Filament Server System

by JuliaTruchsess, published

Filament Server System by JuliaTruchsess Sep 16, 2013
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Ever since my filament collection got past 3 or 4 spools I've been searching for the holy grail that would allow me to change filaments quickly without handling spools. It didn't take too long to figure out that if random access is a requirement, a separate holder for each spool is needed. That narrows the field pretty much to two approaches: holders on which a spool sits, bearing on its edges, and holders that involve an axle through a spool's hub. The former, in order to yield acceptably low friction, require ball or roller bearings. Since I wanted to accommodate 40+ spools, this approach was ruled out as too complex and time-consuming. I wanted something consisting of a few simple printed parts and a press-fit assembly process that would allow me to bang out 40+ holders in a few days. The TInkertoy-like result is presented here. Every single filament end is within arms' reach and I can change filaments without touching a spool. Only 7 different printed parts are necessary to cover most spool sizes on the market, at least the ones I use. These include 200x70mm (MakerBot, Prototype Supply), 160x90mm (Octave), 200x55mm (pp3dp, Bendlay), 220x55 (3dprintingsystems.com), Taulman, and others.

A really nice aspect of the system is that you can have multiple rows of spools, one behind the other, to maximize storage in a given shelf space. Simply feed the rear spools' filament under the front spool(s) and through its guide loop. One of the attached videos shows a rear spool in action. Use of rubber feet, especially on rear-row spools, is strongly recommended, to prevent them from creeping forward and touching spools in front.

Another great side benefit is that I've now removed the spool holders and spools previously attached to the printers, liberating at least a square foot of precious bench space.

The "funnel" attached to a gantry directly above the printer(s) is not strictly necessary, but it's convenient, keeps filament from dangling in front of my monitor, keeps all the filament ends in one place, and reduces the sideways force vector on the printer when its feeding spool is located some distance off to the side. The foam in the funnel cleans the filament, and more importantly, helps tame the unruly mass of protruding filament ends. Since it won't be easy to change the foam with 40 filaments going through it, you might want to have a separate, easily-changeable cleaner foam located at each printer.

Video of the FSS in action:




Full construction details are in the Instructions section. All printed parts are available on Tinkercad, search for "FSS".


You will need some 1/4" diameter oak dowels (don't use pine, use oak), and some 1" and 1-1/2" black "poly" pipe (shown in the photos), available at home improvement stores. Regular PVC pipe's wall thickness is too big, and will NOT fit in many spool hubs. You can also use thin-wall styrene tubing sold by plastics supply companies. For Taulman spools you need to find something smaller; I happened to have some styrene tubing around that fit, but you could use copper pipe.

I strongly recommend adding stick-on rubber feet to keep spools from sliding around. The ones I use are made by 3M and available from Mouser here:


for about $0.06 each.

The accompanying Excel document lists the axle diameters, axle lengths, and support dowel lengths for the various spool sizes supported.

You don't need to saw the dowels - simply measure them off, making score marks with a pair of diagonal cutters, as shown in the photos. Once scored you can snap them off with your fingers or cut them with a pair of compound-leverage lineman's pliers. Don't worry about the getting the lengths exactly right, and don't bother to sand the ends clean. It's all very forgiving of a few mm here or there.

The axle tubing is best cut with a power mitre ("chop") saw. If you use a hand saw I recommend a mitre box, otherwise the ends will not be square and the axles will be prone to falling out of the bearings.

The press-fit of the dowels into the printed parts is nice and snug, but easily done by hand (at least with parts printed on my Up). The front-back braces for the large-spool holders are optional, and I find them unnecessary if stick-on rubber feet are used; the oak dowels are very stiff and splay is minimal. Without rubber feet they might be more necessary. There is also provision for "pinning" the front-back supports with small sheet metal screws if you want the ultimate in rigidity and stability. Just drive them into the dowels with your screwdriver.

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great design!,julia

Jan 19, 2017 - Modified Jan 19, 2017

Hi looking at perhaps using your system, but what are you using between the base & Bearings?
looks like wood? if so do you have any size's?

What are you using for the centre of your spools? where could I find these? ( as you can guess I'm new to 3D printing but tying to get set up)


As stated in the "Instructions" section:

"You will need some 1/4" diameter oak dowels (don't use pine, use oak), and some 1" and 1-1/2" black "poly" pipe (shown in the photos), available at home improvement stores. Regular PVC pipe's wall thickness is too big, and will NOT fit in many spool hubs. You can also use thin-wall styrene tubing sold by plastics supply companies. For Taulman spools you need to find something smaller; I happened to have some styrene tubing around that fit, but you could use copper pipe."

Now if it was just sealed from moisture.... unless the room has very good climate control of course. (probably ideal with this many active spools)

Dust is more of an issue for me than moisture. Some of these spools have been sitting out for almost four years and it's not a big deal. If I'm doing something critical I'll maybe bake nylon in the oven for an hour, but everything else I don't worry about.

Jan 17, 2016 - Modified Jan 17, 2016

After having built my prusi i3 nearly 1yr ago, I have accumulated several spools --- even ones I cant use (3mm filament I thought I might be upgradeing to use someday) - even a seemingly painfully heavy 'multispool' (has 4 colors on one spool) - That is an ingenious method of 'bringing' the material together , funelling it into easier access without fumbling around for a spool, likely that most hobbyiests do ... A desk, a hutch/shelf system and some of those printed holders ... -- I can think of a simpler design, a single PVC pipe going through all the spools; you may have touched on this aspect of differing inner spool diameters being an issue, and now that I look , the weight will cause sagging, which is easily remidied with a support at sag points. In reality, it has to be tried and tested to say 'it works well !' (a 2nd, smaller diam. pvc pipe for the smaller spools), sched 80 is the thicker.

