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Pellets to Pellets, Spools to Spools

6 Best Filament Extruders to Build or Buy

Picture of Brian Obudho
by Brian Obudho
Feb 1, 2019

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.

Building or Buying a Filament Extruder What's the Deal?

A DIY filament extruder kit.
A DIY filament extruder kit. Source: wei48221.blogspot.com

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.

Building or Buying a Filament Extruder 1. Low-Cost Filament Extruder (To Build)

It may not be pretty, but it's cheap!
It may not be pretty, but it's cheap! Source: ianmcmill / Instructables

In May of 2013, this homemade extruder was posted on the RepRap forum by user Xabbax.

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:

  • 10-mm stainless steel tube
  • 15-mm copper tube silver interior (this will be the melting zone)
  • Aluminum block with a 15-mm opening
  • Motor (the original used a car windscreen motor)
  • 2x 220-V, 200-degree PTC heaters (insulate them using glass fiber cloth)
  • Brass end-stop with a 1-mm hole at the end
  • 10-mm wood drill bit with its end cut off 5-10 mm into the melting zone (this will be the auger)

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.

Building or Buying a Filament Extruder 2. Lyman Filament Extruder II (To Build)

A prize-winning design.
A prize-winning design. Source: hlyman / Thingiverse

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.

Building or Buying a Filament Extruder 3. Filastruder Kit & Filawinder (To Buy)

A Filastruder kit in operation.
A Filastruder kit in operation. Source: Labieno / Soliforum

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:

  • Aluminum alloy chassis: Easy to assemble and guarantees durability.
  • Upgraded GF45 motor: Exceptionally strong and comes with high-quality internals and brushes that are easily replaceable.
  • Closed-loop PWM controller: Can be used to regulate the motor’s speed and torque. An LCD display indicates the current, power, and voltage. It also gives the user more control, making it easier to switch to a new plastic.
  • Cooling fan: Regulates temperature for the controller and the motor.
  • High barrel torsion strength: Ensures smooth feeding of pellets without damage as a result of overload. In addition, the barrel is fully insulated.
  • Free melt filter nozzle: Prevents dirt or debris wider than 200 um from passing through and getting into the filament. This ensures the filament is free of any unwanted particles that would normally clog the hot end of your 3D printer.
  • Upgraded hopper: Allows one to attach standard screw top bottles. The model was designed by Thingiverse user imageit.
  • Low friction PTFE guide: Adjustable relative to the nozzle.

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.

Building or Buying a Filament Extruder 4. Felfil Evo (To Buy)

Extrude filament in style.
Extrude filament in style. Source: 3dprintingcreative.it

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:

  • It allows for a nozzle change to give either 1.75-mm or 2.85-mm filament diameter. The interchangeable nozzle allows the filament to cool during extrusion and keeps a constant filament diameter.
  • It comes with a powerful gear motor, giving it excellent performance with many materials.
  • Its durable screw, which is made from K100 steel, enables the Felfil Evo to achieve high-quality extrusion. This unique extruding screw works alongside the melting chamber and the nozzle and has been designed to convert the plastic pieces into filament. This screw is machined on a five-axis milling machine.
  • The special PCB board, Felfilino, is based on the Arduino processor. The board runs the Felfil Evo interface and the filament extrusion process.
  • It comes in several different colors.

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.

Building or Buying a Filament Extruder 5. Filabot EX2 (To Buy)

A semi-professional device.
A semi-professional device. Source: Filabot

The Filabot EX2 is designed to be simple for those who are still new to extrusion. Here are some of its notable features:

  • The three-stage extrusion screw is manufactured from hardened stainless steel.
  • The compression section applies force between the barrel wall and the plastic, and this enhances the mixing capability of the proprietary screw.
  • A speed control board regulates the extrusion speed. The board has a module for adjusting the exact RPM of the screw in case force changes during the extrusion process.
  • 0.9 kg of 1.75-mm or 2.85-mm filament can be extruded per hour.
  • Several different materials are supported.

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.

Building or Buying a Filament Extruder 6. Filabot EX6 (To Buy)

Perhaps not for the average hobbyist.
Perhaps not for the average hobbyist. Source: Filabot

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:

  • The three-stage extrusion screw, manufactured from hardened stainless steel, is easily removable and can be swapped out for other screws that match the demands of different polymers. Because of their 24:1 L/D ratio, the high-carbon steel screws stand out when compared to other extruders.
  • A 4-zone temperature control system and extrusion speed control. The temperature zones can be controlled independently as per the characteristics of the polymer. The speed control board has a module for regulating the exact RPM of the screw.
  • 4.5 kg of 1.75-mm or 2.85-mm filament can be extruded per hour.
  • Most extrudable filaments are supported.

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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