A rapidly growing trend for makers, crafters, and tinkerers in general, 3D printing is becoming more widely available, affordable, and popular hobby for many, and for good reason. Whether it’s putting together the whole kit yourself or purchasing an affordable, premade beginner model, 3D printing allows you to make virtually whatever you can think of in a three dimensional space.
There are a few trouble spots with 3D printing though. We’re not talking about nozzles getting clogged or failure to adhere to a build plate—we’re talking about how to store the filament. Typically found in spools from a range of size, poor 3D printer filament can cause a number of problems, from the filament breaking down during printing to the filament being tangled in the spool.
While a few spools can easily be stored properly at home, a storage unit is a great solution for storing your 3D printing materials as long as you take the proper steps ahead of time and partner them with the right storage features.
Prepare your filament for storage
The very first thing you should do when storing any filament is ensure that its properly spooled, giving special attention to the end. This is to ensure there are no unseen tangles that will otherwise devastate your future prints three hours into the job. Once you’ve taken time to make sure the filament is untangled on the spool, secure the loose end to ensure it doesn’t accidentally (and easily) pop under the wrapped filament and creates a tangle. Many spools include specifically designed holes on the side in which you can tuck the loose end. If not, you can secure it to the side of the spool with a strong tape.
Once you’ve secured the filament on the spool, find the right container to store it in. As 3D printing filaments are polymers, they are susceptible to hydrolysis. To put it simply, filament can absorb moisture in the air and will then breakdown when it’s heated in the extruder. This could cause issues from a low quality print to even cracking. To combat this, always make sure your 3D printing filament is stored in airtight containers.
A few good ideas to use include simple vacuum bags, which suck most of the air (and moisture) out of the bag or by using a sealed plastic storage tote. If using the latter, it is also a good idea to place a few silica gel packets in with the filament to absorb any small amounts of remaining moisture. If storing a large amount of filament, it may be best to use a clear tote or label all the colors and materials on the outside of the container to avoid long searches later on.
Best storage features for 3D printer filament
If temperature and humidity is the enemy of perfectly preserved filament, then climate controlled storage is a must for storing your 3D printer filament. This feature maintains a constant temperature and humidity level within the unit, regardless of what the season and weather is like outside. In short, climate control is the best bet for keeping your filament in pristine working order and giving you the amazing prints you so desire.
Another feature you’ll want to consider is finding a storage facility with 24-hour access. As with any hobby, you never know when you’ll get the itch or have the time to enjoy 3D printing. A storage facility with 24-hour access lets you get to your filament whenever you want or need it—regardless of whether or not that’s during traditional business hours.
Lastly, protect your filament with strong security features. Some filaments can be pricey, and even a small collection of materials can be a hundreds of dollars. Keep your valuable hobby or business materials safe with video surveillance, onsite management, and even electronic gate access.
Place 3D printer filament into self storage
Once you’ve gotten the right storage unit, features, and preparations out of the way, storing your 3D printer filament is simple. A few easy tips to follow:
- Keep a written inventory of the filaments in storage so you know exactly what you have available to you.
- Do not store your boxes in one large pile. Line the walls of your storage unit with your containers, which allows you to see and get access to everything you have stored.
- Keep the boxes off the ground to avoid any further moisture. This can be done with shelving, placing wooden palate on the floor, or even laying down a plastic tarp.
3D printing can be a fun hobby or a lucrative business. And while the finished products can be lasting and strong, you can protect the sensitive materials with the right preparations and storage features.