3D Printering: Where can I get the cheapest filament?

printering

We’ve complained about the price of 3D printing filament, and cheered at the machine that makes filament out of plastic pellets. Still, the price of filament for our 3D printers is climbing ever higher, leaving us to wonder, where can I get the cheapest filament?

Now, I’m going to start this of by saying this is a work in progress. Canvassing suppliers on every continent for 1.75 and 3mm ABS and PLA for every possible color while accounting for different amounts of filament and shipping is a whole lot of work. Therefore, we’re going to do this in parts, first starting with how much it will cost me to get a kilogram of PLA shipped to my door. This should be a valid test for just about everyone in the USA.

The test criteria is simple: find a supplier of PLA on the Reprap wiki printing material suppliers page and figure out how much it would cost me to get 1 kg of white or natural PLA shipped to my front door. I’ve organized this in a spreadsheet (below) that contains the supplier, size (1.75 mm or 3mm), weight (usually 1 kg although some suppliers are about three ounces short), color, and price with shipping included.

As you can see, the cheapest place to get PLA filament is from eBay user kbellenterprises at $27 per kg.  The mean price on this chart is $43.93, SD = $7.74.

Knowing that, the cheapest places to get filament – less than 1 standard deviation from the mean – are kbellenterprises, Matter Hackers, Just PLA, Maker Geeks, Monoprice, and 3D printing supplies. Amazingly, kbellenterprises is two standard deviations below the mean price. Either this guy is selling junk – not likely given his eBay feedback rating – or running a business on eBay is a whole lot more efficient than starting a webstore from scratch.

The most expensive filament suppliers – more than 1 SD away from the mean – are UltimachineMakerbot, and MakerGear. For those of you complaining I didn’t test for normality, go ahead and run a chi-squared. I’ll put it up.

Like I said, this is a work in progress. If you find any errors or omissions, send them in on the tips line and I’ll correct it in the Google spreadsheet.

Comments

  1. Scuffles says:

    Interesting I’ve actually been thinking about changing to PLA as soon as my ABS runs out. So this speeds up my sourcing a good deal considerably.

  2. Bill Jackson says:

    I believe some of the monofilament used in fishing might be the correct material for 3D printing. It is also available in various sizes.
    A quick search on dx.com showed this stuff, which they call resin?, but do not further quantify. It looks like a thermoplastic resins monofilament .45 mm 300 meters $10.50 postage paid.
    There may well be USA bulk filament makers

    http://dx.com/p/0-450mm-300m-resin-fishing-line-thread-yellow-7-123607

  3. Addidis says:

    Nice, How did the cheapest one print?

  4. Chris says:

    Any chance of a “quality” field as well? Some cheap filament has known problems with “dirt” being present, and inconsistent diameter.

    • Bitflusher says:

      This, I notice big differences in quality of my filaments. Not only dirt/roundness and consistency.
      I have cheap pla filament that hardly sticks on sanded mirrors, The other medium price filament needs a knife te remove and even chipped a bit of the mirror (need to buy new unsanded Ikea ones).

      Cheap is a nice experiment if you want to print a lot later on. Be prepared for frustration and throwing some coils in the bin. For regular use, Anything you have to throw away is a bigger loss than you gained.

      A more extreme example is this blogpost: http://richrap.blogspot.nl/2012/06/jammed-frggn-nozzle-30doc-days-1518.html

      When you start printing, you have frustrations enough, spend a few extra bucks to eliminate filament issues.

    • Harry says:

      This is exactly it, I’ve found some really cheap stuff but the pain of clogs and wasted prints its not worth it. I swear by Protoparadigms’ plastics never had a single problem and always the best print quality. Also they accept bitcoins so I have no reason to go elsewhere.

  5. ejonesss says:

    if you dont care about the color you could try using trimmer line used for weed eater trimmers

    • Jason says:

      Isn’t weed trimmer line typically nylon? I think nylon has a much higher melting point than ABS/PLA.

