When 3D printing, the quality of the filament is extremely important. Properly storing filament is one of the best proactive steps you can take to maintain the quality of your filament.
Why Should I Store My Filament?
Storing filament properly does maintain filament quality, but why is filament storage important and how exactly does it affect filament quality? Proper storage is important because the thermoplastics used in 3D printer filament is hygroscopic, which means that they absorb moisture from the air.
This excess moisture becomes a problem when “wet” filament is extruded. When the filament is heated, the excess water vaporizes and creates air bubbles and voids within the print, which weakens it structurally. In addition, “wet” filament can result in increased brittleness, diameter augmentation, degradation, bubbling, and broken filament.
As opposed to “wet” filament, filament that has been kept “dry” through proper storage results in consistently higher quality prints and can even result in increased accuracy.
Some Simple Solutions
First, it is important to note that it takes time for filament to absorb moisture from the air. For nylons this could take as little as 18 hours, but PLA and ABS take much longer. So, if you use your filament quickly, then you shouldn’t worry about “wet” filaments. Additionally, filament that is already “wet” will need to be dried before it is stored as these storage methods prevent filament from getting “wet” but do not actively dry the filaments.
However, if you do not use filament quickly, then there are a few different simple approaches to filament storage. One very common solution involves vacuum bags and silica gel. The filament is placed in the vacuum bag along with the silica gel and is then sealed. You could also use plastic tubs with sealable lids and mini dehumidifiers. These are both effective storage methods.
In addition to the simpler ways to store filament, there are many DIY solutions available. In fact, searching Thingiverse for filament storage provides many viable solutions.
One that I came across was the Cylindrical Desiccant Cases – Filament Storage by KludgeGuru. This builds on the vacuum bag storage idea. These cases are 3D printed and are designed to fit inside the filament spool. They can then be filled with silica gel and placed in vacuum sealed bags.
Two other DIY storage methods I found used a similar idea. They both use airtight tubs and mini dehumidifiers to keep their filament dry, but also involve additional work that allows the filament to be used while it is still stored in the tub. They do this by drilling holes in the boxes that allow the filament to be dispensed and by mounting the spools on a rod that allows them to turn freely.
Simonwihan’s Airtight Filament Storage/Dispenser II is a good example. However, if you are planning on building your own storage box, I would recommend Filament Storage Box DIY by kameya as this version provides much better step by step instructions.
In the end, whether you choose to store your filament simply or to DIY, filament storage is an important aspect in maintaining the quality of your filament and your prints.