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How to Change the Filament in a 3D Printer

Kevin is watching the Cereberus Gigante 3D printer, which can print items 4-1/2-feet tall, print a new sculpture with the last bit of PLA plastic filament from the last job.

There's just a small amount of filament left, and Kevin is getting as much out of it as he can on this new sculpture. He has a whole spool of new filament ready, and is just waiting for the printer to use as much of the last spool as possible. "No sense wasting it," he says.

Currently, he's printing a sculpture called Vessel. He submitted it as a design for a private commission. The patrons picked another one of his sculptures, but Kevin still wants to see what this design will look like in real life. The sculpture will be about 4' tall and about 18 - 20" in diameter.

Kevin could use any color filament he wants when he reloads the printer as long as it's 3 milimeters thick and will fit down through the drive with its gear-driven motor, through the Boden tube, and down into the extruder head itself, where the plastic is melted. He could use a different color, but if he did, it would create bands of color - you can't blend them together.

He decides that it's close enough to the end, so he pauses the program, emphasizing that you want to push the "Pause" button, NOT the "kill" button.

Then he just lifts the red level to release the filament and pull it out. Kevin pulls down some filament from the fresh spool, then uses a pair of flush cutters to snip the filament at an angle. Flush cutters are handy because they have one flat side, so you can get right down to the base of a surface.

He cuts the filament at an angle so it feeds better into the system. Because the extruder head melts the new filament into the molten filament that was still in the head, there is no gap or skip in the print. He shows the small amount of filament left over.

Finally, he resumes the program, telling the 3D printer to "Get back to work!"

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