      • chango says:

        Yes, and people are printing with it. A lot of people caution against this because there are a lot of additives (fillers, fiber reinforcement) that can either clog your hotend or release nasties as it’s heated, and there is usually not the same degree of diameter control during manufacture making consistent extrusion impossible.

        There’s a company that makes specially formulated and processed nylon called Taulman that’s becoming a standard for nylon printing. It’s good stuff, though expensive and takes some adjustment to get it to print properly.

  6. Joejoedancer says:

    3D filament is not expensive. It’s extremely cheap and lasts a long time. You shouldn’t pay more than 40$ a spool. Plus ABS is cheaper, you can get a spool for 31$ from amazon free shipping: http://www.amazon.com/Octave-1-75mm-Filament-MakerBot-Printer/dp/B007X0QBOO/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1376508481&sr=8-5&keywords=3d+filament

    • Dknerr says:

      Thank you for mentioning Octave! I use them exclusively now for all my filament because of their prcing and wide color selection. Im very surprised they weren’t on this list.

      • Flux says:

        Yes I am on my 4th roll of 1.75mm ABS Glow in the dark green/white and I love it. Prime shipping usually means I get it for about $34 in two days. Glow in the dark is pretty nice too.

    • kj6epl says:

      I’ll second Octave as my primary filament supplier. Excellent results, great price. Using Solidoodle 2 w/ stock extruder.

    • bucho54 says:

      I have found Octave to be excellent. It was the first plastic I bought and still my favorite. As a bonus it is also the cheapest I have found considering Amazon Prime. I have tried the black, red, and white. All have been good although white is a bit off-white, and red is a but too orange for my tastes. Still the cost and convenience can’t be beat. Never had any real print issues with them going through my RepRap Prusa Mendel using a LulzBot Budaschnozzle 1.2

  7. Adam Munich says:

    I’ve used the expensive Dimension stuff in my UP printer, and as far as I can discern there is no difference.

  8. Mystick says:

    Pick a measurement system… talking metric then throwing in how something is a few ounces short… it’s confusing.

  9. Robert Wagner says:

    http://makibox.com/details/product/Pellets-PLA-White – May be worth showing bulk pellets – $12/kg

  10. Lord Binky says:

    Diameter variation in the actual shipped product is an easily measurable quality that should be added into any price assessment. A filament that measures 1.75mm +/-.2 is worse than a filament that is 1.65 +/-.02. It’s an important distinction since you compensate with printer settings for the each filament anyways, but variation matters especially when .2mm is over a 10% change.

  11. fuzzyprinter says:

    Tracking the price of filaments is a great idea. I suggest you look at (and possibly contact) the guy who developed gunbot.net. It keeps real-time track of the prices of a white range of calibers. It could be directly applied to filament.

  12. I order my PLA at reprapworld.com. Good for the dutch people! 27 euro’s for 1KG of PLA plastic, includes shipping!

  13. K-WW says:

    the 3 oz short looks like the difference between 1Kg [1000 grams] and 2 pounds [454 grams *2] – guess they talk metric and measure english

  14. chango says:

    Matterhackers is my BFF, as long as they don’t jack their prices like Ultimachine did.

  15. cameirn says:

    I am looking at doing something similar. But more so as a back end service. Check out:
    https://plus.google.com/communities/107859862288161234107
    Note: I have not had a lot of time to work on this.

  16. theo says:

    Wow, this makes me feel like a sucker for having a 3mm extruder!

  17. Leslie says:

    I have 2 spools from Kbelle, one ABS and one PLA, they ship extremely fast and comes in a nice ziplock baggie (though EXTREMELY thin). This was my first filament so I had no idea what was good and what wasn’t. MatterHackers looks like the exact same spools used by Kbelle, as does Makergeeks. These places sell it cheap, because they get it from China for around $16 a roll in bulk quantities (you can too!).

    The PLA works, but needs a bit extra heat and I doesn’t flow quite as nice as Ultimachine’s PLA.

