Empty Filament Spool Ideas

What to do with empty filament spools? That question has been asked for some years now. I have seen it asked more frequently in Facebook printer groups during the past few months. The answer has not changed much over the years. Some filament providers have changed from using plastic to cardboard, but there are plenty who continue using plastic. Filamentive accepts returns of their 2.3 kg spools. Stratasys accepts returns of their spools as well. AzureFilm offers a reward of 1 kg for the return of their spools. Customers get 1kg of PETG for ten empty returned spools. If you live near New Zealand, your empty spools will be gladly accepted by a filament provider with the moniker wingmaster in the Reprap Forum. If these solutions do not help you, then read on for things you can make.

Out of the Ordinary

Note: Right click and choose “open image in new tab” to see larger versions of the renders.

Stackable 3D Filament Spool Garden

by Twiesner

I had many ideas about renders for this model. Pinched for time, this was one I completed. I think this arrangement would work as well in a house garden as it would in public spaces.

Spool recycling Jewels or stones carousel

by 3D-MO

I think this model shows that a nice looking tray can be made from any filament spool with a little effort.

Turnable Paint Holder

by mariuspeed

Beyond a paint holder, I see the beginning of a waterfall.

Stool Made with an Empty Spool

by Imprenta3D

This stool was made for the inventor’s child. It would be nice to have compartments on the side and something on the top as a cushion.

Empty Spool Table

by mrigsby

My thoughts for this table are to add compartments for increased function. LED lights taped to the center and covered similar to the lamp below would be exciting.

Filament Roll The One Ring Lamp

by Norgaard87

Very good idea for making a lamp. I can see this also with a long stem.

Filament Spool Spray Paint Turntable

by WildRoseBuilds

The inventor wrote in his Youtube comment section that the filament spool he used was an old Hatchbox spool. He mentioned that Esun was the only brand he had seen recently that used similar spools.

Spool Tree House

by Loaders

This could be the first house in a fantasy city. A group called Digital Taxidermy made structures from filament spools and their kickstarter campaign was funded; Spool Tower . Their Ye Olde Taxidermee Shoppee file is free, the rest must be purchased.

Spool Walls Tower Block Door

by Tonybro001

Add this to a fantasy city group. A few of the buildings could look like this with variations. Miniature furniture could be inside.

Empty Spool Magnet Fishing Reel

by Hammerdan8617

This looks like such a great idea. I would like to see the inventor fishing with this model.

Spool Extension Cord Winder

by luckyx182

I had a difficult time finding words to describe this print. It is a simple cord winder, but the fact that luckyx182 created it on a desktop printer is amazing. I see it as a hallmark moment for desktop printing.

Lots of Compartment Holders

There are many models, yet they are different from each other. Intended contents played a role and how one prefers to pull an object seems to have contributed, too.

Organizer Boxes +

Organizer Boxes Only

Is A Chair Cushion Possible With colorFabb LW-PLA?

Upon seeing an announcement about colorFabb’s LW-PLA, my first thought was cushions. The filament was on back order at the time and I waited a few months for it to arrive. I waited again before I tried printing with the filament as I learned a direct drive extruder was best. Finally, in February I was able to begin printing. I wanted to assess its squish factor after foaming and followed the advice of a couple of people who had experimented with it, namely, RichRap3d and Stefan of CNC Kitchen. I tried a few different methods, but learned that there was not much of a squish factor. I was disappointed. The photo below shows some tests.

LW-PLA filament test
LW-PLA filament tests
LW-PLA filament test 2
.2 mm space test

The test in which I placed .2 mm spaces between layers was the most anguishing. How could it not squish? It seemed the filament was just too strong. Then I started to wonder how strong it was. Was it strong enough to support hundreds of pounds? Could it support hundreds of pounds in a spiral shape, similar to thick wire in an inner spring mattress ? Maybe I could still make cushions, just not how I originally intended.

LW-PLA filament test - spiral
Spiral test

I created a model consisting of spirals between two flat layers of a small cube. To my amazement it squished! Not only squished, it returned to its original position. This happened many times. The next test was to determine if the same thing happened when I stood on the spirals. This brought me to my other goal for PLA foam – shoe soles. I wanted to return to my quest of making my own slipper and shoes. This was to be the next challenge.

