly what the cartridge combo needs to be but this works)
      and i keep the low cartridge in the printer, go to the file, and before clicking it, change to the empty cartridge, and then just click print anyway

    1. Firmware 1.06 on a 1st gen cube resets the volume but not the colour (tested with full white, empty black cartridges.) Does anyone know if the colour information stored on the cartridge actually has an affect on anything in the printing? Head temp? Bed temp? Feed rate?

  19. Hi all,

    I’ve got Kevin Glover’s cartridge swap method working on 2.0. However my filament seems to be too thick for the extruder. Does anybody had any luck with PLA filaments? If so, from where?


      1. I’m using 1.75mm PLA plastic filament, when I’m feeding it through during the “load cartridge” settings, the print head starts making a clicking sound, and no filament comes out of the nozzle. It seems to be either an issue with the diameter of the filament, or perhaps a temprature issue (the PLA spool says 190C -230C is the ideal melting temperature)

  20. I’m using 1.75mm PLA plastic filament, when I’m feeding it through during the “load cartridge” settings, the print head starts making a clicking sound, and no filament comes out of the nozzle. It seems to be either an issue with the diameter of the filament, or perhaps a temprature issue (the PLA spool says 190C -230C is the ideal melting temperature)

    1. Take the cover off the extruder, supplied with the printer should be a spanner, use this to loosen of the tensioner which applies pressure to the filament on the drive gear. Feed the filament through and then apply a bit of pressure whilst tightening the nut back up.

      Supposedly the standard filament is slightly smaller than 1.75mm but it’s not an issue. I had to do this the first time I used generic filament. Couple of tweaks and not had any problem since…

      1. Thanks Kevin, that helped but I’m still not having any success.

        It goes through the extruder fine, but nothing comes out of the printhead, it looks like the filament is too thick to make it through the hole under the extruder. Unless I’m missing something, I think the tolerances are off, or perhaps it is still a temprature issue. Either way, the filament seems to be the cause.

        1. If you’re getting a clicking it’s the gear drive unable to grip the filament. It took me a bit of messing around with mine. Try this, go through the loading procedure and when it starts trying to feed the filament through press the round button. This will cancel it and return the head to home. Whilst the extruder is still hot, see if you can feed the filament through manually, there should be no resistance from the extruder motor.. If you can, then it’s just a case of setting the tensioner, if you can’t it’s likely there’s a blockage in the extruder.

      2. Same thing. I can load filament and it’;s printing, but sometimes there are some jams which cause the gaps or “missprints”… Loosing the tensioner didn’t help. I think maybe it’s possible to enlarge the hole inside the hotend (not nozzle)… But it’s too risky, i think.
        Any ideas where I could find 1.7 not 1.75 filament?

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