A New Spin On Empty Filament Spools For Part Storage

Empty spools from 3D printer filament are the kind of thing that begs to be repurposed, and one option is [3d-printy]’s vertical filament spool parts drawer design. The way this solution works is by using the spool to hold twelve vaguely pie-shaped drawers that can be individually unlocked and removed entirely, which makes accessing their contents (or dumping them out) much easier. This method requires the spools to be oriented vertically, so it ends up handling a bit like a Rolodex.

One downside of the design is that it requires two inserts to be installed on the inside of the spool walls, which act as guide rails and lock points for the drawers. Another is that managing a vertical spool can be a bit awkward, given its lack of flat surfaces. Happily, there is an option for a matching stand that not only provides a flat base, but keeps any accidentally-unlocked drawers from falling out and spilling their contents.

The project files are OpenSCAD files, which allows easy customization for different spool manufacturers and dimensions, and [3d-printy] provides measurements for some common ones. Another nice element of this design is that no single part uses more than 30 grams of filament, which makes printing them an attractive way to use up the last bits of filament rolls.

We’ve seen drawer-style storage for filament spools before, but haven’t seen a design quite like this one before. Watch an overview of the drawer design as well as the spool holders in the videos, embedded below.

26 thoughts on “A New Spin On Empty Filament Spools For Part Storage

  1. I don’t get to do much 3D printing these days, so my sense of things is a bit dull. What % of a spool’s filament do y’all think would be needed to make the drawers?

    1. This was my take away too. Seems like a lot of work to replicate a parts bin that can be bought for $5. Recycling is nice, but this is stretching the definition of recycling IMO

    2. 100%, because you will have some failed prints, then notice that not your spools are all the same because they come from different sources, so the here proposed thingobject won´t work.
      Then you will start changing the openscad script to get it right with the spools you use, and at some point will just be fed up and buy for peanuts some nice standard stackable boxes from your ***shop.

      Instant relief, and another time-consuming project that will never be finished.

      1. hehe, it shouldn’t be near that bad, as the interior spooling void of a spool can be on nearly any dimension, but has a very predictable shape (it really can’t be anything else), which this takes account of very well with its parameters by the looks of it. And as the spool geometry isn’t at all important for the draw function, its just providing a frame the draw runners in that fun spoke wheel shape can be attached to so measure carefully but lean to the cautious side and you will get slightly smaller than they could be by functional draws..

        Seriously I’d think less than 10%, 20% of a spool max to print the whole thing – not like it needs 100% infill or any other setting that really eats plastic. But that is for me missing the point, the real genius of this sort of separate parts and assemble method is it can use the tiny tiny dregs of a spool you won’t trust for a serious project, if it fails or runs out part way through draw x, big deal it was waste filament you can’t really use anyway. So of your 8million nearly empty spools you get draws for a few, but you have properly emptied them all so the empties you don’t repurpose can be disposed of (sensibly – or if needed deliberately given draws, as its a useful looking parts store)..

    3. I think making the whole thing horizontally would be better. It would eliminate problems like drawers falling out and such. Would also have the added benefits of being able to stack them on top of each other, parts wouldn’t scramble in their drawers as much, and you could still spin the spool without the drawer next to it spilling out(unlike the drawer below the open drawer in the vertical design).

      I like the look of your design, and I think the fact the drawrs are lockable is awesome! If I could get myself to print an horizontal design for myself you can be sure I’ll get some inspiration from this ;)

      1. There is a lidded variant demoed in the video, and personally I think the vertical orientation has its use. I’m wondering about stocking up on spools for vertical ones in the workshop – being able to just spin the whole spool full of draws to find the one with the right length bolt, size nut, clip etc means I can hang them all off a broomstick (perhaps even mounted on the ceiling) near the machine tools and keep the shelves for things that won’t take being tossed around so much..

        Not sure about it at all, but it certainly would let me use that space reasonably well, much better than I currently do, where normal horizontal draws already exist, and are better than a rotating draw stack in use but there is airspace that could be filled.

  2. Das Filament, among other brands, just sell filament refills so you don’t have to throw away spools, a most sensible use.
    Some other brands sell with cardboard spools which is also not too bad imo. Or just cheapo wire spools like low-cost brand 3DPlastx (which is pretty good, and not chinese for one)

    1. Yeah, cardboard spools seems fine. Why use even more plastic? The cable (not filament) i bought recently from some big company came on cardboard spools too. I think for really big lengths they use wood instead because its more solid.

