We hadn't noticed it before, but evidently Monoprice has been selling plastic filament suitable for 3D printers for months now.
If you're not familiar with Monoprice, they are a large online retailer of electronic goods, specializing in ultra-inexpensive cables. For example, you can get yourself an HDMI cable as little as USD$4, while you'd pay perhaps five times or more that price from a typical brick-and-mortar retailer. Even better, if you order in quantity you'll qualify for a discount.
So how do they do with filament? Do their filament prices match their low-cost reputation?
First, they sell a rather small set of filaments in 1kg spools. Simply choose: ABS or PLA; 3mm or 1.75mm; Red, White or Black. There's only 12 possibilities.
Each 1kg spool sells for USD$26. You can get a discount if you buy more: 2-9 is USD$25.80 (0.7%), 10-19 is USD$25.1 (3.5%) and over quantity 50 you'd pay USD$24.00 (7.7%) each. These are not terrific quantity discounts, but they are available.
Checking prices at other common suppliers for 1kg 1.75mm PLA shows (if offered at a weight other than 1kg, we've scaled the prices to 1kg equivalents):
- Filaco: USD$44
- Faberdashery: USD$101 (sold by the meter)
- FormFutura: USD$37
- JustPLA: USD$32
- MakerBot: USD$48
- MakerGear: USD$46
- Plastic Web Shop: USD$68
- ProtoParadigm: USD$42
- Ultimachine: USD$46
So it would seem Monoprice is less expensive than many other sources. However, there are a few other things to consider before buying from Monoprice:
- Monoprice has a reputation for switching suppliers; the second time you order you may get a completely different product
- There is no guarantee of safety with their filaments; some filaments have been shown to contain lead for coloring
- There is no guarantee of consistent specifications; you may find the filament has varying diameter, for example
- If you need specific colors, Monoprice has a pretty terrible selection
- Shipping costs may vary considerably
Nevertheless, it does seem like a good price and may be worth an experiment.