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The Curse of Leftover Filament and Five Ways to Deal With It

3D printer spools with not a lot of filament left on them

You’ve been 3D printing for months and discover you have many kilos of filament – but all in short segments. 

This is the scenario many desktop 3D printer operators find themselves in after some years of using desktop 3D printers requiring spools of plastic filament. 

The scenario is something like this: 

  • You need to print an object that takes, say, 300g of material
  • The current spool seems to have less than that, maybe only 50-70g
  • You open a new 1 kg spool and use that instead
  • The 50g spool gets placed on the shelf
  • You never use the 50g spool as your prints tend to be more than that
  • And suddenly after a few years you find yourself with dozens of partially used spools. 

This is really a waste of your money as you paid for that material, but are not using it. 

Are there ways to overcome this issue? Yes, there are! 

Don’t Be Lazy: The reason you got into this situation is that you were unwilling to watch the print and change the material before it runs out. Don’t be so lazy and watch the print. However, sometimes this isn’t an option. 


Use The Same Material: If you’re going to swap spools as they run out, it would be a good idea to ensure you use the same material and color. Try to constrain your set of materials to maximize the possibility of continuous use. 

Share: Perhaps you have associates that have similar problems and materials. If so, consider sharing the leftover bits to those who can make use of them. 

Toss It: In probably a majority of these situations, the material has been exposed to the atmosphere for too long and it is now below standard and should not be used anyway. Throw it out. 

Use a Smart 3D Printer: Consider upgrading to a more intelligent 3D printer that includes an “out of filament” detection system that would automatically pause your machine when it finds no more filament. Then you can swap the spools at your convenience later and maximize the use of your shorty spools. 

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