Modular Device for 3D Printers Quantifies and Treats Filament in Real Time

Technology #34202

System for additive manufacturing enables accurate, cost-effective tracking of the used and unused filament in new or existing 3D printers.

Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a novel 3D printer filament feed system that can track, quantify, and coat/treat filaments used in additive manufacturing printers. Such capabilities are lacking in many 3D printer designs today, resulting in poor-quality prints, material mismanagement and wasted time. For example, many 3D printers can only indicate whether filament is available on a reel, not the actual amount. Therefore, a user receives no warning that a reel is almost empty. Similarly, as users switch between filaments of different colors and materials, they can lose track of the filament status and fall short of the amount needed to complete a print.

By measuring the linear movement of filament while dispensing it to a printer, the UCF device enables a user to accurately track the amount of filament left on a reel as well as the amount used, thus ensuring better control over printing projects. Modular, stackable and portable, the new system works with existing 3D printers and can be included in the manufacturing of new printers.

Technical Details

The UCF invention is a system that translates, quantifies, tracks, and treats 3D printer filament during the additive manufacturing process. In one example setup, the system comprises four modules connected to a 3D printer. One module is a motorized feeder that connects to a reel of filament and drives the filament through the other modules in the system. A second module uses an optical or contact counter to track the bidirectional linear movement of the filament, allowing the system to calculate in real time the amount of used and unused filament. The third module dries the filament, and the fourth module applies colorant or other coatings to the filament before it enters the extruder. The stackable nature of the device allows for customization depending on printing needs.


  • Enables increased control over an end product
  • Increases productivity/output
  • Limits production interruption through material monitoring
  • Modular


  • Linear metering (or movement) of 3D printer
  • Tracking/storing amounts of 3D printer filament remaining on reels
  • Fused deposition 3D Printers