Give Your 3D Print The Best Start With A Quality PLA Filament
Updated: October 2018
Filament is your main ongoing cost as a 3D printing enthusiast. Each reel costs upwards of $20 and can last anything from a week to many months depending on how much printing you do.
A good filament will quietly do its job so effectively you won’t even think about it. Whereas a poor quality filament can be a nightmare to print successfully and may result in a weak and poorly finished part.
Hence, the most commonly asked question by 3D printing enthusiasts is “Which PLA filament is best?” and as there are so many choices available and so many manufacturers telling you their product is best it can be hard to make a decision.
In this guide, I’ve used my own experiences and the opinions of other users to give you a list of the best value PLA filaments available today.
Why Choose PLA?
PLA or Polylactic Acid filament is the most popular material choice for 3D printing. Most home 3D printers are designed to use it and users prefer it to alternatives like ABS.
There are a few reasons PLA should be your first choice of 3D printing material:
- Good strength and durability make it suitable for most applications.
- Non-toxic – it’s made from natural plant material and when it melts it is either odorless or it gives off just a slightly sweet odor that smells like cotton candy.
- Melts at a low temperature (190-210°C).
- Doesn’t shrink much when it cools which means you don’t have to use a heated print bed.
- It has low warp.
- Because it’s made from corn starch it is biodegradable and more environmentally friendly to make and dispose of than petroleum-based plastics.
- PLA’s safety is certain as it has already been used for decades in candy wrappers and medical stitches.
But not all PLA filaments are created equal. Buying cheap can be a false economy if you end up wasting lots of material through failed builds.
What to Look For When Choosing PLA Filament
The most popular diameter is 1.75mm but all filament is made to a tolerance. Ideally, your filament diameter should vary by less than 0.05mm along its length.
In the worst case, the diameter of the filament could be variable on one reel.
For example, the start of the reel could be 1.85mm and the end of the reel 1.63mm. This is hard to compensate for. At best you would need to measure the diameter of the filament before each build and adjust your feed settings to suit.
Different reels of filament from the same manufacturer may have a slightly different diameter. Your el cheapo blue filament might be 1.62mm whilst your quality yellow filament is 1.74mm.
This means every time you swap filaments or buy a new reel you will have to change your printer settings.
For the same reason, the cross section of PLA filament needs to be as close to a perfect circle as possible. Poor quality filament tends to be more oval in section that can lead to jams.
Fortunately, the best brands have a very good tolerance on filament diameter so as long as you buy wisely this won’t ever be a problem.
Poor quality filament can be less pure and contain impurities, i.e. material other than the PLA it is supposed to.
This can be by accident for example if sloppy manufacturing standards allow impurities in or by design if an unscrupulous company add a filler to their product to make it cheaper to manufacture.
The problem with impurities is they tend to block nozzles as they don’t melt like the PLA. They may also result in a poorer quality part particularly in terms of surface finish.
If you’re printing multiple parts that will form a final product, say pieces for a chess set, you’ll want all the pieces to be the same color. A poor filament will have slightly different tones of the same color between reels making your parts look mismatched.
This will be even more important if you’re a business creating products to sell. Customers will expect consistency in your products.
Spool and Winding
The filament should be neatly wound on the spool to prevent tangles and feed problems. It shouldn’t be too tightly wound, especially near the end of the spool where it can induce breakages.
Storage and Packaging
PLA filament is very susceptible to moisture so it’s important it is packaged carefully to keep moisture and air out.
Filament is also liable to kink, and any physical damage is likely to induce a breakage or a bend making it likely to jam in your printer. So good protective packaging is a must.
Good manufacturers will use a strong plastic wrap containing a desiccant and a cardboard outer package to protect the plastic from tears.
A good filament manufacturer will provide information such as suggested optimal 3D printer settings, maybe even for many popular 3D printers and technical specs such as melting temperature and diameter tolerance.
Country of Origin
This isn’t one of the most important criteria but if you’re relying on a filament that gets shipped via sea freight from China it might be frustrating when you need a reel in an emergency and have to wait weeks for it to arrive.
Also, PLA filament needs to be stored correctly as it is very susceptible to moisture. The longer a product is in transit the more likely it is to have been affected by its environment.
In this guide, I’ll tell you which PLA filaments offer the best value for money and which should be avoided.
