Does good quality PLA filament have to break the bank – Or, what is a good, cheap 3D filament?

I’ve been printing for a number of months, so have had limited exposure to filaments.  I’ve used five brands so far.  Hatchbox (This seems like the go-to filament for most), Esun (My roll of PETG) AMZ3D, Xperland,  and Zyltech on eBay (inexpensive).  Check here for more Zyltech colors on Ebay.  Of the three brands I have used, Zyltech is one of my favorite because of the price point. My other favorite, for flat out feel and nice printing, is Xperland. Xperland filament seems to print very close to the quality of Hatchbox, while Zyltech is a bit below.  I can’t comment between PETG and PLA, but my Esun looks beautiful, and prints seem sturdy.

The main reason I created this post was to talk about price and performance of PLA filament.  I’d consider Hatchbox to be the “best” balance between price and quality.  It is not terribly expensive yet has high quality.  On the flip side, Zyltech is a bargain basement material.  At a bit over $13 a roll (plus free shipping) (NOTE: This deal is no longer going on, but they do different deals all the time to keep costs down), it is downright cheap.  I found the filament to be a bit small (1.74mm instead of 1.75) but it was consistent so it was easy to set in my slicer.  My initial purchase was 2 black and 1 blue roll.  I printed a temp tower for both and found that the filament worked best a little hot at 211 degrees.  At this temperature, I have printed nearly an entire roll of blue and black, primarily fidget spinners for my daughter to sell at school.  These have held up great to the abuse, and look good.  

When listening to Angus on his Maker’s Muse channel, he gets the question of what PLA filament is best, quite often.  His go-to answer, is get something “cheap”.  PLA is generally similar quality across the board now, so there is not much of an incentive to purchase high priced filament when the lower cost stuff will perform just about the same as the high price stuff.

I have now tried the Amz3D filament from Amazon.  I am using black, and my first print turned out really nice.  Zyltech has a special right now, if you order 10 spools of black or white filament, it is less than $100 shipped.

UPDATE: Xperland sent me a couple of rolls to try (I’ll have the review up shortly).  They currently have Black and White available on Amazon and will be adding other speciality types later this year.  I’d compare it very favorably to the Amz3D if not slightly better.  Even after having 2 rolls sent for free, I have purchased another roll to continue using it.  I think that speaks volumes about the filament and I’d honestly say this is my favorite filament.  Low cost, high quality.  Zyltech does still win when it comes to pure cost considerations.

Inexpensive PLA Filament is the way to go

It seems, at least with PLA, that price does not necessarily reflect the quality of the filament.  PLA has been around for a long time, so the production costs are down.  I have not tried ABS yet, since I don’t have a heated enclosure.  The PETG prints great, and gives me many of the advantages of ABS, if I need them, but it does come at a more premium price.  I highly recommend the filament from Zyltech (on Ebay).  It is inexpensive, and prints great.  I can get 3 rolls (the minimum for free shipping) for less than 2 rolls of other brands.  That is just difficult to beat.  If I need something a bit higher quality, that feels good to the touch, I’d go with Xperland.  When I originally wrote this, I had only tried Hatchbox, Esun PETG, and Zyltech.  Over the past few months, I have added more filaments that I have used, so I have a little more nuanced view of filament.  I have different needs for filament.  If I am making terrain, that will be primed and pained, I don’t care as much about the filament.  I just care that it works.  If I am making more structural  items I tend towards Xperland.  But, I wouldn’t say Zyltech isn’t good, I trust it to hold my very expensive dSLR camera on my printed teleprompter.  

I hope this helps you understand different filaments and gives you a bit better view of lower-end, PLA filaments.  It should help you to make some decisions about what to purchase.  I would gladly use any of the filaments I talk about here, again.  If you are unsure, try one out.  

(Unfortunately, this is a pretty US centric article, because I have only used rolls of filament that are easy to get here.  I don’t know what else is good, and I don’t want to recommend items that may not work well for my readers)

  • Please note, I use affiliate links.  It is rare that I recommend something I have not used, or at least some extremely similar.  As you can see from this article, I have used all of the items listed on this page.