    The ABS on the other hand… Went from 1.68mm to 1.99mm, which broke both my pneumatic fittings and over heated my extruder and electronics. The last time it jammed, I had to use an old wire coat hanger to force it out of my bowden, which took all my strength. I was having 1-4 head jams per day, it was so bad, that I started thinking I had a bad head. After I realized what caused the problems, I went through the roll with much more care. The first 1/4 pound was inconsistent, I figured this out as I started inspecting the second 1/4 pound, there were narrow, but extra thick rings (1.85 to 1.9mm), so when I would measure, I could easily miss them when checking random points. As soon as I found this, I decided to check the rest of the roll and pay extremely close attention to size changes. Once I hit the 1/2pound mark on a 2.2pound spool, the filament shot up to 1.99mm and stayed there for a full pound worth of filament. Keep in mind, my bowden tube I.D. is only 2mm, so it’s not hard to see how this is an issue.

    After this experience, I went looking for recommendations and one place came up more than others and I never saw any complaints, and that was Ultimachine (whos spools look nothing like any mentioned in the article). Even SeeMeCNC, who sells their own slightly cheaper filament, now offers Ultimachine filament.

    The first time I used the Ultimachine ABS, it was like switching a video game from hard, to easy. The clouds parted, the sun came out… Yeah, that sort of experience. My head jams went from 1-4 per day, to 1 per week, and those were my fault and quickly cleared. I have yet to have a problem after 2 pounds run off 4 different rolls.

    The ABS flows exceptionally smooth, the diameter is consistent, I even dropped 7C on the extruder temp. This how their PLA is as well. They have a good color selection, as well as various other types of filament, and if you live in the midwest, you can usually get it in 2 days. They even throw in two 12foot random color samples of PLA to play with (I made some jewelry with it).The ONLY downside is that while the bags it comes in are very heavy duty (with LARGE silica gel packs), they aren’t ziplock, so be prepared to buy some 2 gallon ziplock bags for storage if you store your filament in bags.

    Was my ABS a fluke? Maybe, maybe not. While it’s tempting to grab some more of the cheap PLA, just for test prints of something (which is what I use it for now), but then I think about the hassles, the print quality, and in the end, it’s just not worth it.

    • serena says:

      hello,we can supply abs pla pva filament.we are the real manufacture in China.Welcome your inquiry and please feel free to contact me if you have any requirements.My skype is kingjet60.

      Best regards,
      Serena

  18. Bill C says:

    No mention of 3ders.org?
    http://www.3ders.org/pricecompare/

  19. Jstylen says:

    Excellent. Glad to see a working list like this.

  20. tjb1 says:

    I use JustPLA and its been fine for 3 spools so far. Nuclear Green, Dark Gray, and Dark Blue are the colors I have used.

    • rautiocination says:

      also use justpla, the black is also great. the natural (clear) is an absolute nightmare to deal with, have yet to find settings/surface treatment to make it stick.

      i especially dig them since they are amazon prime so free shipping!

  21. MicroGuy says:

    On an unrelated subject, one of my pet peeves is the creation of questionable new words. Why not just say “3D Printing” rather than inventing “”printering”?

  22. Tom Hargrave says:

    The answer’s easy – buy 1 KG spools of ABS or PLA directly from China for $33.58 / spool – delivered! Or buy 20 spools and the price drops down to $24.11 each delivered!
    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/3d-printer-abs-pla-filaments-factory/1054746684.html

    • tjb1 says:

      You can get it from JustPLA for $33 delivered and they even have it with Amazon Prime, ProtoParadigm also sells for around $33-35 and the stuff is better than the chinese off aliexpress.

  23. ITman496 says:

    I have a spool from that cheapest source, and it works just fine. So buy away!

    It came all vacuum sealed in a bag with those gel pellets and everything.

    Glad I made the right decision even before this chart came out.

