A Matter of Scales: How Much Can You Print with a Single 1kg Spool?

Posted by on Friday, February 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

While we have been hard at work getting our MakerBot Replicators assembled and packed for our imminent shipping launch, several of us have been putting the early prototype Replicators in the office to hard use.

There are a number of questions about plastic and printing that have tickled our imaginations for quite a while — questions easier to answer now thanks to the improved ease of use of our latest machines. The first question we tackled is our most frequently asked one: “How much can you print with a single 1kg MakerBot Spool?”

The answer “Approximately 1kg of printed parts!” is correct, but it isn’t very satisfying. So we looked for a model to help us demonstrate this point more clearly. Being nerds, we figured standard chess pieces are the ideal metric.1

So a couple of weeks ago, Michael Curry grabbed an early Thingiverse chess set from cbiffle as a place to start.2 We skeined up these files as individual pieces, as a cluster of the six uniques, and then just said “heck with it” and went for the whole shebang: an entire side of a chess set in one go. Michael began printing. And printing. And printing. “Surely we can print like over 100 pieces with one spool, right?” I said.

And printing, and printing, and printing. A handwritten sign on the bot read: “Please keep printing chess!” And finally, just this week, the experiment was completed.

Here’s what we learned.

  • A single spool of plastic produces 392 chess pieces.
  • 392 chess pieces makes a little over 12 complete monochromatic chess sets.
  • The MakerBot Replicator ships with two spools — 1kg of Natural ABS and 1kg of Black ABS.
  • MakerBot Operators can print over 24 complete black and white chess sets with the plastic they receive with a new Replicator!

Check out the field of chess produced by the single spool — a MakerBot Replicator with 1kg of plastic absolutely crushes at printing chess!

  1. Because all of us are playing chess every day, right? Well, if only it were true. What does the castle and the beak piece do again? I know what the horsey piece does, it jousts! []
  2. With his kind permission! []
Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , 16 comments

16 Comments so far

  • Kreiger
    February 24, 2012 at 10:49 am

    That is such an awesome test. I have always wondered how long a 1kg roll is. That wouldn’t really mean anything thought. This test actually gives a contemplative idea of 1kg.

  • Martin
    February 24, 2012 at 11:23 am

    The next obvious question is time. Using the SI unit of chess sets, how long does it take to print a chess set?

  • Tim
    February 24, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    What was the infill % of the pieces?

  • eliot
    February 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Crushes at printing chess? That begs Tim’s question. How crushable are they?

  • Mark
    February 24, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    How much does a 1kg spool cost?

  • TonyS
    February 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Martin: It was a little over 2 weeks of nearly continuous printing a plate of 6 chess pieces over and over again to do this.

    Tim: I believe the infill was 20%, which is the default infill.

  • Hellphish
    February 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Really need to know the profile’s settings for this to be a good metric.

  • Mike Creuzer
    February 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    So it takes a couple of weeks to print a dozen chess sets?

  • annelise
    February 24, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    These were printed with default Replicator profile settings and 5% infill.

    It took about 14 work days to print them.

  • The Cost of 3D Printing | 3D Printing at UMW
    February 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    […] last one because the answer is really “it depends” but I was really happy to see the Makerbot Blog do a post on this […]

  • Schorhr
    February 26, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Oh I would print so much more if I had a Makerbot device with cheaper 3mm ABS/PLA. But hey, then again the expensive 1.7mm ABS was one of the reasons which caused me to print small parts, and the daily earring project was born 🙂

  • Joe Larson
    April 6, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    This is so relevant to me now…

  • Dave
    December 13, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Listing the total volume (cc or cu. in.) of a spool would be a useful bit of information to provide as well.

  • Fred
    January 16, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    The volume IS the information needed here.
    PLA has a density of up to 1430 kg / m³.
    That means that 1 kg of PLA has the volume of 1/1430, which is 0,0006993 m³
    If you make 3d models in mm or inches, just convert.

    In mm for example, one spool equals 699300 mm³ which is actually quite good i you compare to models.

    The whole working space of the Replicator2 is 6758775 mm³ which you could fill SOLID with less than ten spools.

  • Zach
    April 10, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    I am not getting to much info by you chess set experiment. I print by volume and would really like to know either the length of the spool or the volume of the spool so i can calculate by volume instead of chess piece units.

  • Isabel
    November 13, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Thank you Fred! That IS exactly what I needed to know for my calculations 🙂


Leave your comment


xhtml: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


What can we help you with today?
I want to chat with Sales.
I have a question about an existing order.
I have a technical question about my device.
Existing Orders
For faster service, enter your order number
(found in your confirmation e-mail)