Used filament spools can soon pile up if you’re 3D printing quite a bit.
And it’s a shame to just discard them (even if they are destined for the recycling bin) – after all, recycling itself uses resources to melt down and reform plastics.
Can Filament Spools Be Recycled?
It would be great if companies could take back old filament spools for reuse.
However, at present we’re unable to work out a way to return old spools economically, both from a cost perspective and in terms of environmental impact. There’s very little saving gained by getting empty spools sent back, with trucks burning yet more fossil fuels all the while.
Some people like to make their own filament, so can’t these ABS spools be ground down to make new filament?
Sure, if you don’t care about the quality you’re getting (and therefore are fine with the poor finish quality and jams you’ll need to deal with). The ABS we use to make our spools is a significantly lower grade than the ABS in our filament.
And our view on extruding your own filament: on a $300 machine you can bet it isn’t going to give the same results as the near €300,000 extruding equipment we use.
That’s why I’ve compiled my favorite examples of useful ways to reuse or repurpose your empty spools. Keep them around for a variety of uses, and you’ll be surprised just how useful they can be.
Best Uses of Old Filament Spools
Let’s take a look at the novel ways to use those empties:
1. Drawer Organiser – Need to keep small items, like electronics parts or jewellery, organised? This expandable drawer system is a great solution. Here are two solutions for two different spool sizes by Tanatof and Guardia on Thingiverse.
2. Spool Up Christmas Lights – Our lazy go-to is usually to just use them for spooling up rope or fairy lights. This is our favorite because it requires absolutely no effort. In fact, when you have to untangle the lights from last year, you’ll quickly realize how much effort it saves you.
3. Make a go-kart – OK, so using empty spools as wheels might not be the best use for them; we’re pretty sure it’ll a give a really bumpy ride. But it’s a great example of what you can do with a little bit of boredom/ingenuity.
4. Paint Organiser – A really simple hack we love is just to cut some large holes in one side of the spool disc to fit small paint bottles.!–split3–!
A great way to keep your modeling paints organised. For further functionality, you can print a center piece (if required) to hold mixing cartons.
5. Covert to a Coat Hook – EU Makers’ filament spools convert to a handy coat hook and other interesting projects. Although this would be useful for the first couple of rolls you used, it’s likely those hooks would soon stack up! Still, it’s a novel idea – and you could cut an existing spool in half to create a similar result, although perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing. Aside from storing coats, it may be useful for the garage or workshop to keep longer cables drooped over so they fall straight without kinks.
6. Print Your Own Clock – With modern, fast 3D printers, it’s possible that some of your prints can be finished in a few mere hours. With that kind of speed, it’s easy for you to lose track of time while you sit next to the printer, eagerly watching the print while it finishes. To solve this, you might want to print your own clock, using the spool as a face like Reddit user Mr_Knight13 did.
It would also be a brilliantly simple project to introduce kids into the world of 3D printing (as the low profile numbers would actually be pretty quick and easy to print).
Here are some fancy-pants Roman numerals if you want to make things a little more historic/confusing.
Hopefully these ideas have sparked your imagination to answer the question of “What to do with old filament spools?”, and have given you some inspiration to come up with some new ideas.