Spring cushion test
3d model of spring cushion test

I designed a sole with holes around the edges to make it easier for hand sewing. I printed one sole with spirals and a corresponding sole without spirals as I did not want to use supports to print a top flat layer. I sewed the slipper together, mostly following McCall’s slipper pattern M6449. The video below shows the test.

As you can hear in the video, the slippers are rather noisy. I attributed the noise to the top free layer rubbing against the spirals. The small test square did not make a sound when squished. Another test was in order. I needed to print the two layers as one piece. The video below shows me stepping on a 3d print consisting of spirals, attached top layer, and two walls.

Sound test 1

My thoughts were that the print’s sound was mostly due to the walls on the side. I placed them in the model to facilitate formation of the top layer and to connect them to another panel. It was contributing to the sound, therefore, I removed them before recording the next video.

Sound test 2

The print still made a sound when deflated, but I think it can be muffled a bit by covering it with cotton batting and fabric. Printing with water soluble supports may reduce the sound as well, due to removal of the loose material generated from lack of supports. The shoes I made were very comfortable except for the heel area. I did have two layers of cotton batting; however, that is something I will add to any shoe I make, regardless of the sole material. When I sat on the print for cushion testing, it was comfortable, but more height was needed. I will conduct more tests sometime in the future.

Software for 3D Printing – 3D Modeling Software/Slicers/3D Printer Hosts

Here you will find an overview of the best 3D modelling software, slicer programs and 3D printer host software. We’ve rounded up the cream of the crop.

Source: Software for 3D Printing – 3D Modeling Software/Slicers/3D Printer Hosts

Installation Notes – CR10 Mini – 2nd Z-Axis

Z-axis upgrade desktop-am.computer

There are two reasons I installed a second z-axis; one reason was to balance the weight of a direct drive extruder I planned to install. The other reason was to balance the weight of the x-axis in general. I noticed in December that the axis was lower on the right side of the machine by about 4 mm. Considering that my first 3D printer was about 13 inches wide with dual z-axes, I was always leery about having a printer with a wider width and one z-axis. I suppose this upgrade was inevitable.

This installation was easy, thanks to Chris Riley. His video explained every step well. I just had one issue; the screws attaching the holding bar to the motor. I could not get a clear view of the screws in the video and was unsure about the correct size. There were two sets. After looking at the video posted by the manufacturer of my kit HICTOP, I was able to figure out the proper size. You may ask why I didn’t follow HICTOP’s video instead of Chris’. My answer would be, Chris made a very good video and it was for generic z-axis upgrade kits. That is all.

Chris recommends directing the Z axes all the way to the top and then homing them. My axes did not reach home. The motor began making a noise when it reached the bottom and I turned the machine off. I was concerned that the screws provided for attaching the motor (see photo to right) were not flat enough and that turned out to be the case. I ordered a case of screws from Amazon and waited another week. After receiving the kit, I replaced screws with M3 12s from the kit.

The last instruction Chris gave in his video was to grease the lead screw. I was going to skip this step, but found it was essential. When I moved the axes up and down after replacing the screws, the lead screw squeaked and the x-axis gantry did not go all the way up. I applied some machine oil to a paper towel and wiped around the lead screw from top to bottom. I tested it again and it operated as it should. Mission completed.

Installation Notes – CR10 Mini – Direct Drive Extruder

CR10 Mini with upgrades desktop-am.computer

I installed a Micro Swiss Direct Drive Extruder a few days ago. Since I watched a video before buying the extruder, I knew the extruder motor would be stationed on the x-axis. I decided then that a second lead screw was needed and installed it the day before installing the extruder. There will be a post on that installation as well.

The extruder installation was uncomplicated until after it was completed. I asked in a Facebook group I belong to (it was the weekend and the business was closed) about how to get the extruder to move. I wanted to check if it was working properly. A wonderfully nice gentleman assisted me right away by telling me to heat the hot end to filament temperature. That piece of information was missing from the instructional video and manual.