      1. The dilemma is, plastic packaging uses 40% less energy to manufacture than comparable cardboard packaging because it’s both stronger and lighter, and paper manufacturing uses a ton of fuels.

        1. Plus, cardboard uses up 20 times more water, and it decomposes into methane in landfills, and it takes up more mass and space in transport (=even more fuels).

          But it’s a rather academic concern, seeing how you’re already wasting kilograms of plastic in the first place printing pointless trinkets.

          1. My company uses 3D printing extensively in biomedical instrumentation prototyping. But we’d be happy to print some “pointless trinkets” for you for $10k if you like.

            I can’t believe that in 2021 there are still people who think additive manufacturing is a fad or novelty. I hope that wasn’t really the intended implication…

          2. It’s rather specious to think that because YOU print medical prototypes, that all the hundreds of thousands if not millions of hobbyists out there are printing anything more useful than a toothbrush holder.

            The point is, it’s hypocritical to complain about the environmental impact of the plastic spool when you’re still spending kilogram after kilogram of plastic by the filament itself.

          3. >I burn my cardboard in my backyard.

            And contribute to air quality problems. Wood and paper burning in domestic fireplaces is a major source of airborne small particulate matter comparable to second hand tobacco smoke.

          4. Ah but are you wasting any plastic at all?
            Even the humble toothbrush holder you mention would have to be shipped, and packaged, given shiny retail packaging at some point. There is a great deal of waste plastic in that, not to mention wasted energy in the transport as we should all know 99% of all this crap comes from places with lax heath and safety and low wages, somewhere far far away across the oceans…

            Made at home reduces nearly all that packaging and most of the shipping costs, while getting you exactly the toothbrush holder you needed…

            And sensibly a spool made of plastic could like ye ol’ glass milk bottles and just be reused time after time, it doesn’t have to be waste or even repurposed… Making its environmental impact nearly zero in its own right, and a clear net gain overall by reducing the vast quantities of plastic and fuel used in shipping complete products. Worth noting 3d printing by its nature often uses vastly less plastic than injection moulded – any shape and size object can be easily hollow/infilled only to the level needed structurally, where the injection mould would likely be a solid object as the raw materials are cheap and a single injection process is much cheaper and easier than multipart and bonded hollow stuff…

          5. >Ah but are you wasting any plastic at all?

            Most likely you printer three or four failed versions before you got one that you like, and in the end the only reason you thought of making a toothbrush holder is because you bought the 3D printer – not because you really needed one (where did you keep the brush before? In a cup).

            Again, all these trinkets are just going to landfill in the end, they’re not recycled, so if the concern is how much plastic the spool uses – look in the mirror.

          6. @dude > not because you really needed one

            Well by that argument did you need the cup you may have put it in or even the toothbrush itself in the first place. Bit of paste on a finger worked (at least somewhat well enough) before toothbrushes and toothpaste, no reason you couldn’t do so now.

            But if you did happen to need a new toothbrush holder, hat stand, headphone clip, cable management comb, ….., phone stand – because you live in the real world not fairly land. Printing it yourself at home, or at least on demand near your home, is a clear environmental winner – and that is even if you assume a pathetic print success rate of something like 10% – just think how much waste plastic there is in the gates on injection molds, the shear number of plastic bits and bobs mass-produced and shipped multiple times beyond the actual demand that are in the end all just waste.. When you take a more sane assumption that most basic prints like the toothbrush holder are good enough first time more often than not – which with how reliable even the budget 3d printer has become, and how standardised most common objects are, so that downloaded model is just the right size, with the right tolerances – as its already been printed god knows how many times and the first few failures give corrective feedback…

  3. I’ve been hoarding my spools for years, but so far I have only found them to be most useful in recycled form to use as extension cord and other wire storage. I had another idea to make a crazy push-cart wagon thing for the kids, but that’s about as far as I want to go with reusing them.

    1. Think you would find you really do – those rails are very thin, put any load in the draws and the whole thing will just pop apart. The whole mechanism is independent of the spool in function, which is great as it makes it easy to adapt to any spool, but does definitely rely on the spools rigidity to take the load.

  4. Ingenuity, creativity, resourcefulness, re-birthing an expired use,……. I like the way you think. I also think that by sharing an idea can lead to other ideas and so on, eg the horizontal stack – interesting, because they would not act like a “ball mill” and each could be held in place simply by adding a lug on the bottom which could sit in a drill hole. I am always looking for looking for small parts storage for metal and plastic hobby bits as well as electronics (model railways – don’t get me started). Carousel storage affords more economic “length of storage” when length of wall is limited.
    You’ve got me thinking …… Good idea!

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