The Need For A Standard Spool Label

By on June 28th, 2018 in Ideas

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 What kind of 3D printer filament was on this spool? Who knows?
What kind of 3D printer filament was on this spool? Who knows?

Here’s the situation: a print is running at the lab, and the filament is running short. 

What do you do? Get ready to pause the machine (manually, if it doesn’t have a filament-out detection system) so that you can swap in a replacement spool of material. 

But if your lab or workshop is like mine, you will have plenty of partially used spools of filament piled up, begging to be used. This is inevitable, as spools are never sold in the exact size you require for a given 3D print. 

You will have leftovers. 

Now you want to select one of those spools to act as a replacement for the quickly-running out active spool. 

But there’s a problem. 

The spool you just picked out to consider using for this purpose is unlabeled. 

Is it ABS? Is it PLA? I can see that it’s a kind of greeny color. Is it something else. How old is this spool? 

I don’t know the answers, and no one can, because the spool was unfortunately unlabeled. Even if I did know the type of material, would I know the key 3D printing parameters for it, like temperature? 

I’ve actually thrown out partially used spools at times because the effort to figure out what they really are made from wasn’t worth use of the small amount of filament remaining. 

These spools were likely labeled in some form when they were originally obtained: 

  • Information could have been on the product box, which is now long gone
  • It may have been on the bag holding the spool, but that’s all mixed up now
  • There may have been a label on the spool itself, but it’s missing – or the empty spool has been re-used for a different material making the label wrong

This is a highly frustrating experience, and wasteful too. 

If only there was a standard way to label spools that everyone agreed to? 

Such a label could include things like: 

  • Manufacturer name
  • Date of production
  • Material type
  • Original weight
  • Standard printing temperatures
  • Color
  • Perhaps a QR code to scan and get more information

As almost everyone uses spools of material from different suppliers, it would be a great advantage to have a standard method of finding out what’s on a given spool. 

And this would not only be applicable to manufacturers, as it could be used by 3D printer operators as well. There are many times people re-spool filament on new empty spools, and this approach could rise with the increased interest in bulk filament sales.

I’d like to be able to instantly print a label that I could stick on any spool so that people could know all the basic information required. This could result in more efficient use of materials, lower costs and also frustration levels. 

Can someone design a standard spool label and put up a simple web page to generate them? 

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!