Through the funds provided to STEMulate Learning by the wonderful backers who provided their crowdfunding gifts during the second round of the #SciFund Challenge (even after Bre Pettis of MakerBot offered one of his tremendous Replicator 3D Printers to the research), I was able to obtain PLA and ABS filament for developing and testing the robot designs for my SOLID Learning research.
In order to be able to test the widest range of designs, I was able to obtain filament from a vendor through Amazon for only $31 USD spool but this filament has more moisture than the filament provided directly by MakerBot ($48 USD per spool). Moisture boils and forms small bubbles within the plastic when extruded at 220 deg C, so can prevent layers from bonding and creates defects in thin structures. To make the most from the generosity offered to my research, I can deal with the issues from using the lower-cost filament and save the higher-quality black and white MakerBot filament spools that came with the 3D printer for final examples of each design.
The spools from Amazon use a very different-sized center spindle, even though the filament total weight is the same. With another technology, I would have had to order a new support to hold the smaller spool – but not with a 3D Printer! I located a compatible 3D model on Thingiverse: the Octave Spool Holder
After a failed attempt to print this object, I was able to untangle the bundle of filament that accidentally slipped off the spool and I was finally able to create a fully-formed filament spool support out of the donated neon-green PLA plastic I am using to develop improvements and enhancements for the MakerBot Replicator 3D printer itself. This support was a custom part just the right size for my needs and created from less than $1 of plastic.