Clock from 3d Printer Filament Spool

3d printed & upcycled clock


Every roll of 3d printer filament comes with a spool, and unless you do something with it when its useful life comes to an end, it gets thrown away, or at best recycled into other plastic products.  But a filament spool can be quite a fine thing, and it’s good to at least try to reuse it by making it into something else. 3d printing provides opportunities to do this. If items made with the spool can be sold for more than the costs of the filament  and other parts, then your 3d printing pays for itself almost immediately.  One filament seller who has embraced this idea of reuse is Eumaker who have prehacked their spools so they can be made into coffee capsule stands, coathangers and other items.

Mounting the 3d printed numbers on the clock.  This was the rubber band (banding) pattern used to make the clock shown in the top photo with 3 sets of 4 numbers.

Clock mechanism as bought from Jaycar

So here is something you can make with your printer using a filament spool.  The filament I get comes from 3dfillies, if you get filament on different spools, you will have to adapt the designs I have uploaded here on Thingiverse. The 3dfillies spool can be broken down into 3 parts, there are 2 sides and a central cylinder.  Breaking down the spool into 2 sides can be done using a screwdriver to press the locking tabs on the sides away from the holes in the cylinder so the tabs can be moved away from the holes and disengaged.

 This project is a clock which can be made in different ways and used as an education tool. The clock numbers hook over the edge of a spool side, and are held in place by rubber bands.  In the middle there is a round adapter piece which holds a clock mechanism.  These are available for about $16.00 each from Jaycar and Radio Parts in Melbourne, but they can be much cheaper (from $1.00 each) from ebay and other online sites.  The mechanism I bought only included black minute and hour hands, which made it hard to read the clock because of a lack of contrast, so I used liquid paper to paint the clock hands white.  A clock that you can tell the time from!  Wow!

This is the printer spool with the clock and white painted hands.  

Leave the clockface on the printer spool.

The clockface can be left on a spool in the printer or made into a proper clock.  Leaving the clockface on the printer is interesting.  If the spool is feeding into the printer at 10cm / min and the filament is coming off at a diameter of 150mm, how long does it take for the spool to rotate once?  A bit later (you are printing an oversize pokemon-themed fidget spinner) the filament speed is the same but the filament is coming off at a diameter of 125mm.  How long to rotate now?

The following photos show a few of the possible variations of the banding pattern.  



Configuration 1 is six sets of 2 numbers

Configuration 2 is 4 sets of 3 numbers

Configuration 3 is a set of six numbers and 3 sets of 2 numbers.


Side-view of setup for configuration 4 includes m8 bolts, nuts and washers.

Configuration 4 lets individual numbers hang between the spool edge and the centre hub bolt.  It can be used to teach basic mathematics such as counting and ordering the numbers from 1 to 12.


The 4 clock configurations shown above can be used to teach students about factorisation, sub factorisation and counting. All factorisations of 12, ie 1 x 12, 2 x 6, 3 x 4 can be demonstrated, and 4 sets of numbers on 3 rubber bands is different to 3 sets of numbers on 4 rubber bands.

12 is a highly divisible number and it would be interesting to make a clock with 11 numbers filling the 360 degree clockface.  The "11" clockface can be divided into number sets, but only by addition, not by multiplication.

Permutations and combinations can be demonstrated as well.  Configuration 4 can be put together in 12! or 12*11*10*9*8*7*6*5*4*3*2 different ways and the colour arrangement shown in fig 1 can be put together in 6! or 6*5*4*3*2 different ways. 





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