  24. Jzatopa says:

    Cheap filament doesn’t mean good filament. Once you have a few prints fail or just print poorly you will realize that good filament saves you money. I am in the middle of starting a company to sell filament because I was unhappy with the filament I was seeing in the marketplace. Once it’s ready it will be at http://www.zatopa.com if any of you guys want to check it out.

  25. surfingspider says:

    Might add Amazon to the list, if you already have a prime account shipping is free.

  26. Eirinn says:

    Printrbot prices are good and afaik their filament is pretty good quality too (only tried ABS):
    https://printrbot.com/product-category/filament/pla-filament/

    1kg PLA 1.75 for $30, if you can live with 3mm then it’s as low as $24

    I haven’t had any prints fail due to filament bought from them :)

    PS: i have a printrbot plus v2.

    • Ren says:

      It was nice that you “qualified” your statement with the type of 3D-printererer you used,
      comments experienced by others in their 3D-printerering would also benefit if they had named the 3D-printereringism they had used.

  27. Matt D says:

    Not a 3d printer guy myself (yet) but I was wondering something. Are material costs higher because it is coming in an extruded roll with a rounded shape?

    Has anyone ever built a 3d printer that accepted square “bar” stock? Just thinking if the machine were set up to print square stock you could buy a large sheet of ABS/PLA and cut your own strips with a table saw.

    It might be a pain to load but I’m sure there’s a hack for that…

    • chango says:

      Yes. Extruding and spooling filament in the relatively small volumes the 3D printing market uses is costly, and it’s even more costly to keep it a consistent diameter and keep metal shavings and other junk out that can clog extruders.

  28. Mike says:

    Newwgg sells 3D printers and filament now:
    http://www.newegg.com/3D-Printing/PromotionStore/ID-2046603?name=3-D-Printing&Tpk=3d%20printer

    I have no idea if it’s cheap or not though, I don’t have a 3D printer yet.

  29. This should be a web page that people can enter what they find. Then you can have a calc to convert from kg to lb or vise versa. Add one more column for actual filament width and split mailing cost out to a separate column.

    Then add a vote count for each so people could vote on which one they prefer. Let the power of the people bubble up the best product/lowest cost alternative.

  30. Ron says:

    3D Ink is only $29.95/KG http://Buy3DInk.com

  31. dan says:

    Does this depend on how much you buy?

    A lot of places have higher shipping charges than filament charges and buying bulk can save time and money.

    As an example I bought three 1kg rolls of ABS from http://www.3d-printer-filament.com/
    it cost $90 including shipping from china to the UK (£57).
    So that was $30 per KG including shipping, (£19) per KG -that was using the exchange rate at the time I bought it.

    the biggest factor was the shipping cost though, had I ordered a single roll it’s probably have worked out to be more expensive per KG. the sweet spot for me was three rolls (as that place offered discounts on additional rolls) so all in, costs, discounts shipping costs, and the space I’d have to store it, that order size was a good fit for me.

    Of course there are those who say they don’t just Chinese filament suppliers, because they put all kinds of crap in the plastic. I’ve not experienced any issues with the filament that I bought, and to be fair I’ve read of problems with American suppliers too. (and lets face it, a lot of “domestic suppliers” -regardless of your country are just bulk buying with a deal like I got and then reselling anyway!

  32. seacans says:

    Filament for 20 bucks at seacans.com

  33. jduffy says:

    Not sure if anyone mentioned it, but makibox sells 3D filament as well, for about $16 per kilo, less than almost anywhere else. They extrude it themselves, hence the price, but I cannot attest to the quality, as I haven’t tried it, but at that price its worth a shot just to see.

  34. My experience:

    Purchased 1kg ABS from digitide on eBay: This stuff was junk. Inconsistant sizing (+-0.3mm, mwasured), Clogged, was brittle, didn’t print well. I almost gave up on my printer. Then I used some ABS from work (from Maker Farm) and everything went smoothly. So, DON’T buy ABS from digitude. Maker Farm has some grwat stuff.

    Purchased 3kg of PLA from digitude and it’s ok. It has some cohesion issues and consistancy issues (measured to be ~+-.15mm), but gets the job done.

