Can You Respool 3D Filament? Why You May Have To & How!

How you look after your filament is important. Doing things like drying your filament and storing it properly will improve your 3D printing workflow and ensure you produce better prints. 

Too often beginners and even professionals overlook simple things like this and end up with stringy filament, warped models, or brittle prints. All of these can be avoided just by taking a few minutes to care for your materials.

So, Can You Respool PLA Filament?

The simplest way of removing tangles is to try to remove the knot without removing the entire roll of filament from its original spool. This involves less work and has less likelihood of creating more tangles. Some knots, however, can be too deep to fix on the spool. In this case, the only solution is to remove the roll from its spool to an empty spool so as to untangle the knot. and re-spool it.

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Knots will cause under-extrusion in your printer as it struggles to drag enough filament into the extruder. This will cause your print to turn out with gaps or holes in it. Unless you want a failed print on your hands you want to ensure a proper amount of tension in your roll.

In this guide, we look at filament knots. Why does filament get tangled up and how do you fix it? How do you re-spool your filament after you have untangled all the knots? If this has happened to you and you want some quick tips on how to remedy it, then this guide has some answers for you.

How Do You Respool A Filament?

Re-spooling may be the only way to untangle filament if simply removing a few loops fails. Re-spooling is taking filament from one spool and rolling it onto another. The quickest way to do this is with a rotary tool such as a hand drill.

One kilogram of 1.75 mm PLA is around 333 meters of filament. That is a lot of filament to re-spool by hand. Source

An electric power drill will make the process of unrolling your spool much faster. To get started you need a drill attachment. You can print one yourself using this design

Once you have your attachment and an empty spool these are the steps you should follow to res-pool with a power drill:

  1. Secure the loose end of your tangled filament to the empty spool.
  2. Use a broom handle or any other circular object to keep your tangled spool fixed in place while you unroll it.
  3. Wind your filament around the empty spool by spinning it to your right (clockwise).
  4. Spin your spool while moving it back and forth to make sure the filament spreads evenly around it.
  5. Cut the filament from the old spool and pull it tight to increase the tension on the new spool.
  6. Tape it down to the side of the spool to make sure it does not get tangled again. 
  7. Let the filament sit for a few hours to allow it to coil around the new spool. If you try to use it immediately it might unwind as soon as you release the filament end from the spool.

Can You Use Filament Without A Spool?

There are several solutions for using filament without a spool. The first is to simply print without a spool. An alternative low-cost method is to improvise using the cardboard spool from a spent roll of toilet paper. 

The trick with printing without a spool is to make sure the filament does not get tangled up. To achieve this you need to keep your filament neatly rolled up so it feeds easily into the printer.

How Do You Fix Tangled PLA Filament?

A tangle can stop a printer from pulling filament into the extruder and cause a print to fail. This is especially common with overnight prints when there is no one watching the printer.

The best way to fix tangled PLA is to pull a few loops at a time over the side of the spool. The goal is to keep pulling until there is a single “path” or line of filament. Multiple paths are indicative that the filament is still tangled.

Once you have removed the knot, you can rewind your filament on the same spool. While you rewind, you want to keep just enough tension on the end of your filament to stop it from getting your filament tangled up again. 

How Does Filament Get Tangled?

Tangles are usually the result of loss of tension in the filament roll. Filament will come with the end taped to the side of the spool or slotted through a hole in the spool. This is to keep the tension in the roll and prevent it from getting tangled.

What typically happens when you remove the filament from the tape or hole without keeping the tension in the roll, is the roll starts to unwind loosely on the spool. This is where all your troubles begin. 

How To Prevent Filament Tangles

The best way to prevent filament tangles is to always keep tension in the roll. This means threading or taping the end of the filament tightly into the hole or side of your spool when storing it away.

Or always have the end in the extruder. As long as there is enough tension in the roll, you are not likely to get any knots in your filament.

Why Is My PLA So Stringy?

Stringing is when material oozes out of the extruder as the print head is moving. The strings look like spiderwebs on a finished print. They are typically caused by printing with a temperature set too high or using the wrong retraction settings. While stringing is more common with materials like PETG, it does also occur with PLA and ABS.

Printer settings are an important part of 3D printing. Using the wrong settings for the material you are working with will almost guarantee a failed print. 

Temperature settings

PLA has a specific temperature at which it should be melted. This applies to every type of filament. Using the wrong melting temperature will lead to under-extrusion if the temperature is too low and over-extrusion if the temperature is set too high.

PLA melts at between 180 and 230°C. To find the right temperature start at the high or low end and gradually adjust the temperature by 5°C.

For more on this, check out our post ” What Happens If You Overheat Your 3D Print? Complete Temperatures Guide

Retraction settings

When the extruder crosses empty space, you can set it to retract your filament just a little. This stops it from oozing on your print. When the extruder slides over to the next place where it’s supposed to print it starts squeezing out plastic again. 

Most slicing software will have retraction toggled by default but you should double-check just to make sure. You also might want to tweak the settings by adjusting retraction distance and speed. Retraction distance is how far the filament retracts into the extruder while speed adjusts how fast.

Does PLA Become Brittle After Printing?

PLA is known for being the easiest material to work with. It is also inherently brittle and has less strength than materials like ABS or nylon. The main reasons for PLA prints becoming brittle are moisture absorption and exposure to UV light.

For more on this you can check out our post “Why Does a 3D Print Become Brittle? How To Fix It!

In general, plastics weaken when they absorb moisture or when they are exposed to heat and light. This is why proper storage of filament is important. Keeping your filament dry and way from light ensures your prints come out less brittle. 


I am a very well experienced techie civil engineer who's extensively interested in 3D printing technology and even more captivated by the potential of 3D printing livable structures

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