The problem all spools on one piece of pipe is that it's not random access - to change a spool in the middle requires removing all the spools on one side.

Very nice Setup you have going on! and nice to see a lady maker as well.

OMG, you so stole the vertical mounting idea from my Lego-block pp3dp Afinia/UP! setup, and then did it like 1,000 times better.

BTW, I implemented your filament cleaner with a "Wet One" hand wipe and a peg.

I'm all for ghetto production methods.

Julia, great design! Does this work for NinjaFlex/flexible filaments?

Thanks, worldburger. I find that it's best to use a ball-bearing or other low-friction axle bearing for flexible filaments and make sure there's nothing else in the filament path that adds tension, lest the filament stretch, become thin, and slip in the extruder drive. So I don't use my main FSS with Ninja or Fila, I have a dedicated printer and ball-bearing hubs for them.

This is a spool farm that really works for me. I have about 30 spools on the top shelf of a 6" X 4" shelving unit, with my printers on the shelf just below. There's room on the shelf for a total of about 40 spools, depending on the footprint of the various sized spool bases in use. I have spools of PLA/618 to the left and ABS/conductive to the right. With this matrix arrangement of spools, the filaments from spools in the back row flow through the bases of the spool frames in front of it. This keeps the filament strands relatively straight even when they want to spiral more and more as the spool empties out.

While the unit's frame is steel, the shelves are fiberboard. I cut 4 evenly-spaced holes 8 inches apart (both X and Y) around the center of the top shelf. Each hole is just large enough to insert a filament funnel with drywall screws threaded through the funnel holes to keep them in place. I'm using 4 funnels because the torque needed to pull a filament through a single funnel with 29 other filaments threaded through the same funnel was causing the printers to move around until they were just below the funnel. There's much less binding now that there are only 1 to 3 filaments running through each of the 9 holes of each funnel.

I've been able to use a combination of 3/4 inch wooden towels and 3/4 and 1 inch Schedule 40 and Schedule 80 PVC pipe as spindles. Some filament spools that I stock are too wide to fit in the 85mm frames. So I duped the Tinkercad source files to create bases 100mm and 115mm wide. A cut plenty of spindles of various sizes and kept my two printers running overnight for a weekend whipping up a healthy compliment of spool frames of various sizes, gang printing the parts for 4 spools in each print job using filament colors I was never going to finish anyway.

I teach 3D to about 60 students a week at various schools here in the San Francisco East Bay. Creativity, joinery, dual-colored designs and the exploration of filament colors and other properties are all explicit curriculum objectives. So every print job is different. Every week this spool farm saves me hours previously spent changing spools as I prep the next job. I feel hyper-efficient with this in place. Now I need to work on the Tinkercad team to get them to export multiple STL files in one step based on colors.

Julia, thanks this simple yet practical design.

  • Bob

Updated the Excel sheet and added PDF and PNG of it.

Sweet. Well enough thought out to be simple. This is the rig I'm going to build my printing station around. Thanks.

Thanks, Bob, for your kind words. One thing I'm finding with use is that it doesn't always pay to route filament through the funnel if means coming from way over on one side and then back again in the same direction it came from to get to the printer - it's just wasted drag. In those cases I'm going straight from the spool to the printer without bother to go through the central funnel. Each spool holder has a couple of holes for storing the loose end when not in use anyway. I would also cut back on the number of foam support members in the funnel since they can cause excess drag as well. Or maybe just get rid of the foam holder there and make it a simple torus.

Hallow and very nice work , lovely like you my friend .


Thanks, José!

Very nice, was there a long time ago with printed bearing holders but due to space and only one printer it did not work out for me.

I have about 45 sets of stands if you would like some?


Bearing spool holder

Hi Drew, thanks! There have been lots of derivatives of Chyld's original, but none that I'm aware of have been "top-loading" so you can just drop in a spool without having to engage some kind of hub bearing, which is what I wanted to achieve.

Nor have I seen any that incorporate a guide so that filament can be fed from a laterally-offset location so that the spool doesn't need to be moved to line up with the printer.

Wow, I love your setup! The only thing I worry about is free-floating dust that eventually clings to the filament. You might want a dust-arrester at the filament infeed on your printer.

Oh, d'oh, I didn't read that part about the foam beneath the "donut". Wow, very nice. Very very nice.

I should have used pink or gray foam so it would show better in the photos :)

Do you live in a dry environment? Just wondering if having all that filament sitting out for prolonged periods has caused any moisture problems.

My shop is air conditioned; it's in the Northeast USA, which is dry in winter and humid in summer, but the indoor environment is fairly constant and well-controlled. I know a lot of users are meticulous about trying to keep their filament dry (I'm not sure how effective all that tupperware and silica gel really is), but I've only ever noticed moisture-related issues with nylon, never with ABS. I have a lab oven for drying nylon, but I don't use nylon much anyway.

100% mad scientist!

Wow... I am so insanely jealous of your setup!

Two votes in the insanely jealous camp...

Three... ;)

I agree, this is fantastic. I'm sure Julia is not the only person that is already using such a ridiculous number of colors! This gets my brain going... How much modification would be required for mounting directly on a wall (no shelves)?

I was thinking about the wall mount last night. Each spool would get a pair of "bearings" that would resemble curtain rod hooks. In my shop, with brick walls and lots of windows, that's out of the question, but if you've got a big blank sheetrock wall you don't mind covering with spools, it might be a viable alternative.