If you buy any of the PLA filaments in this list you will be almost guaranteed to have the highest quality and hassle free prints.
Recommended PLA Filament
Hatchbox has built itself a reputation for reliable quality. Its PLA filament comes in a huge range of colors including metallic and neon options. Its solid colors are some of the best available. Unlike some other brands, the red is red, not orangey-red.
Uniquely, Hatchbox gives you the Pantone number of the filament. This allows you to know the exact color of the filament, which sounds like it should be the norm but surprisingly it’s not.
Hatchbox PLA filament has a superior feel to it right out of the box. It’s noticeably smooth to touch and very neatly wound on the spool.
The diameter tolerance is quoted as +/- 0.05mm and this seems to be accurate for almost all spools. Each one of the Hatchbox spools I’ve used has been better than spec at more like +/- 0.025mm!
The cross-section has perfect cylindrical tolerance too which explains why users find it less prone to jams than other brands.
Layer adhesion is good as is adhesion to the print bed is good, without the need for a heated bed.
As noted above the colors are strong and always opaque even in thin sections and edges.
Hatchbox is the most popular PLA filament brand available today. The price to quality ratio is spot on and in terms of value for money, they are currently unbeatable.
Hatchbox PLA is the number one filament on Amazon and for good reason. At this price point, it is unbeatable value.
It’s easy to print with, requiring no special settings. Making it perfect for beginners and experts alike.
Hatchbox’s only problem is availability. It frequently goes out of stock on Amazon, particularly in popular colors.
Dikale PLA filament is available in a small range of five colors including black, blue, grey, white, and a mustard yellow.
The filament is shipped in a vacuum sealed bag with a generous bag of desiccant to protect it from moisture, this is then protected from shipping damage in a sturdy brown cardboard box.
The spool is standard size so it will fit most 3D printer spool holders, and it has an opening near the centre spindle so you can keep an eye on how much filament you have used.
Off the spool the diameter measures well at around 1.72mm to 1.75mm.
Most users have found it prints well towards the lower end of the recommended hot end temperature at around 200°C-205°C.
Dikale PLA gives a nice glossy finish to your prints and the colors print brightly with little change from how they appear on the reel.
It can be quite translucent on thin walls which makes it good for projects like Lithophanes. But it soon becomes opaque and solid as thicker sections are used.
Dikale PLA filament is very often on sale and at the reduced price it is a complete bargain.
All in all Dikale is a very solid choice at this price range. The range of colors is small but when you need a standard black, white, or grey PLA there’s little risk in giving Dikale PLA a try.
eSun PLA Pro filament is more flexible than most other filaments. This gives the illusion of more strength but it’s actually just less brittle.
This property can be quite useful for interlocking parts or any parts that are subject to loading where you’d rather they bent than snapped.
This also makes it quite easy to feed into your 3D printer as the filament is much less likely to break as you’re pushing it through feed tubes.
The color range is a bit limited at 22 options but they are good useable colors. The glow in the dark option is rather gray in color which is less appealing than most other brands off-white, although the glow is very bright in the dark!
eSun also do a ‘cleaning’ filament which is a short (0.1kg) length of white filament specifically designed to clean your nozzle when changing filaments. This is a great thing to add to your basket if you’re often changing between filaments.
Part quality is exceptional with this filament. I think the softer material property results in a smoother finish, parts look like they’ve had a very mild acetone treatment but resolution remains good.
The colors are quite good but are a little dull compared to the Hatchbox PLA.
User reports are very positive, finding it to be a very reliable and consistent filament that exceeds expectations at this price level.
At around $5 cheaper than Hatchbox this is a very good value filament with little to fault.
eSun is a mid-budget brand that is well worth a look. The eSun PLA Pro filament is fairly unique with its slightly flexible properties, making it an interesting halfway house between PLA and ABS.
If vibrant colors aren’t that important to you, but strong parts and a quality finish are, then eSun could be the filament for you.
AmazonBasics products have become synonymous with good quality at a reasonable price and their new PLA filament is no exception.
Amazon has developed a premium PLA filament that is manufactured to a tight tolerance with a diameter of 1.75mm +/- 0.05mm. As with most AmazonBasics products it is guaranteed for 1 year and benefits from Amazon’s hassle free returns process.
