Which 3D printer filament is best?

3D printing has come a long way since its early steps in the mid-1980s. Back then, it was an expensive, professional-only technique. Today you can get printers for as little as $200. The filaments used as “ink” have also progressed to the point where you can print almost anything with the right one — including biomechanical organs.

The best 3D printer filament comes in the Mika3D PLA 3D Printer Filament Bundle. There are 16 bundles to choose from, in all manner of colors.

What to know before you buy a 3D printer filament

Thickness

3D printer filaments come in three thicknesses: 1.75, 2.85 and 3 millimeters. The 1.75-millimeter is by far the most common. What thickness you need is determined by the nozzle on your printer, so double-check before ordering. 

Quantity

3D printer filaments come in spools of varying quantities, measured using weight rather than length, and in the metric system. Most spools are 1 or .5 kilograms, which convert to 2.2 or 1.1 pounds. Some spools can also be found with .75 kilograms, or 1.65 pounds.

Bundles

3D printers can go through plenty of filament, especially if you’re printing large items or printing regularly. As such, you can find just about any kind and color of filament bundled together for a discount.

What to look for in a quality 3D printer filament

Base material

3D printer filaments come in multiple varieties, all of which are best for certain kinds of items.

  • Polylactic acid is the most common material. PLA is perfect for getting started and testing out new designs before using more expensive filaments, but it’s often too brittle for much else.
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is a more durable but pricier filament than PLA. ABS can be difficult to manage thanks to its toughness, but it’s strong enough to make protective gear such as bike helmets.
  • Nylon doesn’t have a fancy scientific name, but it’s among the strongest and most flexible filaments. However, it adds to your printing time.
  • Polyethylene terephthalate is what water bottles are made of. As such, PET is a great choice for printing food containers.
  • Thermoplastic elastomer is what you use when you need maximum flexibility. You can even print some new flip-flops or slides with TPE.
  • Polycarbonate isn’t for messing around. PC is extremely strong, durable and highly heat resistant. It’s similarly difficult to work with, but the right design can stop a bullet.

Extra material

Some 3D printer filaments include extra materials laced into the base material to add special properties.

  • Metal powder can be added to achieve metallic looks, add conductivity or make it magnetizable.
  • Wood fibers can be added to achieve, well, wooden looks.
  • Carbon fibers are often laced in to make professional-grade structures.

How much you can expect to spend on a 3D printer filament

Small spools of basic filaments can cost $10 or less per spool, while the average spool costs $15-$25. Specialty and professional-grade filaments typically cost $30-plus per spool.

3D printer filament FAQ

Are there environmentally friendly 3D printer filament options?

A. Only PLA filaments are environmentally friendly, as they’re made from a mixture of sugarcane and cornstarch. It’s still technically plastic, though, and takes at least 80 years to decompose on its own. It can, however, be forced to decompose faster in professional environments.

Can I really 3D print anything?

A. Yes  — as long as you can make the design into a stereolithography file. There are multiple software options for making your own STL files, and you can also find countless files ready-made on most 3D printing websites.

Can I mix and match 3D printer filament materials when printing?

A. Yes, but it isn’t recommended, for two reasons. First, different materials and even similar materials from different manufacturers have different melting points, so the chances of jamming increase dramatically. Secondly, most filament materials don’t bond well with each other, so the point of contact can be a structural weak spot in your item.

What’s the best 3D printer filament to buy?

Top 3D printer filament 

Mika3D PLA 3D Printer Filament Bundle

Mika3D PLA 3D Printer Filament Bundle

What you need to know: This one-stop bundle shop has whatever you need to print whatever you want.

What you’ll love: There are 16 bundles to choose from, with five containing 12 spools and seven containing three spools. There are dozens of colors among the bundles and you can find transparent or metallic ones in addition to solids. Each spool has 1.1 pounds of 1.75-millimeter filament. 

What you should consider: The 12-spool bundles aren’t cheap, and you may not want some of the included colors. A few consumers reported finished products to be more brittle than expected. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top 3D printer filament for the money

Geeetech PLA 3D Printer Filament

Geeetech PLA 3D Printer Filament

What you need to know: If you just need one spool, make it this one.

What you’ll love: It comes in 15 colors, including black, white and red, and in both solid and transparent. There are also two packs of black and white. It comes in a vacuum-sealed bag and includes a storage bag. Each spool is 2.2 pounds of 1.75-millimeter filament.  

What you should consider: Failing to store it properly can turn the filament and finished products brittle quickly. A few customers had issues with it clogging.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Amolen PLA Glow-In-The-Dark 3D Printer Filament

Amolen PLA Glow-In-The-Dark 3D Printer Filament

What you need to know: Take a look at this range of glow-in-the-dark filaments if you’re feeling funky.

What you’ll love: It comes in eight glowing colors including green, blue and the special “starry sky,” and is either black or white in regular light. It’s compatible with most 3D printers and 3D pens. Each spool is 2.2 pounds of 1.75-millimeter filament.

What you should consider: Some purchasers were disappointed with the glow, finding it dimmer or shorter-lasting than expected. The filament can cause excess wear on fine brass-tip extruders.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
 

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