My years of hoarding junk is finally starting to pay dividends. I decided to address how I was going to feed the filament to my extruder. It only uses it slowly but when it runs out you have to strip down the extruder to start off a new piece. HDPE comes on a big 5 Kg reel like this :-
I thought it was asking a bit much for the extruder to rotate something that big and heavy so I started to look round for a smaller reel. I came up with this :-
It is a reel of 10000 4.7V zener diodes which I rescued from a skip. I removed the diodes, if anybody wants an envelope full just ask. It is about 270mm diameter, 70mm wide with an internal diameter of 70mm and a 30mm hole for a spindle. I wound some HDPE on to it and found that despite it being a lot smaller and lighter than the original reel it holds almost exactly half the plastic, i.e. 2.5Kg. The only problem I might have is that the plastic is quite tightly curled on the inside. Hopefully the extruder will have enough pull to straighten it.
So a plan was forming, I just needed an axle with descent bearings. Another piece of junk I had rescued from a skip was this aluminium roller:-
It was exactly the right diameter and was mounted inside a metal housing with ball bearings. I chopped up the housing to make two mounting brackets and moved the bearings around.
All that was left to do was screw it to the top of my machine. The roller is a bit long for an axle but it was easier to leave it full length than cut it and turn the end back down to fit the bearing. My lathe is nowhere near big enough for that. Here it is mounted up :-
I even managed to re-use the rubber 'O' rings on the roller to hold the reel in place. The bearings are so good that a quick twist will leave it spinning for more than 30 seconds so the extruder has no problem dragging the filament off.
Finally I replaced the knobs that I made with proper wing nuts as they are easier on the fingers.
The next task is to design the electronics to drive the extruder.