The Real Cost of Cheap 3D Printer Filament

The Real Cost of Cheap 3D Printer Filament

The Real Cost of Cheap 3D Printer Filament

One factor that many forget about when calculating the cost of the filament is wasted time and materials. Yes, you can get a 1kg spool of no-name filament for $20 – a cost of $0.020/gram. But, a spool at this cost usually has filler materials, inconsistent diameter and ovality, and poor spool winds. All of these factors can cause issues leading to failed prints, which then need to be started again. And a failed print costs you, in more ways than you may realize.

It Costs To Re-Print

Many 3D printer operators know and understand the problems that can come along with using that no-name $20 Filament, but it’s hard to pass up that price, right? Maybe not. Using cheap materials can cost less, but in many cases leads to a jam partway through the print, requiring the print to be restarted and the partial print discarded. Let’s use the example of a 21 hour print that should only use 252 grams of Filament.

Using that same low-price filament, let’s say the print fails at exactly 50%. Assuming it prints successfully the second me, at $.020 per gram this print has now cost you $7.56 versus the original $5.04. A successful print will now take 31.5 hours versus the original 21 hours.

It Costs To Un-Jam

When cheap filament inevitably jams your printer, it may take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to clear out. It may even take longer if the extruder has to be completely dismantled to clear the jam. Assuming the jam is able to be cleared, this one failed print has already cost you an hour of hands-on me. On average, that’s half an hour of me you can’t get back and won’t be able to bill for. Some say time is more valuable than money, but let’s say you value one working hour at $50. With an hourly rate of $50, that’s $25 in lost revenue.

It Costs To Repair

In case the jam caused by that cheap filament is not able to be cleared, replacement parts will need to be purchased. A jam can even require the total replacement of an extruder or print head. A MakerBot Replicator 2 heater block assembly (a middle-of-the-road replacement part in terms of cost) costs $29.95. Even a simple nozzle replacement will cost $7. Remember, you’ve valued one working hour at $50. Multiply that by how many hours you spend clearing a jam, replacing parts, and restarting prints. Suddenly, that $20 filament is not such a bargain.


So how much more are you getting for your purchase from a high-quality PLA supplier? These filaments don’t contain filler materials, have consistent diameters and ovality, and are well wound spools. This is all better for your budget, your printer, and your finished product. But what are you getting for your money?   One of the primary comparison points for 3D printing materials is the cost per gram. Take a look at the cost per gram of three different PLA suppliers.

3D-Fuel • MakerBot • ColorFabb

A large spool of MakerBot PLA filament costs $48 and that spool contains 900g of filament. That leads to a cost of $.053/gram.= $.053/gram
= 5.3¢/GRAM
ColorFabb filament spools cost $35.79. High quality, reputable filament for a decent price, right? Looking more closely, however, reveals that this filament spool only comes with 750g of filament per spool. That leads to a cost of $.047/ gram.= $.047/gram
= 4.7¢/GRAM
3D-Fuel spools of Standard PLA are loaded with a full 1000 grams of filament for $29.99 – a cost of $.029/gram. That’s less expensive per gram than both MakerBot and ColorFabb filament.
= 2.9¢/GRAM
Also consider that 3D-Fuel uses only genuine NatureWorks Ingeo™ PLA resin, with unparalleled low environmental impact and purity, and the real value is clear.

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