Battle of the Universal Spools?

By on May 1st, 2018 in Hardware


 KVP's Slant universal spool system
KVP’s Slant universal spool system

We seem to have two proposed standards seeking acceptance.

The product in question is a “universal spool”, a reusable plastic appliance to hold otherwise loose 3D printer filament. 

The benefits to using a reusable spool are several, including reducing shipping weight, simplifying supplier efforts, better fitting to operator’s machines, not having to dispose of dozens of empty spools, and much more. It’s a very sensible approach that should have been undertaken years ago. 

But it was not, and consequently every 3D printer operator suffers the vagaries of multiple spool types and subsequent disposal. 

Two “competing” standards for universal spools have emerged recently: 

 The MasterSpool concept designed by Richard Horne (aka @RichRap)
The MasterSpool concept designed by Richard Horne (aka @RichRap)

One is MasterSpool, conceived by RichRap and now adopted by at least one 3D printer filament vendor, 3D Print Works, based in the UK. Here’s their video: 

You can download the MasterSpool design from Thingiverse and other download sites. 

Another is the Koil system, by Keene Village Plastics, a major North American vendor of 3D printer filament. You can download the STL for their “Slant” reusable spool from one of their pages, or even order them pre-printed. Here’s their video:

Which standard should you use? Which one should “win”? Should one of them win? So many questions!

I spoke with KVP representatives, who explained they viewed the MasterSpool as less effective than their Slant system because theirs is offered in several sizes, including 1kg. They believe that the MasterSpool is suitable for 750g, which they believed to be a size more frequently used in Europe. Meanwhile, their Slant is offered in 1kg sizes, which KVP says is more popular in North America. 

I should point out that the MasterSpool files distributed include not only the 3D printable STL files, but also the design CAD files as well, so one could, if equipped with the right software and training, modify them to accommodate any reasonable amount of filament. However, it’s not clear how many people would be able to do so. 

For a system to be a standard it probably should be released in public forums and not kept on KVP’s site. I suggest that KVP might get more acceptance of their concept if, for example, they placed the STLs on all popular public STL repositories and even consider releasing the CAD design files as well. 

For MasterSpool, it may be a good idea to release a few more sizes and distribute publicly, as has been done for prior designs. 

If both systems were deployed in this way, then the public would have an equal chance of trying both and seeing which one they prefer. 

I’d like to see one (or both) standards become popular not only among 3D print operators, but more importantly with the 3D print filament vendors. I’d like to see EVERY 3D print filament vendor present spool-less offerings. We’d all save some cash and reduce waste if so. 

Via Thingiverse and Keene Village Plastics

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!