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How to Change Filament in a 3D Printer - Another Approach



Kevin is looking at the spool of PLA filament in use on his 8-foot-tall 3D Gigante printer. He's about two-thirds of the way through printing a pedestal for Epic Swoon, a 4'1" 3D printed sculpture that was commissioned by an art consultant in Cincinnati, Ohio.

It's getting late, though. Kevin wants to go to bed, and the spool of 3D printing filament the printer is using now won't last the night. Rather than get up in the middle of the night to change the spool of filament, he's decided to change the spool now so it will print at least until morning.

He's going to pause the print, move the printhead up and out of the way so the 500 degree Farenheit printhead isn't sitting right on top of the 3D print. Then he'll take off the nearly finished spool and replace it with a nearly full spool of 3D printer filament.

Kevin shows the screen of the 3D printing host program, Repetier. He shows how he will pause the print, then move the printhead out of the way. First he'll use the Z function to raise the printhead, then the X and Y controls to move it out of the way.

He waits until the printer is in the inner support area, rather than on the pedestal's exterior, which is visible. That way, if he makes any kind of mistake, it will be hidden inside the pedestal. He hits the pause button, raises the printhead (Z) and then moves it out of the way (X and Y) so he can change the filament.

A closeup of the 3D printer extruder shows the motor, the toothed wheel that advances the filament, and the filament that is coming off the spool. He shows how he releases the tension wheel that holds the filament against the extruder wheel, and then he pulls out the filament. "It's just that easy," says Kevin.

Next he simply removes the nearly empty spool and replaces it with a nearly full spool that will last all night long and into the morning.

Kevin unspools some filament, pulls the wheel outward by depressing the spring-loaded lever, and slides the new filament into the bowden tube that feeds the filament down into the hotend. He backs off the tension and pushes the filament down into the hotend until he sees molten filament coming out of the printhead. He pulls that bit of waste filament away, then goes back to the computer and clicks "Continue printing." The printhead goes right back to where it started and resumes printing.

The 3D print has another 45 hours, 55 minutes to go. This spool should get him at least into the next morning. Then he'll put on a fresh spool so he doesn't have to worry about it all day long. A full 5-pound spool will last about 1-1/2, maybe 2 days.

All this planning is part of the fun of multi-day 3D printing projects - this pedestal is slated to take 115 hours to complete.

Kevin is ready to go back to work, but you might want to wait one more moment to see him lose it ....

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