- Recycle filament spools: You can reuse empty filament spools for various purposes, such as making drawers, lamps, toys, or buildings.
- Buy recyclable spools: Some filament brands offer spools made of cardboard or other recyclable materials, which are more eco-friendly than plastic spools.
- Return spools to manufacturers: Some filament companies accept empty spools for recycling, but you may need to pay for shipping or return a minimum number of spools.
- Make your own filament: You can grind down spools and extrude them into new filaments, but the quality may be lower than professional filaments.
Used filament spools can soon pile up if you’re 3D printing quite a bit.
Luckily, there are plenty of useful things you can do with your old spools!
In this article, we’ll take a look at what to do with empty filament spools. From creating drawer organizers and paint organizers to making your own clock, these are the projects that we’ve enjoyed most over the past couple of years.
- Key Takeaways
- Empty Filament Spool Ideas
- Best Uses of Old Filament Spools
- Can Filament Spools Be Recycled?
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 jewelry, organized? This expandable drawer system is a great solution.
Here are two solutions for two different spool sizes by Tanatof and Guardia on Thingiverse. Both projects use partially cut up spools to make working drawers to store tools and other small items, with Guardia’s being perfect for single spools and Tanatof being perfect if you have multiple empty spools you want to creatively recycle.
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.
Creative Reddit user griffinvanhorne has done just this with an old filament spool, and you’ll agree it’s an amazing Christmas project for those of you sick of spending every festive season tediously organizing your lights.
3. Make a Go-kart From 4 Empty Spools
OK, so using empty filament spools as wheels might not be the best use for them; we’re pretty sure it’ll give a really bumpy ride. But it’s a great example of what you can create with a little bit of boredom and ingenuity.
You’ll need four old filament spools for this, as you’ll need one for each wheel. Not all spools will work, as if you’ve got recyclable cardboard spools, they won’t have the strength for this, but plastic ones work great.
For a helpful guide on turning your used spools into a go-kart, you can check out the Youtube video below.
4. Paint Organiser
This paint holder is a really simple hack we love, all you need to do is to cut some large holes in one side of the old spool disc to fit small paint bottles.
A great way to keep your modeling paints organized. For further functionality, you can print a centerpiece (if required) to hold mixing cartons. Cults3D user Lepetitatelierdejon has made an excellent example of this by combining 3D printed parts with spools to organize paints. For larger cans or just more of a shelf-style space to store your paints, you can check out TheRealSattious’ creation on Reddit.
5. Convert 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 can get similar results by simply cutting an existing spool in half, although this perhaps won’t be 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. 3D Print A 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 empty 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. Or check out the one-digit clock made from an old filament spool in the Youtube video below.
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.
For a more fun option, you can recycle filament spools to turn them into toys! Making toys out of spools is often as simple as just adding a few pieces. LoboCNC, for example, has shared their way of turning old spools into big spinning tops.
And it’s not just kids who can get in on the fun, creative recycler unoccupied_brain has added just a few simple pieces to an empty spool to make a fun toy for cats! You can see how to make one yourself in the short video below.
Converting spools into lamps is one of the easiest yet most practical ways to reuse filament holders. It’s often as simple as adding some simple LED lights around some empty spools and covering it with a shade to make an easy and effective lamp. Though there are more creative ways to do this with LED strips, as you can see in Pparniak’s filament spool lamp, and limalima’s clever lamp stand using an old Prusa spool.
If you want a little more of a challenge, you can even use your empty filament spools to make a Wi-Fi-enabled smart lamp that even reacts to your voice!
9. Cable Reel and Yarn Winder
Because a filament spool is essentially a cable reel already, it’s a great idea to reuse them as actual cable reels once you’re out of material.
Using some 3D printed parts, like a hand crank, you can turn your spool into a cable reel for other projects and easy and safe storage for your various electrical cables and wires. Don’t worry about the designing, though, because you can find everything you need on Printables.
Similarly to this, you can also turn an empty filament spool into a yarn winder like Ericcherry’s design on Cults3D.
10. Spool Tower Village
Probably the most creative use for empty 3D printer filament spools on this list is turning them into villages, towers, and other structures for either decoration, play, or D&D and other tabletop game settings! The round shape may not seem ideal for making a building, but you’d be surprised at what you can do with a filament spool that’s otherwise already served its purpose.
3D printing for D&D is an excellent way to spice up your games, and files like those found on Digital Taxidermy will give you plenty of ways to turn your plastic spools into towers and other buildings for your next campaign, and even some ideas and inspiration for other toys and decoration too.
Hopefully these ideas have sparked your imagination to answer the question of “What to do with an empty filament spool?”, and have given you some inspiration to come up with some new ideas.
Can Filament Spools Be Recycled?
Most filament spool material can’t be recycled. This is because most local recycling systems do not accept Polypropylene and ABS as recyclable plastic, which are the common materials used to make filament spools, and most filament manufacturers do not accept returns because spools are large yet light, and so are not well suited for transporting cheaply, which unfortunately adds to plastic waste.
However, a few companies will accept these spools as part of their environmental commitment to reducing plastic pollution. These include Stratasys who accept and recycle spools, cartridges and canisters, and Altec3D accepts returned spools if you return 15 in one delivery. Some companies are also now using recyclable cardboard spools.
You can technically ground down spools and make them into filaments. But the quality is not as good as those used for the actual filament, so you’ll likely get worse quality finishes and often get clogs and jams in your extruder.
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 professional companies use. At 3DSourced we acquired Rigid Ink, a filament manufacturer who since stopped selling filament, and they used a $300,000+ machine for extruding perfect new filament. You probably don’t have access to one of these for your empty spools.
It’s the same as people making homemade filament from small pellets and a DIY filament extruder. It’ll technically work, but it’s complex, technical, and often your own spools will not be as accurate as if you’d bought them from a professional manufacturer.