No matter how far down the 3D printing rabbit hole we descend, chances are pretty good that most of us won’t ever need to move filament from one spool to another. But even so, you’ve got to respect this purely mechanical filament respooler design, and you may want to build one for yourself just because.
We were tipped off to [Miklos Kiszely]’s respooler via the very enthusiastic video below from [Bryan Vines] at the BV3D YouTube channel. He explains the need for transferring filament to another spool as stemming from the switch by some filament manufacturers to cardboard spools for environmental reasons. Sadly, these spools tend to shed fibrous debris that can clog mechanisms; transferring filament to a plastic spool can help mitigate that problem.
The engineering that [Miklos] put into his respooler design is pretty amazing. Bearings excepted, the whole thing is 3D printed. A transmission made of herringbone gears powers both the take-up spool and the filament guide, which moves the incoming filament across the width of the spool for even layers. The mechanism to do this is fascinating, consisting of a sector gear with racks on either side. The racks are alternately engaged by the sector gear, moving a PTFE filament guide tube back and forth to create even layers on the takeup spool. Genius!
Unlike most of [Ivan]’s creations, the spool holder isn’t actually 3D printed. For this job, he turned to a laser cutter instead, cutting the parts out of 5 mm plywood. A handful of layers of wood bolt together to form the frame. The frame holds several bearings for the outer rims of the spool itself to ride on, allowing it to spin freely as the extruder tugs on the filament. Reducing the rolling resistance of the spool is key when working with such large, heavy spools, and reduces the chances of the filament not feeding properly.
[David] intended to 3D print a spectrogram of a gravity wave, and wanted the graph to go from blue to yellow. Only having a single-color printer, he needed color shift filament, but couldn’t find any blue-to-yellow filament online.
Thus, he elected to create it himself. He started by creating a spiral model in Fusion 360, with a hexagonal cross-section and slowly tapering off to a point. Slicing and printing this in blue results in a filament that slowly fades down to a point. The opposite shape can then be printed in yellow, tapering from a point up to a full-sized filament. The trick is to print one shape, then the other, by mashing the G-code together and changing the filament from blue to yellow along the way. The result is the blue and yellow plastic gets printed together into a single filament that gradually changes from one to the other.
Notably, the filament is smaller than the original filaments used to create it, so it’s necessary to run slightly different settings when using it. [David] has shared the models on Thingiverse for those eager to recreate the technique at home. His resulting gravity wave print is impressive, demonstrating that this technique works well!
While the price of 3D printers has come down quite a lot in the past few years, filament continues to be rather pricey especially for those doing a lot of printing. This has led to some people looking to alternatives for standard filament, including recycling various forms of plastic. We’ve seen plenty of builds using various materials, but none so far have had this level of quality control in the final project.
What sets this machine apart from others is that it’s built around an Arduino Nano and includes controls that allow the user to fine-tune a PID controller during the conversion of the recycled plastic into filament. Different plastic bottles have different material qualities, so once the machine is started it can be adjusted to ensure that the filament produced has the exact specifications for the printer. The PCB is available for download, and the only thing that needs to be done by hand besides feeding the machine to start it is to cut the plastic into strips for the starter spool. There is also a separate 3D printed tool available to make this task easy, though.
Interested in experimenting with your own multi-color filament? [Turbo_SunShine] says to just print your own, and experiment away! Now, if you’re thinking that 3D printing some filament sounds inefficient at best (and a gimmick at worst) you’re not alone. But there’s at least one use case that it makes sense for, and maybe others as well.
There is such a thing as bi-color filament (like MatterHackers Quantum PLA) which can be thought of as filament that is split down the center into two different colors. Printing with such filament can result in some trippy visuals, like objects whose color depends in part on the angle from which they are viewed. Of course, for best results it makes sense to purchase a factory-made spool, but for light experimenting, it’s entirely possible to 3D print your own bi-color filament. Back when [Turbo_SunShine] first shared his results, this kind of stuff wasn’t available off the shelf like it is today, but the technique can still make sense in cases where buying a whole spool isn’t called for.
Here is how it works: the 3D model for filament is a spiral that is the right diameter for filament, printed as a solid object. The cross-section of this printed “filament” is a hexagon rather than a circle, which helps get consistent results. To make bi-color filament, one simply prints the first half of the object in one color, then performs a color change, and finishes the print with a second color. End result? A short coil of printed “filament”, in two colors, that is similar enough to the normal thing to be fed right back into the printer that created it. This gallery of photos from [_Icarus] showcases the kind of results that are possible.
What do you think? Is 3D printing filament mainly an exercise in inefficiency, or is it a clever leveraging of a printer’s capabilities? You be the judge, but it’s pretty clear that some interesting results can be had from the process. Take a few minutes to check out the video (embedded below) for some additional background.
Plastic is a remarkable material in many ways. Cheap, durable, and versatile, it is responsible for a large percentage of the modern world we live in. As we all know, though, it’s not without its downsides. Its persistence in the environment is quite troubling, so any opportunity we can take to reduce its use is welcome. This 3D printed machine, although made out of plastic, is made out of repurposed water bottles that have been turned into the filament for the 3D printer.
While there’s not too much information available on the site, what we gather is that the machine cuts a specific type of plastic water bottle made out of PET plastic into strips, and then feeds the strips into a heated forming tool. The tool transforms the strips into the filament shape and spools them so they are ready to feed back into a 3D printer. As a proof of concept, it seems as though this machine was made from repurposed plastic, but it could also be made using whatever filament you happen to have on hand.
As far as recycling goes, this is a great effort to keep at least some of it out of landfills and oceans. Unfortunately, plastic can’t be recycled endlessly like metal, as it will eventually break down. But something like this could additionally save on some filament costs for those with access to these types of bottles. Other options for creating your own filament also include old VHS tapes, but you will likely need a separate machine for that.
There’s a fine line between simple feature creep and going over the top when it comes to project design. It’s hard to say exactly where that line is, but we’re pretty sure that this filament dry box has at least stepped over it, and might even have erased it entirely.
Sure, we all know the value of storing 3D printer filament under controlled conditions, to prevent the hygroscopic plastics from picking up atmospheric moisture. But [Sasa Karanovic] must really, REALLY hate the printing artifacts that result. Starting with a commercially available dry box that already had a built-in heating element, [Sasa] took it to the next level by replacing the controller and display with an ESP32. He added a fan to improve air circulation inside the enclosure and prevent stratification, as well as temperature and humidity sensors. Not satisfied with simply switching the heating element on and off at specific setpoints, he also implemented a PID loop to maintain a constant temperature. And of course, there’s a web UI and an API available for third-party control and monitoring.
The video below details [Sasa]’s design thoughts and goes into some detail on construction and performance. And while we may kid that this design is over-the-top, what really comes through is that this is a showcase for design ideas not only for one application, but for hardware projects in general. There are certainly simpler heated dry box designs, and zero-cost solutions as well, but sometimes going overboard has its own value too.