Despite being at the lower end of the price bracket for PLA filament, Amazon have managed to sneak in a couple of nice features. Firstly, the vacuumed sealed bag that the filament ships in is resealable, making it much easier for you to keep it moisture free when you’re not using it and saves you having to buy more large ziplocks.
The second feature is a neat usage scale built into the spool. Although some users have pointed out that this is not very accurate it is nevertheless useful for keeping track of your usage, and a nice detail. It certainly helps you to quickly judge whether you have enough filament to start a print or should switch to a new spool.
AmazonBasics Filament is currently available in a range of twenty-two different colors, from standard black, white, and grey through to a nice copper color and wood color.
You can order a trial pack of all 22 colors so you can try before you buy a full reel.
AmazonBasics filament appears to live up to its brand reputation with good diameter accuracy and a well wound spool without any tangling.
In printing, many users have found it to require a slightly higher temperature than expected
This filament is slap bang in the middle of the most competitive price bracket for PLA filament. But in terms of value for money it has to be on top of its competitors. The extra features of a usage gauge and resealable bag combined with that Amazon no-fuss 1 year warranty make it hard to beat.
AmazonBasics is a trusted brand that has yet again just edged out the competition at this price point.
With a good quality material, excellent consistency, and a couple of extra features not seen on competitors options, it’s hard to think of a better choice.
It certainly seems to be different to the standard made in China filaments which may mean you need to modify your printer settings a little to get the best from it, starting with a higher nozzle temperature.
The non-standard colors such as wood and copper are definitely worthy of a trial as many users have been very happy with their prints.
MakerBot produces a premium PLA filament. Guaranteed to be free of any contaminants like metals or BPA so it’s a particularly safe choice for children.
The unique selling point of MakerBot PLA filament is that it is very comprehensively quality tested at various layer resolutions to ensure you always get a quality print.
It is made in the USA and tested in their own factory so the filament is guaranteed to meet Makerbot’s high standards.
A wide range of colors are available and small 0.5lb spools are available if you don’t want to fork out on the expense of a large 2lb spool.
As expected from a premium, made in the USA product, the quality is excellent, the diameter is spot on and the colors are consistent.
A common positive comment from users it that Makerbot PLA has a long shelf life, i.e. it is less prone to absorbing moisture than other filaments. Some users find it’s possible to just leave the filament on their printers for a few weeks rather than have to remove it and keep it in an airtight container.
The colors are good and solid with no signs of transparency on thin sections. They are, however, a little darker once printed compared to the spool.
This is a premium filament and as such it has a premium price. If you don’t want to take any chances with your filament and don’t mind paying a bit extra for guaranteed quality, reliability and consistency spool after spool then Makerbot is a good choice of filament for you.
In terms of value for money there are better choices out there, like Hatchbox and eSun, but with those, there’s always a small chance of a duff spool that you have to return of right off the wasted cost.
MakerBot is one of the most trusted names in 3D printing. If you don’t mind paying a premium for guaranteed quality then go for Makerbot PLA filament. Just don’t expect it to be twice as good as other brands that cost half as much.
3D Solutech produces a budget PLA filament that has gained a reputation as a budget marvel.
3D Solutech PLA is 100% made in the USA. The raw material is grown in the USA and the filament itself is manufactured in the USA. This means quality and consistency is very good across their range. Being made in the USA it also means this filament is stocked and delivered from distribution centers in the US, so you can get a very cheaply priced filament delivered to your door in a couple of days.
The diameter tolerance is spot on +/- 0.02mm with a good cross-sectional shape.
Out of the box, the filament has a very smooth texture and this is carried through to the prints which show good detail and a glossy sheen of a finish.
3D Solutech filament tends to need a slightly higher temperature to print successfully indicating that there are probably some impurities present. Some users have needed to go as high as 240°C to get successful prints but you should experiment with your own setup.
On the spool, some of the colors are a little different than you might expect. The white is a little more creamy than other filaments such as Hatchbox which tend to be more brilliant.
However, the on reel color translates well to your finished part so you shouldn’t get any surprises when your print is finished.
This is another filament in the budget range, just slightly cheaper than Hatchbox. In terms of on the spool and print quality, it’s hard to find fault at this price.
In terms of quality, there’s no difference between this and other similarly priced filaments. Where it falls short is in the reproduction of colors.
So, if you’re not too worried about the brilliance of colors or how they match to the picture on the website, Solutech PLA filament could be the filament bargain for you!
