Printed Filament Spindle (obsolete)

by tbfleming, published

Printed Filament Spindle (obsolete) by tbfleming Oct 26, 2009
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Printed Filament Spindle (obsolete) by tbfleming is licensed under the GNU - GPL license.

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Replaced by http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1652

I got tired of manually untwisting filament while my MakerBot prints. There are multple spindle designs on Thingiverse, but they all use laser-cut parts instead of printed parts. I don't own a laser cutter, but I do own a MakerBot (#238), so I decided to design a spindle that can be printed.

This is the early result and somewhat flimsy. I'm releasing it in its current form in the hope that it will be useful even though I don't consider it complete. My to-do list includes tying the legs together and providing a way to prevent the filament from unspooling while it's not in use.


STL and GCODE files

This set of files is adjusted for my printer; the fit may or may not be correct on yours. Just in case, the part generation script (spindle.py) has many adjustable parameters.

Part Counts

  • 2 skate bearings.
  • 2 M3x16 screws (you should have plenty left over from building your MakerBot).
  • 2 M3 nuts.
  • 12 1/4" x 6" dowels. These are the radial dowels. You may choose different length.
  • 6 1/4" x 6" dowels. These support the filament. You may choose a different length.
  • 4 1/4" x 7" dowels. These are the legs. These must be longer than the radial dowels.
  • spindle_inner_ring (2). This is the part which holds 6 rods in a radial pattern.
  • spindle_inner_ring_cap (2). This part helps lock spindle_inner_ring into the bearing.
  • spindle_outer_ring (6). This connects the radial dowels to the filament support dowels.
  • spindle_bearing_support (2). The legs connect to this. It holds the bearing.


  1. Press 3 radial dowels into a spindle_inner_ring. Skip a hole between each pair of dowels.
  2. Slide a spindle_outer_ring over each radial dowel. Orient each ring so that the holes for the filament support dowels face away from the spindle_inner_ring's bump.
  3. Slide 3 more radial dowels through the outer rings and press the dowels into spindle_inner_ring.
  4. Press a bearing onto spindle_inner_ring's bump.
  5. Press a spindle_inner_ring_cap into the other side of the bearing.
  6. Use a M3x16 screw and M3 nut to hold the bearing assembly together.
  7. Press 2 leg dowels into two consecutive holes of a spindle_bearing_support.
  8. Press the bearing into the spindle_bearing_support.
  9. Repeat 1-8 for the other side.
  10. Use the filament support dowels to attach the two sides together.

Optional (part of step 10): press another dowel into the centers of the two inner rings.

Expiremental CAD

I used FreeCAD ( http://sourceforge.net/projects/free-cad/ ) to generate the parts. None of the parts are hand-drawn; I created a generation script which builds the parts and exports them to STL. The script makes it easy for you to adjust the parts for your printer.

Part Generation

  1. Edit spindle.py and change outputPath to the directory you want your STL files to live. Keep your editor open.
  2. Start FreeCAD. You should see a window docked at the bottom with a tab named "Python console." If not, then use "View->Views->Report view" to open it.
  3. Paste the contents of spindle.py into the Python console. One of the parts should appear onscreen and a set of STL files should now be in the directory you specified.

Note: there's no need to save the FreeCAD drawing. Treat the script as your drawing.

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I recommend printing out 2 extra spindle_outer_ring to support the legs from sagging.

It's a little flimsy, but I think it will work better than the knot of plastic I have on the floor.


Good idea. I'm currently using box tape to hold the legs tight.

Yeah! very cool! I was waiting for something like that because the lasercut spindle is nice but it takes up way too many material.

It's so nice to see so many usefull things come up at thingiverse!

Coool - though almost headache inducing trying to figure out what is going on in the first shot... very cool design.

My stacks of ABS are still laying next to the printer... this might be next.

BTW.. you could prevent the wild spinning by simply rotate around a wood axis with a bit of friction.. not much but enough to prevent up-spooling.. ?


I lucked out with 6"/7". It sags just enough to prevent it free-spinning but not so much that it can't overcome it when it needs. I wish I didn't lose the picture I took of it before I loaded it with ABS (the camera corrupted an SD card); it's hard to see the black ABS parts against the black ABS filament.

I really like the comb idea of http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1163http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... ; I hope to integrate that approach.


Makerbot Filament Spindle v0.4