How many times have you finished a 3d print, and the leftover filament on the spool isn’t quite enough to complete your next print. Or worse, have you ever finished a roll mid-print (the print then stops) and you’ve wasted all that filament and have to start again?
It’s possible to join PLA filament, or join ABS filament together. You can actually use the following methods to splice nearly any FDM printer filament together.
While we don’t fully recommend fusing 3d printer filament together (if done poorly it can easily cause jams and inconsistencies in your prints) sometimes it is necessary for one of the two reasons:
1. You’re printing something big, that’s larger than the commonly available 1KG spools, and thus you may need to join the ends of two or more spools together to make a seamless transition for a really big print.
Although we might suggest printing in smaller sections and gluing together once finished – as fusing could cause a jam, and who wants to risk that on a large print? Luckily we also offer 3KG spools, if you’re interested.
2. Or you may just have quite a few samples of various colours and want to create a rainbow effect on your prints – which is a far more fun reason. At least you can experiment this way, to get a feel for how your extruder responds to fusing before risking a larger print.
The (unfortunately currently unavailable?) Artisea 3D Filament Splicer shows some great ideas.
Despite the risks involved, there are some techniques you can use to get an acceptably accurate join, that’s less likely to ruin your print. Here we’ll cover our 3 favorite methods; and afterword’s let’s see if you can create something fun (or useful) from your left over filaments!
Following this guide by no means guarantees you can print flawlessly with joined filament, but will significantly increase your chances of having a trouble-free print. As each of these methods are ‘hacks’ – it’s likely you’ll get increasingly nicer results with practice!
Regardless of your reasons for learning how to fuse pieces of filament together, there are the things you need to note beforehand:
- Never attempt to fuse different materials together, even if they have similar melting points. This could end in disaster for many reasons.
- Never attempt to fuse different brands of filament together. Two different brands of PLA may look like its doable, but as above – the melting points and makeup of the two brands can differ. Again this could cause jams in your extruder, or the join lengths of filament breaking apart and clogging your extruding motor.
- Regardless of what anyone says – don’t heat your filament for fusing with an open flame. You won’t know what temperature you’re using, and you could either not get a good enough bond, or you could even burn or boil the filament. For best results you’re going to want to use an adjustable temperature soldering iron or other accurate heat source.
- Make sure you cut each end of the filament cleanly before joining. This isn’t completely necessary, but it will make the join easier and stronger.
The simple way:
Here’s the simplest method by Xabbax on the Reprap forums. If you’re looking for a quick answer to how to fuse PLA filament, this could be it. It's probably the simplest 3D printer filament joiner.
- Roll tin foil closely around the filament to form a tight fitting metal tube. Here a triangle piece is used so that it can better stand the heat in the middle.
- Push each end into the foil tube, and heat with a temperature controlled heating element or adjustable soldering iron to around 180C for PLA or 250C for ABS. These are guide temperatures only, the filament you have (if not rigid.ink) could differ greatly.
- Once hot enough, while still gently pushing together you should feel the filament melt and fuse together. Once done, leave to cool for a few minutes and remove from the foil tube.
Something a little more reliable:
If you’re finding that a bit fiddly, this method might be a bit easier to manage. You’ll have to print the splicer tool itself, but it will give you better guidance if you’re not able to wrap foil around the filament (if the filament has a tight coil for example).
Note: With this example it’s likely you’ll need to shave off the bulge created from the join afterwards.
You can check out this handy, very quick to make tool here on Thingiverse.
And for best results:
The last tool to splice your filaments together takes a little more preparation, but should yield the most reliable results. It’s produced by RichRap – you can see the details for his tool here.
It uses an aluminium block that’s drilled out to form a clamp to seal around the ends of the filament. The block is then heated up as above, with a temperature controlled heat source. Richard seems to have gotten the best results from this. It’s well worth a read.
Regardless of what you plan on making, I hope this article lets you create what you want to. Whether you’re working on a large print, you want to make a specially coloured print, or maybe you just want to join a load of filament samples together to create something unusual – please comment below with your thoughts and hopefully some pictures of what you create!
As always, please feel free to contact us if you’d like other questions about 3d printing answered.
Not tried rigid.ink yet? Why not order a free sample, with free shipping, here.