Fail Of The Week: How Not To Build A Filament Extruder

It would be great if you could create your own filament. On the face of it, it seems easy to do, but as [Thomas Sanladerer] found out when he was a student, there are a lot of details that can bedevil your design. His extruder sort of works, but he wouldn’t suggest duplicating his effort. In fact, he hopes you can learn what not to do if you try to do it yourself.

In all fairness, [Thomas] was a low-budget student and was trying to economize. For example, he tried using a drill to drive the auger. Why not? It looks like a drill bit. But he found out that wasn’t satisfactory and moved to a pair of wiper motors with their built-in gear train.

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A Featherweight Direct Drive Extruder In A Class Of Its Own

Even a decade later, homebrew 3D printing still doesn’t stop when it comes to mechanical improvements. These last few months have been especially kind to lightweight direct-drive extruders, and [lorinczroby’s] Orbiter Extruder might just set a paradigm for a new kind of direct drive extruder that’s especially lightweight.

Weighing in at a mere 140 grams, this setup features a 7.5:1 gear reduction that’s capable of pushing filament at speeds up to 200 mm/sec. What’s more, the gear reduction style and Nema 14 motor end up giving it an overall package size that’s smaller than any Nema 17 based extruder. And the resulting prints on the project’s Thingiverse page are clean enough to speak for themselves. Finally, the project is released as open source under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share-Alike license for all that (license-respecting!) mischief you’d like to add to it.

This little extruder has only been around since March, but it seems to be getting a good amount of love from a few 3D printer communities. The Voron community has recently reimagined it as the Galileo. Meanwhile, folks with E3D Toolchangers have been also experimenting with an independent Orbiter-based tool head. And the Annex-Engineering crew has just finished a few new extruder designs like the Sherpa and Sherpa-Mini, successors to the Ascender, all of which derive from a Nema 14 motor like the one in the Orbiter. Admittedly, with some similarity between the Annex and Orbiter designs, it’s hard to say who inspired who. Nevertheless, the result may be that we’re getting an early peek into what modern extruders are starting to shape into: smaller steppers and more compact gear reduction for an overall lighter package.

Possibly just as interesting as the design itself is [lorinczroby’s] means of sharing it. The license terms are such you can faithfully replicate the design for yourself, provided that you don’t profit off of it, as well as remix it, provided that you share your remix with the same license. But [lorinczroby] also negotiated an agreement with the AliExpress vendor Blurolls Store where Blurolls sells manufactured versions of the design with some proceeds going back to [lorinczroby].

This is a clever way of sharing a nifty piece of open source hardware. With this sharing model, users don’t need to fuss with fabricating mechanically complex parts themselves; they can just buy them. And buying them acts as a tip to the designer for their hard design work. On top of that, the design is still open, subject to remixing as long as remixers respect the license terms. In a world where mechanical designers in industry might worry about having their IP cloned, this sharing model is a nice alternative way for others to both consume and build off of the original designer’s work while sending a tip back their way.

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Benchmarking A Garbage Disposal Using The 3DBenchy Tugboat

We’ve always had a love-hate relationship with 3DBenchy, the tugboat-shaped 3D printer calibration target. On one hand, it’s incredibly useful to have a common, widely used, and challenging benchmark object to evaluate printer performance and improve tuning, but we’d somehow like to get back the countless frustrated hours we’ve spent trying to get the damn thing perfect with various printers. So, it was with no little joy that we watched the video below by [Eric R Mockler], in which he uses 3DBenchy prints to benchmark his newest acquisition: a new-in-box garbage disposal he scored off Craigslist. Take that, tugboat!

[Eric] is considering using the disposal as the first step in a failed-print-recycling method to ultimately turn the waste back into filament, presumably to print more tugboats. The tiny bits produced by the disposal should provide a reasonable substitute for pelleted plastic feedstock going into a filament extruder, if the disposal is up to the task, that is. Reasoning that any device capable of grinding chicken bones should handle little plastic tugboats just as well, [Eric] gave it shot, and found that the ⅓-horsepower disposal had no problem grinding even 100%-infill PLA prints.

The video is short and to-the-point, so we’ll even excuse the portrait orientation, just this once. If you’re considering recycling your failed prints, too, you’ll also need a filament extruder, and we’ve got you covered with a low-cost version, or a high-throughput one.

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Print Your Own Filament

Ask anyone with a 3D printer what they make the most. They’ll probably say “trash.” There are extra pieces, stuff that oozes out of the extruder, support material, parts that didn’t stick to the bed, or just parts that needed a little tweaking to get right. No matter what you do, you are going to wind up with a lot of scraps. It would be great if you could recycle all this, and [3D Printing Nerd] looks at the FelFil Evo Filament extruder that promises it can do just that. You can see the video below.

As you’d expect, the device is a motorized auger that extrudes filament through a hot end not dissimilar to your printer’s hot end. You have to run a bag of special material through it first to clean out the plastic path. After that, you can create filament from standard pellets or pieces of old plastic.

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Filament Extruder Pumps Out 1kg/hour!

3D printers are awesome, and while the plastic filament may not be as much as a rip off as printer ink (yet), it’s still marked up at least 500%! If you really want to break free, you’re going to need your own filament extruder.

ABS, a typical printing material, will run you about $30 USD per kilogram. Don’t get us wrong, that will go a long way — but did you know ABS pellets (technically processed MORE than filament) can be as cheap as $3-4/kg?

What if you could buy the pellets, and make your own filament with them? If you do a lot of printing, this could save you a lot of money. We’ve seen lots of different filament extruders here on Hackaday, and here’s yet another iteration — capable of extruding at an extremely fast rate of 1kg per hour! [Ian McMill] was inspired by [Xabbax’s] Low Cost Filament Extruder, and has put together an excellent Instructable guide on how to make your own — with his own flair of course.

Take a look!

The LATHON Dual Nozzle 3D Printer


Our friends at Freeside Atlanta have been keeping busy despite the city-stopping snowstorms they’ve been suffering recently. This time it’s a 3D printer with dual extrusion: the LATHON printer. [Nohtal] bought his first 3D printer only two years ago, but his experiences led him to build his own to overcome some of the issues he encountered with standard printers.

The LATHON keeps the bed stable and instead moves only the nozzles, using Bowden extrusion to reduce the weight on the moving parts. A key feature is the addition of a second nozzle, which usually limits the print area. The LATHON, however, maintains a 12″x9″x8″ build volume thanks to the Bowden extruders. [Nohtal] documents the majority of his build process on Freeside’s blog, including using a plastic from GE called Ultem 2300 for the print bed, and running the printer through its paces with a slew of materials: ABS, PLA, HIPS, Nylon, TPE, Wood, and Carbon Fiber. You can find more information on the Kickstarter page or at

Check out some videos below!

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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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