What Should You Do With Your Old 3D Printer & Filament Spools


When you have an old 3D printer that has been stored and unused, you might wonder what you should do with this machine. If you have been in this position, this is an article for you.

I decided to write an article giving people answers on what they should do if they have an old 3D printer, so stick around for some good ideas.

What Can You Do With an Old 3D Printer?

Repurpose Into Another Machine

CNC Machine

One great thing you can do with your old 3D printer is to repurpose it into another type of machine. With a few modifications, your old 3D printer can be turned into a CNC machine since they use very similar parts.

Both of them have small stepper motors that drive a tool end to reproduce a digital file.

3D printers do additive manufacturing using a plastic extruder to reproduce layers and form a model. CNC machines use a rotary cutting tool to do subtractive manufacturing by cutting away unwanted parts to form the model.

By swapping the extruder with a rotary cutting tool and making a few other modifications, you can convert your 3D printer to a CNC machine. More details can be found in the video below.

You can also use take your old 3D printer and an old laptop and convert them into a fully functional monitor as shown in this video.

Laser Engraver

By adding an engraving laser to it, you can turn it to a laser engraving machine. Dismantling your old printer is another way of obtaining various useful parts such as stepper motors, a mainboard, and other electronics that can be used for awesome projects.

Typewriter

One user switched out the extruder with a soft-tipped pen and with a simple source code from GitHub converted it to a typewriter. Here are more details about the process.

Trade Your 3D Printer In

Most old 3D printers have outgrown their purpose. Luckily, there are many organizations that allow you to trade in your old printer for newer models.

These organizations specify the type of printers they can accept for a trade in. Some organizations also allow you to trade up which essentially means that you sell your old 3D printer and receive a more expensive type of printer.

They type of 3D printer you will receive in exchange will depend on the brand and condition of your old printer.

A few examples I could find of companies that can do this are:

You may be able to find more places that do this on social media like Facebook groups.

Restore Your 3D Printer

If you’re not ready to get rid of your old 3D printer, then pulling it out, and getting it up and running should be your first obvious option. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials and guides that can help you restore your printer by yourself.

Purchasing upgrades for various parts of the 3D printer will also go a long way in improving its performance. For example, changing the hotend for a more advanced one can be a great idea for improving your printer’s capabilities.

Upgrading the motherboard or mainboard of your 3D printer could be a necessary step to restoring it to a good level. It’s down to troubleshoot any existing problems, and trying out multiple solutions.

Some older 3D printers like the Ender 3 can be upgraded slightly to make them more silent and to improve their precision. You can purchase more silent drivers that are available in the market today.

It’s possible to even change the frame or axis for Linear Rails for a smoother movement.

One example is the Official Creality Ender 3  Silent V4.2.7 Motherboard from Amazon. It works with plenty of Creality machines, where it can be easily plug and install it with the corresponding wires to get it running.

By purchasing and installing upgrades, your Ender 3 or older 3D printer can be as good as new in a few hours.

I’d recommend upgrades such as:

Sell Your 3D Printer

With more advanced printers hitting the market every single day, old printers are slowly becoming obsolete.

If you have an old printer lying around the house, then the best option might be to sell it in order to save space and earn a few bucks in the process.

How much you sell it for and who you sell it to will all depend on the type of printer that you have, along with finding a suitable buyer.

If it is a cheap industrial 3D printer or a hobbyist then you can try selling it on various online platforms. The first place is Facebook groups for 3D printing enthusiasts e.g. 3D print buy and sell.

The second place is listing it on Amazon, eBay, or Craigslist. You should first research how other sellers are pricing their second-hand printers before creating an account and posting yours.

Amazon and eBay are the best places to sell old 3D printers due to their large marketplace. However, it is harder setting up an account with them. The intense competitions from other sellers might also force you to sell your printer at a much lower price.

If you have a heavy-duty industrial 3D printer, then you can try selling it to your local community college or high school.

You may even have a family member or friend who has a hobby that can partner up well with a 3D printer. Something like railroading models, gardening planters, gaming miniatures, or even a workshop can make great use of a 3D printer.

3D printing can really be useful in plenty of hobbies and activities, so figure out where your 3D printer could help people, and you may be able to pitch it to them successfully.

