Improving Mister Screamer; an 80 Decibel Filament Alarm

I created a prototype 3D printer filament alarm that worked, but the process also brought some new problems and issues to the surface that I hadn’t foreseen when I first started. Today I’m going to dive further into the prototyping process to gain some insight on designing for a well-specified problem. What I came up with is an easy to build pendant that passively hangs from the filament and alerts you if anything about that changes.

I began with a need to know when my 3D printer was out of filament, so that I could drop whatever I was doing and insert a new spool of filament right up against the end of the previous spool. By doing this within four minutes of the filament running out, printing very large jobs could continue uninterrupted. The device I designed was called Mister Screamer.

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Stop Printing Air with a Filament Sensor

If you have had a 3D printer for awhile, you know the heartbreak of coming in to check on an 8-hour print only to find that in hour 7 you ran out of filament (or the filament broke) and your printer has been dutifully moving around for no reason. [Chuck Hellebuyck] knows and he decided to make a filament sensor he found on Thingiverse.

Finding a part on Thingiverse and printing it probably doesn’t warrant much attention. But if you watch the video, below, it is a good example of how things from Thingiverse don’t always meet your needs. The microswitch [Chuck] had was bigger than the design used. So he loaded the STL file into TinkerCAD and fixed it. He shows you exactly how he did it. That’s a useful skill because you never know when you’ll need to modify some part you’ve found on the Internet.

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Let’s Prototype! This Filament End Needs 80 Decibels

Reaching the end of a spool of filament when 3D printing is inevitable. The result ranges from minor annoyance to ruined print. Recently, I needed to print a number of large jobs that used just over half a spool of plastic each. Unwilling to start every print with a fresh spool (and shelve a 60% used one afterward), I had a problem to solve. What my 3D printer needed was filament monitor, or at least that’s what I thought.

After reviewing some projects and aftermarket options, I ended up making my own. Like most prototypes, it wasn’t an instant success, but that’s fine. One of the goals of prototyping is not only to validate that the problems you’re solving are the same ones you think exist, but also to force other problems and issues you may not have considered to the surface. Failure is only a waste if nothing is learned, and the faster and cheaper that learning happens, the better.

Sensible design steps also help minimize waste, so I started by looking at what kind of solutions already existed.

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