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3D Printer Material Cost – The Real Cost of 3D Printing Materials

Aug 10, 2019 by Benjamin Goldschmidt

3D printers material costs can rack up fairly quickly. Review this list of materials and learn just how much money you should set aside for feeding your machine.

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3D Printer Material Cost Short Answer: It Depends

3D printer filament comes in all shapes, sizes, and hues.
3D printer filament comes in all shapes, sizes, and hues. Source: Creative Tools / Pinshape

Fused deposition modeling (FDM) requires thermoplastic filament to fabricate models, while stereolithography (SLA) takes photosensitive resin. So, what does 3D printer material cost? Well, it depends on the following factors:

  • Material (filament or resin)
  • Color (non-white filament tends to be more expensive)
  • Tolerance (tighter tolerances are typically more expensive)
  • Quantity (larger quantities are usually cheaper per kilogram)

3D printer filament can vary, with suspiciously cheap PLA costing under $10 per kilogram and specialty filament over $600! In the following, we’ll discuss some example prices for various materials and note important factors affecting their prices.

3D Printer Material Cost PLA

Image of: PLA
Colorful PLA boats. (Source: Simplify3D)

PLA is the most common filament used with FDM 3D printers. It is easy to print and is the least expensive filament option in this list.

Average price range for PLA: $15–$20 per kg

Example products:

  • A well-known mid-range option is Hatchbox PLA, which has a tolerance of ±0.03 mm and tends to hover around $20 per kilogram.
  • If you’re looking for a bulk option, Overture’s six-spool PLA set goes for around $90, which equates to around $15 per spool.
  • Finally, representing a low-price option is Inland PLA, which has a looser tolerance (±0.05 mm as compared to ±0.03 mm) and costs around $17 per kilogram. Keep in mind that filament with looser tolerance often doesn’t print as well, which is why the higher price is sometimes justified.

3D Printer Material Cost ABS

Image of: ABS
ABS prints can be smoothed for a more polished surface finish. (Source: Pinshape)

ABS is another standard plastic filament that many makers print with. Although ABS requires a heated build plate, it is another inexpensive filament that is useful for models where strength and temperature resistance is important.

Average price range for ABS: $15–$20 per kg

Example product: Average prices for ABS mirror PLA. Currently, a popular mid-range option is Hatchbox ABS, with a ±0.03-mm tolerance for around $20 per kilogram at Amazon.

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3D Printer Material Cost PETG

Image of: PETG
A casual PETG print. (Source: Thomas Sanladerer / YouTube)

PETG filament is a great alternative to ABS where strength, temperature resistance, and ease of use are considered. One might think that PETG would be more expensive given the improved characteristics, however, that is no longer the case.

Average price range for PETG: $16–$19 per kg

Example products:

  • Currently, a mid-range option, AmazonBasics PETG, can be had for around $19 per kilogram.
  • Similarly, a bulk option, Overture PETG equates to around $16 per kilogram.

3D Printer Material Cost Nylon

Nylon is sensitive to moisture.
Nylon is sensitive to moisture. (Source: MatterHackers)

Nylon is a somewhat flexible, highly chemically resistant material that can be used for 3D printing. Outside of 3D printing, this material is commonly used to make cable ties. It’s useful to model functional parts like gears, nuts, and bolts in 3D printing.

Average price range for nylon: $50–$73 per kg

Example products:

  • A relatively mid-range option is Taulman 645, which can be purchased for around $50 per kilogram, which is about 2.5 times more expensive than PLA, ABS, or PETG.
  • For colors other than white, MatterHackers Pro Series Nylon, which is a high-end option, can be had in various colors for around $73 per kilogram. (Note: They’re sold in 0.75-kg spools.) Adding color definitely adds cost in this case, but you can add your own color to nylon filament, too.

3D Printer Material Cost TPU, TPE, Soft PLA

Image of: TPU, TPE, Soft PLA
A flexible TPE tire. (Source: 3D Era)

TPU, or thermoplastic polyurethane, is a flexible filament that can be used to make RC car tires, shoes, and other rubber-like models. TPU is not the only type of flexible filament, and the category generally covers a wide price range.

Average price range for TPU, TPE, and soft PLA: $87–$110 per kg

Example products:

  • MatterHackers Pro TPU, a mid-range option, runs for around $97 per kilogram.
  • If you’ve got some extra cash to throw around, a high-end option is NinjaFlex TPU filament, which runs for around $110 per kilogram. MatterHackers TPE goes for around the same price.
  • The most affordable low-end option is soft PLA, which goes for around $87 per kilogram.

As you can see, prices for flexible filaments are generally above $75 per kilogram. However, less-expensive alternatives that are nearly as inexpensiveas PLA, ABS, and PETG are available. The main difference in price comes down to filament tolerance, hardness, and strength, and this can vary by brand and type.

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3D Printer Material Cost Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate is a great choice when high strength and high temperature resistance is needed for a print.
Polycarbonate is a great choice when high strength and high temperature resistance is needed for a print. Source: rigid.ink

Polycarbonate (PC) is a very strong, optically transparent material that is used for parts that require high strength and durability. Additionally, the material has good electrical insulation properties for specialty projects where this is needed.

As with most filaments, more information about the quality and makeup of the filament is generally available the more expensive it is. Since most 3D printers use 1.75-mm filament, you’re more likely to be paying closer to $30 per kilogram, which is about 50% more than standard PLA.

Average price range for polycarbonate: $30–$93 per kg

Example products:

3D Printer Material Cost ASA

ASA is a great material to use when the part will be used outside.
ASA is a great material to use when the part will be used outside. Source: Fillamentum

ASA is a great 3D printing filament for certain outdoor applications. It’s UV resistant, moisture resistant, and electrically insulating.

Average price range for ASA: $30–$50 per kg

Example products:

  • Currently, one kilogram of Fillamentum ASA filament, a low-end option, goes for around $32 per kilogram.
  • Meanwhile, a mid-range option like MatterHackers ASA costs around $35 per kilogram. Interestingly enough, there is no difference in price between 1.75- and 3-mm ASA, nor is there a difference when color is manipulated.

3D Printer Material Cost Specialty Materials

Models made from carbon fiber filament, surely a more expensive option as filaments go.
Models made from carbon fiber filament, surely a more expensive option as filaments go. Source: 3deksperten.dk

Specialty filaments are an entirely different animal altogether. Given the highly diverse number of additives such as wood, glitter, glow-in-the-dark compounds, carbon fiber, stainless steel, magnetic iron powder, and even kilnable metal filament, the average cost for these types of filaments ranges from about $20 per kilogram to well over $600 per kilogram! Here, the difference in price comes down to the uniqueness of the additive and the overall quality of the filament.

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3D Printer Material Cost SLA: Resin

Resin can produce stunning results, but make a bigger dent in your wallet.
Resin can produce stunning results, but make a bigger dent in your wallet. Source: www.azom.com

3D printing resin for DLP and SLA printers can vary quite widely. While resin printers can produce very high resolution prints, one big drawback is the cost of the resin that is used with these devices. Overall, the price differences in resin are caused by differences in quality of the resin and the printing resolution the resin is compatible with.

Average price range for resin: $40–$300 per liter

Example products:

  • Generally, 1 liter of generic resin, a low-end option, can cost around $40, and they’re usually sold in 500-ml canisters.
  • However, a high-end option, such as those sold by Formlabs cost around $150 per liter. In fact, specialty resins can cost upwards of $300 per liter!

Feature image source: Thomas Sanladerer / YouTube

License: The text of "3D Printer Material Cost – The Real Cost of 3D Printing Materials" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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