If you are looking for a way on how you to get rid of an old 3D printer that is still functional and you’re not interested in selling it, then you can just donate it instead.

The first place that comes to mind when people think about donating is local schools or colleges. The only challenge is that many schools would prefer a working machine which has access to parts and support.

When it comes to older machines, you’re going to want to donate it to someone with the relevant experience so they can fix it without many issues.

However, if you find a high school or college with a robotics team or 3D printing department then they are usually more capable and willing to take the printer. Older style printers are more likely to require someone to tinker with them a decent amount before they can start working smoothly.

You can also donate them to non-profit organizations. There are many non-profit organizations that are set up to help disabled people or help to educate kids that would be interested in taking your old 3D printer.

One such organization is See3D which focuses on distributing 3D printed models for people who are blind. An old printer would be of great use to them because they can restore it and use it in creating models.

What Should You Do With Old 3D Printer Spools

Some 3D printer spools of filament are recyclable depending on what material it is, most being made from polypropylene. They should have a recycling symbol, but many spools can’t be recycled, so people try to repurpose them in different ways.

It’s possible to make things like a container, a piece of terrain in board gaming. I’ll try go through a few ways that some people have made practical uses out of used 3D printer spools.

A good idea would be to make sure to buy spools of filament that are recyclable in the first place, so you aren’t stuck figuring out what to do with them.

A few brands have introduced cardboard spools which can easily be recycled, though they don’t have the same level of durability.

Another solution is to get a spool which can be reused such as the Sunlu Filament with MasterSpool from Amazon. It’s possible to load and unload filament so you don’t have to purchase filament with spools, rather just purchase the filament itself.

Sunlu sells Filament Refills that can easily be put onto these MasterSpools.

You also have the option to actually 3D print your own MasterSpool (created by RichRap), with a file from Thingiverse. It has over 80,000 downloads and has many revisions to be more user-friendly and practical.

What to Do With Old 3D Printer - 3D Printed MasterSpool - 3D Printerly

The video below is a great illustration of how the MasterSpool works, and it’s even made from multiple spools of filament leftovers.

One person decided to filament spools them as a pedestal when they spray paint objects. They attach a wooden paint stick then make it into a frying pan looking object, which can be spun around and controlled while spraying something.

Another user said they roll up long cables within the filament spool such as a 100ft Ethernet cable. You can also use unused spools to roll up and hold Christmas lights, or things like rope and twine.

One of the more popular ideas is to make a Stackable Spool Drawer by using this Thingiverse file.

View post on imgur.com

If you have ever been interested in making your own filament with something like the Filastruder, you can use the newly created filament on your old spools.

It may even be possible to shred the filament and create new filament if you have the right type of plastic.

Some people say you can even sell a load of empty spools on eBay or another online platform since there are people who have uses for them. A good example could be the 3D Printing subreddit, which is full of people who create their own filament, and may want empty spools.

A really cool idea that a Reddit user did was to make it into a cool looking light.

Finally found a use for one of my empty spools! from 3Dprinting

You could do something similar and even make a curved lithophane to fit around the spool.

Someone managed to make a great organizer out of their filament to hold bottles of paint. They could get 10 bottles of paint per spool of filament.

Empty spools make excellent paint storage, 10 paints per spool. Nice and neat from 3Dprinting

If you have a desk with a computer and other objects on it, you could possibly use a spool to prop up things. One user used it to prop up their desktop so it was in a better position for them to use. You could even 3D print a few drawers within the spool to hold items.

Here’s another paint-related use for empty spools.

Finally found a use for at least one of those empty spools from 3Dprinting

 

Kids may be able to use empty spools of filament in some kind of art project or for building forts. If you happen to know a school teacher, they may be able to put those spools to use.

What Should You Do With Leftover 3D Filament?

If you have leftover 3D filament that are close to being finished, you can use them for large prints that you know you’ll paint over so the different colors aren’t shown. Make sure you have a filament sensor so when it finishes, you can replace the filament with another spool.

The video below by MatterHackers explains that you can make things like swatches of colors, inserting the filament in a 3D pen, use it for welding two separate parts, create pins and hinges, and more.

You can use multiple spools of  leftover filament for any type of prototypes or even for a unique looking object that has multiple colors and layers.

Hopefully this article helps with showing you what you can do with your old 3D printer, as well as spools of filament.

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