AMZ3D PLA seems to be nearly identical to Hatchbox. I wonder if it is indeed the same product with a different label or just made in the same factory. The deep red which Hatchbox is well known for is particularly similar.
It comes in a wide range of vivid colors including metallics.
The dimensional accuracy is very good. AMZ3D spec +/- 0.03mm and this seems to be the case.
The Spools are well wound with no tangles and are the correct weight.
Some users have reported this filament to be a little brittle compared to others so it might be worth choosing something like eSun or Hatchbox if you’re building parts with delicate or thin features.
Unbeatable. AMZ3D PLA is basically the highly regarded Hatchbox filament for a few dollars less. The downside is stock and price are much more prone to fluctuation so you can’t rely on this filament if you are a consistent user.
If you’re willing to take a chance on a filament with no customer support and only a small user base to help with optimal settings then AMZ3D PLA can offer you fantastic value for money.
If you want the protection of a more known brand and the reliability of regular stock and consistent pricing then I’d stick to the Hatchbox.
Inland PLA has positioned itself as the cheapest filament available that gives acceptable results.
I personally use this filament for any prototypes or very large prints where quality isn’t the highest priority and I’ve not had any problems at all.
Most users have a great experience with Inland filament but there are some who just don’t get usable results and this seems to suggest there are some inconsistencies in quality.
This is the cheapest filament I recommend but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from its specs. The diameter tolerance and ovality are good and well within the required +/-0.05mm.
On the reel, the filament is a little more brittle than filaments like Hatchbox, but not enough to cause any problems loading into the feed tube.
The colors are quite vivid, the white is especially pure looking. It’s possible that the slight brittleness is due to the additional color pigments.
Some users have reported that Inland filament works best when printed at a slower speed. I’d suggest using 50-75% speed at least for the initial layer to create a stable base for your print.
Like most other budget filaments, Inland PLA benefits from being printed at a slightly higher temperature due to a small percentage of impurities. Anything over 210°C seems enough to get good reliable results.
Inland PLA filament is cheap! The vast majority of people have good results with it. So if you’re not too concerned with print quality, say you’re doing some experimental prototypes or a structural component that’s going to be hidden away, then it’s a great choice.
Inland PLA is the cheapest filament I recommend, and as such it does come with a few compromises.
Users report that it generally needs to be printed at a higher temperature than other brands, around 210°C seems about the lower limit and 215°C recommended.
And some users have had problems with layer adhesion.
If you have a large print job or need to create some prototypes and want to take a chance on a cheap filament then Inland is a good gamble.
If you’re looking for guaranteed quality and reliability, then look elsewhere on this list!
Worksteel offers exceptional dimensional accuracy with a manufacturer spec of +/- 0.02mm. Uniquely Worksteel offers a 90-day money back guarantee and a 2-year warranty making it one of the safest filament purchases.
The big downside is the only colors available are black and white.
The +/- 0.02mm is genuine, with very little fluctuation on a spool and very little ovality when measuring with digital calipers.
Like Hatchbox, you can feel the quality in the smoothness of the filament and this is seen in completed parts with some light threading being the only thing that I could complain about.
This filament has one of the lowest odors I’ve smelled.
This is a budget filament but offers as good a quality as any other more well-known brand.
Unlike more popular brands Worksteel isn’t backed by a large user base or a company with good customer service but the 90-day returns and 2-year warranty should give you enough peace of mind to give this filament a try if you’re in the market for a cheap white or black PLA.
PLA Filament to avoid
This is sold in Fry’s electronics store so is often bought on impulse or in desperation when you can’t wait for a delivery. Unfortunately, user reviews are at best mixed. Don’t be tempted by the cheap price tag!
This is currently rated highly in user reviews. However, if you look at the reviews you’ll see they are not very well written and none mention any technical aspects of 3D printing. This makes me suspect they may not be genuine.
A quick Google will reveal a few genuine purchasers who were not happy with the quality of the filament.
There are better alternatives like Worksteel, eSun, and AMZ3D that carry less risk than this filament.
As you can see there are plenty of good quality PLA filaments to choose from!
If you don’t mind paying a premium for guaranteed quality then my recommended PLA filament is Makerbot.
My budget recommendation is Hatchbox. With such an enthusiastic following and unrivaled color palette, this filament is impossible to beat for the price.