3D printing filament on a budget
This list is meant to give you an overview of each material and the best product that you can pick up on a budget in each category. For my money, Inland PLA is the best you can buy for the cheapest price. It won’t let you down.
Note: This list is made up of 1.75mm diameter filaments as this is the most common width used by home 3D printers. Most of the products here are also available in 3mm diameter.
Polylactic acid (PLA) filament
PLA is the most common filament for beginners and general use. PLA is made up of organic polymers and is a biodegradable, rigid material with a low melting point. It is widely used as a base for models that you want to paint and for objects that are kept indoors. The downside to PLA is that in relatively low heat, around 60 degrees Celsius, or 140 Fahrenheit for US manufacturers, it can become soft and doesn’t do well in the elements.
Inland PLA is my point of contact when I want affordable, reliable PLA for large projects. When you dial it in, it has an almost matte finish that looks lovely on unfinished models.
$ 22 on Amazon
MatterHackers’ Build series is specially designed for printing objects that you want to sand or paint. Use it for making cosplay items or painted models.
$ 20 at MatterHackers
AmazonBasics’ PLA, while not the cheapest filament, is surprisingly good quality with the added benefit of a bulk purchase option. Buy in rolls of 5 when you can to reduce the cost per pound.
$ 23 on Amazon
The latest version of eSun, the Silk PLA, is one of the prettiest filaments I’ve ever used. It prints like butter.
$ 33 on Amazon
In my many Facebook groups on 3D printing, Hatchbox is often mentioned as a favorite with people all over the world. It’s a hit or a miss to me, but so many people swear by it it had to make the list.
$ 23 on Amazon
When Lulzbot sent me his Mini 2 for review, they sent a roll of Polymaker Polylite to use because he claims it was one of the best filaments for his printer. I’ve tested it and the claim is true: it’s pretty awesome.
$ 25 at MatterHackers
Prusa, the creator of one of the best 3D printers available, has done something very special here. Prusament has amazing accuracy that allows for super smooth prints.
$ 25 at Prusa Research
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
ABS is used in many products around the world and is known for its high temperature and environmental resistance. It’s extremely tough even after it’s printed and can be wet sanded for a super fine finish if you want to take the time. The main disadvantage of ABS is its harmful fumes. If you plan to print in ABS make sure you are in a well ventilated place and use an enclosure if you can.
Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU)
TPU is the softest of the four filament types and can be used to make rubberized models such as cell phone cases or tires. It also works very well to create flexible hinges or protective covers when double-printed with another type of filament. TPU is usually more expensive than other materials so all is not under budget, but these are still your bargains.
Polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG)
PETG is the happy mix between PLA and ABS. It has the strength and temperature resistance of ABS while being safe to print indoors. Finding the right thing can be a little tricky, but once you do it you’ll never look back. You may need to use a Micro Swiss Hotend as PETG needs a very high temperature to print.
There are many opportunities
Choosing one of these products for the different types of material gives you a great chance of making great prints. Some work better than others on different printers, so it’s always a good idea to try different filaments until you find the right one for you.
I’ve titled the ones I use regularly as My choice because they give me the best results, but remember that all printers are unique so your mileage may vary.
For my money, Matterhackers’ Build series is an excellent choice for the full range of filament types. From ABS to PETG, the Build series just works.
You should also check out eSun Silk PLA if you don’t plan on painting your models. The glossy finish is just gorgeous on unpainted prints. The Moon City by Kijai Design above is a perfect example of how good the Silk PLA looks.
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