    My coworker purchased some ABS and PLA from kbellenterprises, and though it is slightly better quality than mine I’d suggest staying away from it as well–Same issues.

    I learned quickly, don’t skimp on filament.

    • Andrew Girgen says:

      Same experience with the JUNK that digitide sells. First roll I tried ended up being so brittle it snapped from the pressure of the hobbed bolt. It then clogged so bad that I almost threw out my hot end. Three days of soaking in acetone got it out. I will never buy plastic off ebay again.

  35. rick says:

    I bumped into Monster.com online a couple of days ago and they sell a wealth of filament at $24Kilo

  36. Nicolas says:

    I’ve been shopping at 3D-filaments.com they’re great !

  37. I’m sorry if self promotion isn’t welcome but I am hoping that because I am a long time reader it’s not a problem. I previously posted that I would be selling 3D printing filament when this was article was posted. My store is now open.I sell 3d printing filament that is manufactured in the USA to the highest standards I could find. The link is http://www.zatopa.com

  38. Mort says:

    I’m trying to help with the price of filaments as well. I’ll match any price out there and as soon as I get my inventory up, beat them. I’m very displeased with the trend towards gouging on 3D Printer filament, and am making it a practice of my business to have reasonable prices. Currently I’ll admit I am a bit limited by manufacturer terms but these of course change in the long-term. I hope you’ll check out my site for filament; 3dsupplyworld.com

    Thanks

  39. Nolan says:

    The cheapest and best quality that I have found is on pushplastic.com . They are at $19 per kg of ABS and PLA right now. They are new so only have a few colors on the site now.

  40. BLogan says:

    I bought PLA and ABS from 3DPrinterNinja.com and they both ran great. Pricing is around average, but they have some specials going usually. I thought the PLA colors were bolder than some others I tried. Just my TC…:)

  41. Thanks for this amazing valuable list!

    I’m going to buy myself a spool of ABS today.

  42. Ron says:

    3Dprintingsupplies.bigcartel.com sells filaments for $35 + $1 shipping in 1KG rolls. Worth checking out, also thanks to Brian for mentioning 3D Printing Supplies in his blog.

    Ron

  43. Jeremy says:

    your price for sainsmart is incorrect if you buy from amazon: $34,99 shipped (2nd day for us prime peeps).

  44. Dave says:

    http://www.3d-filaments.com have very good filament at a very good price right now… including free shipping currently (January 8, 2014).

  45. You just saved me some money. Thank you!

  46. Matthew says:

    For those interested, we have seen the crazy markup on materials too. The small personal machines are cool but super slow. We are currently prototyping a new process for making large amounts of material. Like many others, we are a small group of 4, but our past experience was in induction molding. We are taking the same methods from there and using them here. Our plan is to have very high quality materials at under $20.

    Wish us luck. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

  47. Sie says:

    I have bought 1.75 PLA from over 10 different vendors across ebay. I have to tell you, kbellenterprises is great to work with, he ships very promptly across the 5 orders I’ve had with them. And there product is top notch, PLA flows great @ 230c on my makerbot, always comes shipped vacuum tight with descant pack. I just wish he had more material color selections. Price/quality per pound this guy is doing something right..

  48. Stephen says:

    Kick ass post Brian, thanks for your efforts on lowering the price of 3d filament, it does not go unappreciated.

  49. mcfly says:

    Its all about material selection and competetive pricing. If you intrested in both Rapid ProtoCo. I know from experence we are super focused on their customers. Always expanding our offerings.

  50. Brandon Bell says:

    Check out our store for your PLA & ABS needs!! Our high quality filament is all made in the U.S.A at very reasonable and competitive prices. All filament is measured with laser measuring technology and hi-tech equipment resulting in tight tolerance for your printing needs, on spool for standard 3D printers such as RepRap, MakerBot, Mendel, Darwin, etc.
    http://www.B3Dfilament.com

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