You don't have to trash your old or failed prints. Use them to create new filament! We list six of the best filament extruders that you can build or buy, selected based on their track records of reliability.
Filament extruders are machines that convert shredded plastic into filament. They come in different shapes and sizes, but the process is more or less the same: Plastic pieces are pushed through a heated area, where they are melted, and the liquid plastic is extruded through the nozzle as a strand of filament.
Extruders are the reason you should stop trashing your old or failed prints. They use shredded plastic or pellets, which are much cheaper compared to comparable amounts of filament. Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan claims that the cost savings can be as much as 90%!
The daunting task is picking the best extruder, whether it’s ready-made or buildable. There are several extruders on the market today, ranging from basic to industrial grade machines.
In the following, we present the best of the best extruders to build or buy. All have been tried and tested and are proven to be reliable.
The upside of this extruder is that it’s super cheap – at the time, it cost less than $100 to make. It’s also more than doable for the typical DIYer. Of course, before starting to build, make sure you have enough ventilation and that you’re wearing protective equipment.
Based on the instructions, the material list consists of the following:
When extruding for the first time, it’s recommended to feed the plastic into the heat chamber up to the nozzle and the motor’s switch, then wait for 15–30 minutes before proceeding. Also, push a wire through the nozzle to gauge the front of the plastic.
Make sure to give the plastic enough time to melt before you start the motor for extrusion. Otherwise, you’re likely to run into many problems.
Xabbax used the white plastic found insider refrigerator doors for this project and extruded 1.75-mm filament. To produce a nice filament, the hobbyist advises that one should let the filament run over a copper tube suspended in front of the extruder. Xabbax warns against air movement or any external force as those factors will result in a kinked filament.
Another notable upside with this project is that it can be tweaked in many ways if you want different results or if it’s not working for you. Instructables user ianmcmill expands on the materials list to build a similar but more robust extruder. It costs around $130–$150 and can make between 4 and 5 kg of filament in 6 hours.
In May 2012, a contest dubbed the “Desktop Factory Competition” offered $40,000 to whoever could come up with an open-source machine capable of turning plastic pellets into filament (suitable for use on a desktop 3D printer). The rules also stated that the parts for this device should not go over $250.
The 40k bounty was alluring, attracting Hugh Lyman, an 83-year-old enterprising inventor. Lyman’s first entry was the Lyman Filament Extruder, which was capable of turning inexpensive plastic pellets into new filament, as required. Unfortunately, this machine was disqualified for failing to come under $250. That’s because Lyman had used fabricated parts that he couldn’t account for.
Soon, the inventor was back with the Lyman Filament Extruder II, an update to the disqualified version. In addition to other material changes, it featured fewer wooded parts in favor of steel and impressed the judges enough to make Lyman the winner.
This hand-cranked extruder received mass acclaim for being simple and cheap in a niche market that mostly features expensive products. It was meant to process PLA and ABS pellets, but it can also recycle post-consumer plastic waste products.
Here’s how it works: You fill a hopper with your pellets and turn on a heater. The contraption melts the plastic pellets into molten plastic, which is then squeezed through the nozzle as filament. The coiling can be done on the floor.
The BOM includes quotations of custom parts, but this machine can dramatically improve the economics of 3D printing, saving makers up to 80% on material costs.
The Lyman Filament Extruder II is open source, which means that other makers can modify or improve its mechanisms if they want to lower cost or increase efficiency. As such, you can find a simplified version by Marcin Jakubowski and an improvised version by Lyman himself.
At $299, the Filastruder Kit is an inexpensive, robust kit capable of extruding plastic from plastic pellets, discarded support material, or failed 3D prints. It’s designed to extrude ABS and PLA and comes with many features that make it an exceptional extruder:
The manufacturer assures buyers that this extruder is easy to assemble. Earlier kits were a pain, but the current version doesn’t require one to have many tools.
The Filawinder Kit ensures that your filament follows a steady and unchanging path as it leaves the extruder. It has a sensor that detects the filament’s position, making adjustments to the speed of the winder. This helps in keeping the filament on a steady path.
Normally, the Filastruder Kit extrudes filament into a pile on the floor. If you want to quickly and easily wound the resulting filament, consider the Filawinder. It has a clear and clean space for coiling your filament and makes it possible to spool the filament while it extrudes. It’s a helpful tool when you want to keep your filament off the floor, where it can become tangled, and is especially useful if you want to produce quality filament for hours.
If you’re good with your hands, you can also build a Filawinder.
The Felfil Evo plastic filament extruder is easy to use and comes with an intuitive interface. It’s possible to set the Felfil Evo manually — by adjusting the temperature and the motor speed — before it starts to make quality filament. This extruder is good for the home, benefitting both beginners and experts.
Some of its notable features include the following:
There are three versions of the Felfil Evo: Assembled, complete, and basic.
The Assembled Kit costs $719 and is made for those who want to start extruding immediately.
The Complete Kit retails for $599 and is for those who want to build their filament extruder step-by-step before they begin extruding. Be ready to use the manuals when assembling this kit because it’s your job to know which component goes where.
The Basic Kit is the bare-bones version of the Felfil Evo, which means you only get the components that are uniquely made and expensive to handcraft. You can then source the other parts, like the heaters. Expect more work when you purchase a basic kit.
Felfil Evo is an open source project that can be adapted by any ambitious DIY-savvy hobbyist.
The Filabot EX2 is designed to be simple for those who are still new to extrusion. Here are some of its notable features:
For the best results, use the Filabot EX2 together with the Filabot Airpath and the Filabot Spooler. The Airpath cools filament as it’s extruded and is compulsory when working with higher temperature polymers. On the other hand, the Spooler is convenient for spooling the extruded filament. It will help you achieve the tightest tolerances and make your extrusion set up easier.
Alone, the Filabot EX2 costs $2,499, but when you add the Filabot Airpath and the Filabot Spooler, the price tag shoots up to $3,799.
The Filabot EX6 extruder retails for more than $9,000 and is considered a professional filament extrusion system. It’s like the upgraded version of the Filabot EX2, and has the following features:
License: The text of "6 Best Filament Extruders to Build or Buy" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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