DIY Filament Dry Box

for 3D Printing

Earl Daniel Villanueva

Issue 79, February 2024

Instead of buying a commercial filament dry box, Earl built his own

To avoid failed 3D prints and clogged printer nozzles, it is important to keep your filament in a safe and dry environment. There are commercially available devices to help maintain your filament, or you can build your own, just like Earl did with his DIY Dry Box. We caught up with Earl to find out more.

Please introduce yourself to our readers (any maker-relevant details such as related education, qualifications, profession etc.)

Hello everyone, I am Earl Daniel Villanueva, a maker from the Philippines. I am the founder of Evtech. I am also an educational content creator, I create videos about programming, robotics, electronics, and engineering.

When I was only 5 years old, my interest in my grandmother's electronic appliances had already been sparked. Due to my curiosity about how electronics work, I would tinker with them and open them up. Every Sunday, my grandmother had to call for a technician because I had broken the items. Because of that, I earned the nickname 'siraniko' (a Filipino word which means destroyer) from my family.

When I was only 10 years old, my formal education in electronics began right here because my father saw potential in me. He took me to an electronics technical training center, where I was not initially accepted due to my young age. The center hesitated, concerned that I might not keep up with the lessons and the payment would be in vain. Despite my tender age, it did not hinder me from showcasing my innate talent in the field of electronics. I proved to my peers that even as a child, I could compete. Many were impressed by my skills, opening the door for further guidance from my father and uncles.

The combined knowledge and expertise of my father and two uncles in different fields became my foundation. My father taught me about electrical systems, while my uncle Jun taught me about computers. My other uncle, Edwin, imparted knowledge about robotics, programming, and electronics.

When I reflect on my journey, from the mischievous 'siraniko' breaking electronics to the determined student pursuing a bachelor's degree in electronics engineering, it's a thrilling ride of passion and discovery. As I navigate the challenging terrain of my electronics engineering degree, I see it not just as a destination but as another exciting chapter in my lifelong exploration. The electronics may have been dismantled in my early years, but now, armed with knowledge and fueled by curiosity, I'm assembling the future—one circuit at a time.

Tell us about your Filament Dry Box project, what motivated you to make one, and the importance of looking after your filament's storage.

I am new to 3D printing and have always wanted to have one. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford it because it's not within my budget. However, I got my first 3D printer when I entered a contest on Instructables and won. The cash prize from that competition allowed me to purchase my 3D printer.

As I used my 3D printer for months, I noticed that the print quality was degrading. While searching on the internet, I found out that it was because my filament had been exposed to moisture. If the filament absorbs moisture from the air, it can lead to failed prints and nozzle clogs.

Upon learning this, I searched for the cheapest filament dry box on the internet. The cheapest one I found was around 70 USD, which, for me, isn't cheap considering that the components of a commercial filament dry box are not that expensive at all. Because of that, I decided to create a DIY filament dry box that you can make for only under 14 USD. Not only does it prevent the filament from being exposed to the air, but it can also dispense the filament to the 3D printer.

Does it use standard readily available components?

Yes, the DIY filament dry box that I created utilizes standard, readily available components. Here is a list of the components you'll need to complete this project:

  • PTFE tube
  • Pneumatic fittings
  • Silica gel
  • 608 bearing
  • Silicone sealant
  • Mini-LCD humidity and thermometer meter
  • Adhesive
  • Container box
  • 3D printer for printing the 3D models.

What is the size of the box you have used?

For the container box that I used in this project, I used a 10L container with dimensions of 25cm x 23cm x 30cm.

Does the spool holder support different roll sizes?

Yes, the spool holder that I used in this project can support different roll sizes.

How often do you need to replace the Silica Gel, and how do you know when they need changing?

In my case, during the first week of using it, reheating became necessary as silica gel absorbs a significant amount of moisture, leading to a change in color when saturated.

In my situation, after a week of use, the silica gel turned black. Upon reheating it in an oven, it reverted to its original color, indicating that the silica gel was dry and ready for reuse. Yes, reheat. There are various types of silica gel, and the one I used is reusable. There's no need to replace or discard it once saturated with moisture. Reusable silica gel is cost-effective over the long term, as you can use it multiple times before needing a replacement. On the other hand, non-reusable silica gel is more common in single-use applications and is simpler to use but may result in additional waste.

Though there are things that we need to consider, number one is the cost. Reusable silica gel may have a higher upfront cost, but its reusability can make it more cost-effective over time. And number two is the environmental impact. Reusable silica gel is generally more environmentally friendly as it reduces the need for disposal and the production of additional waste.

Do you have a comparison of what your room humidity was and what the humidity is now in the box?

Of course, I have a comparison of what the humidity was in my room before and after I put it in the box. Data matters! I collect data to ensure the project is effective and not in vain.

The room's humidity was 62% before closing the box and adding materials. Now, after the box has been closed for almost 5 minutes with all the materials inside, the humidity drops to 55%. After 7 hours, it further decreases to 31%, and after almost 16 hours, it reaches 25%.

With all the data I've gathered, I can conclude that this project is successful! While it is generally recommended to keep filament in a dry environment with humidity levels below 20%, a humidity level of 25% is still relatively low and acceptable for many filaments. If you're working with filaments like PLA or PETG, which are less prone to moisture absorption compared to materials like nylon or PVA, a humidity level of 25% should be sufficient in most cases.

