Really Cheap Filament, With a Big Catch

By on November 4th, 2020 in Ideas

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Really Cheap Filament, With a Big Catch
3D printer materials at low cost [Source: GST3D]

The message said PLA filament for only US$8.50 / kg — could this be true?

PLA filament is priced quite different depending on where you look and what quality of product you get. The typical price for a kilo of 3D printer filament these days lies in the US$20-25 range, and for that you’ll receive pretty decent material.

Some filament manufacturers go to extra lengths to ensure their products are of extremely high quality. Each spool of Prusament, for example, comes with a database entry showing the diameter variation over the entire length of the spool!

That’s the kind of product you expect to buy these days, as high quality filament is definitely required for use in today’s precision 3D printers.

Cheap Filament

But then I saw a stray incoming message from someone offering filament at only US$8.50 per 1kg spool.

That’s an unbelievably low price, far lower than the discount US$15 spools you occasionally see.

How could someone offer filament at that price? I decided to investigate, and found that, yes, there was a bit of a catch to this deal.

The offer came from a Miami-based firm called “GST3D” who say they have two factories, one in the USA and the other in Argentina.

The US$8.50 deal was for a FULL PALLET of 600 spools! Talk about volume discounts! It can be ordered in any of 18 different colors, but each pallet will cost you US$5,100. Plus shipping for 600kg.

That is indeed a lot of filament. At a typical 3D print rate for a single desktop 3D printer running 24/7, it would take something close to eight years to consume the entire pallet. And you’d then be the proud owner of over 45,000 , all the same color.

Buy A Pallet Of Filament?

Obviously this is not a deal for everyone. But who should it be for?

One type of buyer might be a 3D print materials reseller that requires stock. By having several pallets of different colors in the back room, they can then easily fulfill orders and mark up the product to the US$20 range.

Another potential buyer might be a low-volume manufacturer. This type of operator would have multiple machines running simultaneously and thus consume the material far more quickly than eight years. If there is a known demand, then why not buy a ton (almost literally) of filament at an exceptional price? It will be used.

Another pallet-purchaser might be a lab that operates a number of 3D printers. This could be in an educational institution, school or even a makerspace. While they might not be literally manufacturing, the number of machines involved could consume significant amounts of material over time. If there are ten machines, then a pallet of filament might represent only a year’s supply.

One final possibility for buying a pallet of filament could be a co-op. In this model we have several parties eager to consume lots of filament, but each nowhere near a full pallet. By banding together they could purchase the pallet as a group and then share it out among themselves using whatever financial scheme makes sense.

There’s one catch here: what if you buy a pallet and the material turns out to be no good? You don’t want to burn US$5,100 on bad product, so prior action must be taken.

Anyone buying a pallet would be well-served to request a sample spool or two in advance to check out the properties of the filament. If it checks out, then it may be worth the risk to buy a whole pallet.

Or three.

Personally, I use nowhere near that level of material, but I do know of some that might come close. Perhaps you use a lot of filament? Would you buy a pallet?


By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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