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Having sustainability at the heart of our company’s operations, any initiative that aims to reduce wastage and use less plastic in 3D printing is welcomed by us. The MasterSpool initiative certainly grabbed our attention when it was first conceptualised (even before companies started picking it up). Needless to say, we followed its development very closely and did our own research to find a way to integrate it into our system. However, in the end we decided to go with cardboard spools instead. But why? In this post we break down some of the challenges we identified with MasterSpool while determining our options for the “greener spool”.
For a start, our main product line at that time consisted of 1kg spools, not 750g (Although we do offer this weight too now). However, even if we moved to MasterSpool completely, the total weight considered for shipping a spool of filament would still be over 1kg so the cost savings would be minimal, if there would be any at all. Understandably, the companies that were previously offering 750g spools would be more receptive to this from a cost-saving point of view.
We also feel that 1kg spools are more sustainable than the 750g counterparts. Let’s take an example of a client who uses 150kg over a period of time. This is equivalent to 150 spools of 1kg reels or 200 spools of 750g reels. Buying in 750g quantities means 50 extra spools would have to be shipped to achieve the same weight! Think of all extra packaging, transport emissions and overall carbon footprint impact.
We provide ourselves on being customer-centric; when we liaised with some of our regular customers, many felt that using the MasterSpool would prove to be an inconvenience – especially those with multiple 3D printers – as they would have to constantly print extra spools to accommodate the MasterSpool format of filaments. Many of our clients run 3D-print farms – with some running 24 hour production they’d rather be printing actual jobs, not holders for the spools!
Our production partners also informed us that to accommodate MasterSpool, the winding equipment would have to be modified, cable ties would have to be added and the packaging process is completely different. All of these increase the manufacturing costs and would have to be passed onto our customers, which we were not too keen on doing. Moreover, as the format inherently requires more human intervention, it increases the likelihood of a coil coming loose, which can cause winding issues or bends within the filament rolls.
However, we wanted to know what our customers wanted as well. We sent out a survey (>200 respondents) that explored this concept further and these were the results.
Almost two-thirds of the survey participants were in favour of cardboard spools! This was a big eye opener for us as we initially believed that it would be a close battle between cardboard spools and the MasterSpool concept.
Knowing the sentiments of our customers and doing our own research, we decided that cardboard spools were the best way forward for us. Cardboard is a widely recycled material that can easily be recycled after use by both consumers and industrial users. The spools would provide a strong and durable base that protects the filament in transit and in storage. Moreover, as the cardboard spools are 10% lighter than their ABS counterparts, it is better for shipping and it has a lower environmental carbon footprint during transportation.
In conclusion, whilst we see the merits of MasterSpool, cardboard seemed the more sustainable and efficient option – given our user-base, existing product weights and production feasibility.
We are happy to be one of the first filament brands to provide high-quality filament reeled on cardboard spools and for the benefit of our planet we would love to see more brands follow our lead with sustainable spool solutions – be it cardboard, MasterSpool or even a new innovation!
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