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.

97 thoughts on “3D Printering: Where can I get the cheapest filament?

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

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

    3. 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

    1. Well, the sellers that are “a few ounces short” are selling their product as 2 lbs, so they are about 0.2 lbs or 0.09 kg less. Does that help?

    1. You can get pellets PLA for 4 euro per kilo.

      However, producing actual quality filament isn’t easy. That’s why the better suppliers are more expensive. (Consistent diameter, roundness and quality of the color are important)

        1. I’ve seen a quality pellet extruder, and played with it. Only costed 10k, so pays for itself after only 500kg of filament.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. I found their quality lacking, and have settled on colorfabb.com as my NL supplier. Great filament quality but a bit more expensive.

  4. 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

    1. I like Matter Hackers as well. The have the most consistent PLA i have been able to find for a low price. Everything goes smoothly without mistakes. Plus, that have quite a variety of colors.

  5. 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.

    1. 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

  6. 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.

    1. 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!

  7. 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”?

    1. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

  10. 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…

    1. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    1. 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.

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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.

    1. Was just going to place an order but they charge $16 for S&H..comes into over $36 total. I can get cheaper…thanks for the suggest though.

  18. 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…:)

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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..

  22. 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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