A Kickstarter project hopes to solve one major issue with 3D printer spools: contamination.
Prototyper John Lehman identified a problem almost all 3D printer operators encounter: contaminated 3D printer filament.
This happens when 3D printer filament spools are stored externally, exposed to the environment. They absorb humidity, collect dust and their probability of providing clean prints is lessened. This is especially maddening for more expensive and exotic 3D printer materials.
Many 3D printer operators attempt to solve the problem by storing spools in sealed containers with desiccant to absorb moisture. That mostly works, but requires you to put spools in and out of sealed bags whenever you need them. That increases your labor cost of 3D printing.
Lehman devised a fix: a sealed container that can hold the spool, either 1.75 or 2.85mm in an controlled environment. The idea is that the spool would be placed in the container and stay there until it is completely used. The container holds the spool when stored as well as during print operations, where the filament emerges from a suitably small hole leading to your desktop 3D printer.
This arrangement is very similar to what Stratasys uses on some of their equipment, such as the uPrint.
Lehman’s design is interesting in that the container can feed filament from any orientation. This is quite helpful as the 3D printer setups vary considerably between workshops.
But there was a side benefit: since the container can move independently, it can be placed on a scale during 3D printing operations. In other words, you can finally know EXACTLY how much filament remains on the spool!
I’ve not seen this in any other system, as most machines that claim to track filament don’t do it directly. They simply “count” the amount that “should have been” printed in software. At some point the machine would claim you are out of filament, whereupon you inspect the spool and find out there is plenty left. The manufacturers have to do it this way, because making an error in the other direction would be fatal.
Thus this spool container is of great interest.
It is available now on Kickstarter, but only for a couple of days. Pricing is reasonable, at USD$68 per container, which of course can be reused indefinitely with many spools.
If you use open filament on your 3D printer, check this out right away.