Towards Sensible Packaging For 3D Printer Filament

Filament-based 3D printers are remarkably wasteful. If you buy a kilogram of filament from your favorite supplier, the odds are that it will come wrapped around a plastic spool weighing about 250 grams. Use the filament, and that spool will be thrown in the trash. Very, very few products have such wasteful packaging as 3D printer filament, with the possible exception of inkjet cartridges or getting a receipt with your purchase at CVS.

For the last few years, [Richard Horne], better known as RichRap, has been working towards a solution to the problem of the wasteful spools for 3D printer filament. Now, it looks like he has a solution with the MakerSpool. It’s the perfect solution for a 3D printing ecosystem that doesn’t waste 20% of the total plastic on packaging.

The design of the MakerSpool is fairly straightforward and also 3D printable. It’s a plastic filament spool, just a shade over 200mm in diameter, consisting of two halves that screw together. Add in some RepRap ‘teardrop’ logos, and you have a spool that should fit nearly any machine, and will accept any type of filament.

The trick with this system is, of course, getting the filament onto the spool in the first place. Obviously, filament manufacturers would have to ship unspooled filament that’s somehow constrained and hopefully vacuum packed. Das Filament, a filament manufacturer out of Germany, has already tested this and it looks like they have their process down. It is possible to ship a kilogram of 1.75 filament without a spool, and held together with zip ties. Other filament manufacturers also have packaging processes that are amenable to this style of packaging.

Whether this sort of packing will catch on is anyone’s guess, but there are obvious advantages. There is less waste for the environmentalists in the crowd, but with that you also get reduced shipping costs. It’s a win-win for any filament manufacturer that could also result in reduced costs passed onto the consumer.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Welding Plastic Filament

There are a lot of neat toys and accessories that rely on 3D printing filament. The 3Doodler is a 3D printing pen, or pretty much an extruder in a battery-powered portable package. You can make your own filament with a Filastruder, and of course 3D printers themselves use up a lot of filament. [Bodet]’s project for this year’s Hackaday Prize gives those tiny scraps of leftover filament a new life by welding filament together.

The EasyWelder [Bodet] is designing looks a little bit like a tiny hair straightener; it has a temperature control, a power switch, and two tips that grip 1.7 or 3mm diameter filament and weld them together. It works with ABS, PLA, HIPS, Nylon, NinjaFlex, and just about every other filament you can throw at a printer. By welding a few different colors of filament together, you can create objects with different colors or mechanical properties. It’s not as good as dual extrusion, but it does make good use of those tiny bits of filament left on a mostly used spool.

Since the EasyWelder can weld NinjaFlex and other flexible filaments, it’s also possible to weld NinjaFlex to itself. What does that mean? Custom sized O-rings, of course. You can see a video of that below.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

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Finally, turning plastic pellets into 3D printer filament

Here’s the situation: a kilogram of 3D printer filament costs about $50. A kilogram of plastic pellets costs less than a tenth of that. Does anyone have a solution to this problem?

For years now, the general consensus was making your own 3D printer filament at home was nigh impossible, dealing with temperatures, pressures, and tolerances that home-built machines simply can’t handle. [Bradley] sent in a filament extruder he made because he was disturbed at this current mindset that desktop filament factories have huge technical issues that have yet to be overcome.

[Bradley]’s extruder is based on the Lyman Filament Extruder, a machine that has successfully demonstrated taking plastic pellets, forming them into a filament, and having this filament used in the production of 3D printed parts. [Bradley]’s improvements include a variable-speed motor, a larger hot end, and an automatic timing system to produce set quantities of printer filament.

Of course, since Inventables threw $40,000 at the problem of creating filament at home there were bound to be more than a few successful designs making their way out into the public. When we last covered the developments of home filament manufacturing, the Filabot seemed to be in the lead. Now with [Bradley] (and  [Lyman])’s machines turning out usable filament, it’s only a matter of time before the 40 grand prize is snatched.