Direct drive extruder desktop-am.computer

Something I figured out on my own was that filament loads differently from the MK8 extruder that comes with the printer. With the MK8 extruder, filament must be pushed into the nozzle. When I attempted to do this with the direct drive extruder, I could not get it to enter the compartment below the gears. Here, again, some additional information would have saved me some frustration. I recalled my experience printing on a Prusa MK2 at a maker place over a year ago and realized trying to push the filament to the nozzle was not going to work. I tried manually pushing the filament to a point between the extruder gears and advancing it further via the control box. That worked.

Wheel damage desktop-am.computer

Something I wanted to point out, that is unrelated to the Direct Drive Extruder, is the wheel I removed from the bottom of the MK8 extruder assembly. There are pieces of missing rubber (see photo to right). After seeing the wheel, I understood what was causing issues with the assembly rolling across the axis. Fortunately for me, I had one wheel remaining from replacements I made last month. I do not know how the wheel was damaged. I may have caused the damage when I replaced the other wheels of the assembly.

I changed to a Direct Drive Extruder in order to print foaming PLA, as recommended by RichRap3D in his blog post about the filament. I’m not making airplane wings, though. I have other plans.

Sage Advice for Makers Wanting to Start a 3D Printing Business


Michael, of YouTube channel Teaching Tech, posted a video yesterday that is chock full of advice for Makers who desire income from Desktop Additive Manufacturing (AM). In the video, Michael interviews Maker Myles, the proprietor of a successful, unnamed, auto parts business. When asked about the secret to his success (10:37), Maker Myles utters words of wisdom, stipulating the impetus behind invention and innovation that Makers employ for their creations.

If you are looking to use a 3D printer to produce a part or anything for a business, look in your own work patterns that you use at the moment. What could you use to make life easier? What could you use that doesn’t exist to make life easier?…Coming up with an idea of like, “Hey, this is a problem and we could save x amount of time by fixing it with this part or something like that.” Never down talking anyone else’s product.

Maker Myles

Many Makers stepped up this year to solve a problem with protecting against COVID-19 transmissions by printing masks, ear savers, face shields, and ventilator parts. A few businesses involved with 3D printing worked to find a way to meet the demand for testing swabs. Origin was one of those businesses.

My tweet to Illinois Governor

On November 8, 2018, DCM Ventures announced their Series A investment in Origin, a business started in 2015 by Software Engineers Joel Ong and Christopher Prucha with open source printers. In their announcement, DCM Ventures pondered how companies such as Lyft, Spotify, and We chat may never have come to be if Apple and Google were the lone developers of iOS and Android. DCM stated ” …we believe that no single company or chemist can meet the diverse needs and requirements of customers across all verticals. That is, for the industry to mature we’ll necessarily need to empower designers and engineers with the broadest palette of materials as possible at costs amenable to scale.”

This year, Origin, working with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Henkel and Stratasys, developed nasal swabs that passed clinical trials in April, helping to alleviate a critical shortage. The precision and speed needed to accomplish such a task would not have been possible without 3D printing. Origin recognized the opportunity to demonstrate rapid deployment using 3D printing and worked to deliver results, previously unseen.

Worrying about finding that one big idea. Most of us won’t hit the big idea lottery. And even if we did come up with that elusive big idea, could we pull off its implementation? Do we have the skills, experience, and funding? Maybe you do. I don’t. But here’s what all of us do have: Hundreds of small ideas. Which means we don’t need to look for a big idea if we act on our little ideas. Success is a process. Happiness is a process. Since every process is based on action, not thought… stop waiting for a big idea and act on as many of your small ideas as you can.  

Oprah Winfrey
World Cup

Successful businesses using Desktop AM are not limited to technical areas. Mike and Shey Benner started a cookie cutter business when demand for free cutters appropriated use of their personal 3D printer. Mike noted that the secret behind their success was community engagement and attention to detail. “Most people that get into 3D printing are rather technical and usually they don’t spend the time engaging with potential customers and marketing their products. The combination of Mike’s technical skills with Shey’s creativity and communication skills make a perfect blend for this type of business.” (Quote from blog post by Raul De Frutos)

In summary, a 3D printing business can be started to solve a problem or meet demand expressed in some area of your life. If you have what you consider to be a small idea, act on it. That small manufacturing machine in your home is a tool for your imagination.