As I mentioned, data matters. I saw a significant difference in my print quality after creating a DIY Filament Dry Box. I now have very nice print quality.

Tell us about the 3D prints. Did you need to modify those designs at all?

In reference to the 3D prints, for the spool holder 3D model, I got it from Thingiverse, uploaded by a user named Filamentry. Yes, I made modifications to that model – in fact, I completely redesigned it from scratch in Fusion 360. This was necessary because I needed to increase its length to accommodate placing the bearing holder much lower, allowing the spool's height to fit inside the box.

As for the Silica Gel Enclosure, I sought inspiration on Google. I searched for commercial silica gel enclosures and found products with snap-fit covers that attach to the base. However, I needed to create a design without a snap-fit feature. Having a snap-fit cover for the enclosure posed a high risk of scattering the silica gel beads when opened. Therefore, I chose to design a system where the cover slides smoothly on top of the base.

Could you mount the screen on the inside seeing that the box is transparent?

Yes, I can mount the Mini LCD humidity and thermometer meter on the inside of the project, but for design purposes or the aesthetics of the project, I have decided to create a hole specifically positioned between the two pneumatic fittings for the screen. And I can confidently say that, after seeing the final project, I made the right decision. It looks great.

Could the two exit points be put down lower and the filament travel out of the box lower down to help avoid the spools wobbling as they roll?

Well, of course, you can do that. However, in my case, when watching my video tutorial, I did not experience any spools wobbling as they rolled while I was printing. I actually considered this when creating a hole for the two exit points. As of now, I have been using it for almost three months, and so far, I have not experienced this issue in the project.

We noticed you glued down the desiccant container. Does that make it difficult to replace the silica?

Yes, about that desiccant holder. After a week of using it, when it is time to reheat my silica, I just realized that I shouldn't have used stick glue on the bottom of it (hehe, my bad), as it can be hard to remove. Instead of stick glue, you can use Velcro tape for ease of replacement. Velcro tape provides a secure hold while allowing for convenient removal and reattachment.

Is there an alternative to using silicon in the lid seal?

Yes, there is definitely an alternative. One option is the closed-cell weatherstrip, which you can also obtain at a reasonable price. For me, this is one of the best alternatives to silicone, but it did not come to mind during the project planning process. The second option is to use a gasketed box. However, my decision to use silicone in this project is primarily driven by the desire to keep costs down, as gasketed boxes can be quite expensive.

Anything else you would do differently if you were to build it again?

For me, the number one thing I would do differently if I were to build it again is not to use a stick of glue to hold the silica gel enclosure box in place. Instead of using glue, you can opt for Velcro tape for easier replacement. The second improvement would be to replace the silicone sealant used to make the container airtight with a closed-cell weatherstrip. This option is not only cheaper but also much easier to install in the lid. Also, it doesn't produce a bad odor, unlike the silicone sealant.

Where can our readers go to learn how to make one?

I highly recommend my tutorial video, which I consider the main instruction set and the focal point of my documentation efforts for all my projects. You can find it on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/evtech) and TikTok (https://www.tiktok.com/@earldanielph).

If you prefer detailed written instructions supported by photos, I also document my projects on Instructables (https://www.instructables.com/member/earldanielph/) and Hackster (https://www.hackster.io/earldanielph).

For behind-the-scenes content of my projects and updates on upcoming projects, you can check my Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/earldanielph/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/earldanielph/).

Alternatively, you can visit (https://beacons.ai/evtech) to access all my social media links!

Anything that we haven't discussed that our readers should know if they plan to build something similar?

The design of this project is simply not sufficient for drying the filament, especially if you are living in a country with lower ambient temperatures. In my case, living in the Philippines with a higher ambient temperature, it works well for me. However, if you reside in a place like Europe, particularly during winter, this design alone will be ineffective. To make this project work in colder climates, consider adding a heating pad.

A filament dry box with a desiccant can help prevent filament moisture absorption to some extent, but adding a heating pad can significantly enhance its performance, particularly in more humid environments. If you live in a relatively dry climate or have a well-controlled humidity storage area for your filament, a desiccant-only approach might suffice. However, in regions with higher humidity, it is recommended to use a heating pad in conjunction with a desiccant.

Where do you get your inspiration? Any accounts or makers you follow?

I follow a lot of makers. For instance, Lewis Aburrow of DIY Machines; he is calm, cool, and collected, yet he still manages to make his videos entertaining and educational. Next on the list is GreatScott! I love watching his videos to learn about electronics and modern technology. Third on my list is Mehdi Sadaghdar of ElectroBOOM; his educational and humorous videos about electronics and electrical engineering are the best!

Fourth on my list is Michael Reeves; his entertaining and unconventional robots, gadgets, and software projects are simply impressive! Fifth on my list is Allen Pan; I really love how he combines engineering skills with a sense of humor to create unique and entertaining projects in his videos. And a lot more makers and engineers like William Osman, Techiesms, Angelo Casimiro of Tech Builder, EEVblog, Mark Rober, maker.moekoe, Estefannie, Dennis Ivan Chavez, Hacksmith Industries, and Slater Young.