With advancements in polymer science and manufacturing, there are now more than 16 different materials available to operators of FFF 3D printers. There are also several manufacturers / suppliers of 3D printing filament – a quick check of the Ultimaker Marketplace shows at least 60 brands.
Of course, 3D printing filament comes in a range of materials, colours, and sizes, and the cost can vary significantly. It is this variety which poses somewhat of a challenge to 3D printing operators when choosing suitable filament(s) for their project.
This guide will explore the different factors that affect the cost of 3D printing filament and provide a breakdown of the average pricing for various types of filaments.
The material used in the 3D printing filament is one of the most significant factors that affect the cost. PLA filament, which is made from renewable resources, is one of the most affordable types of filament and is an excellent option for beginners. ABS filament, which is known for its durability and strength, is slightly more expensive than PLA. Engineering and even high performance polymers – like our Filamentive PRO line – can be more expensive due to the complexity of their manufacturing processes and the higher quality of the final product.
Higher quality 3D printing filaments come with a higher price tag. The manufacturing process for high-quality filaments requires additional quality control measures, tighter manufacturing tolerances, and the use of higher-quality raw materials. The result is a more consistent and reliable 3D printing experience. During extrusion, Filamentive filament is laser-measured from two axes. Filament is then bulk spooled for visual inspection before it is reeled onto the individual spools for packaging. Each batch produced undergoes a rigorous 3D printing test to ensure premium filament quality and optimal 3D printing performance. To learn more about Filamentive Quality Assurance and Quality Control, see this link.
The brand of the filament can also affect the cost. Well-known brands with a reputation for quality can command a higher price than lesser-known brands. The ‘British’ brand is a strong one which resonates with consumers. According to a Make it British survey, 88% of survey respondents said they would pay more for a product made in the UK, with a third willing to spend up to 20% more.
Filamentive is a legitimate UK Limited Company, and a proud British filament brand. Our UK team is based in Bradford, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom – the hub for our managerial, operational and administrative functions. Our UK warehouse storing our filament and fulfilling orders to UK 3D printer users is located just fifty miles down the M1 in Sheffield. This is operated by our British 3PL partner, Cloud9 Fulfilment.
British companies are often associated with fair labour practices and environmental sustainability, which can be an important consideration for consumers who prioritise ethical and environmentally-friendly products. Going further, a study from Simon-Kucher & Partners suggests 33% of UK consumers are prepared to pay more for sustainable products.
Filamentive has a strong commitment to sustainability; prioritising recycled materials, using 100% recyclable cardboard spooling and also committing to CO2 offset via Ecologi.
The location of manufacturing can influence the cost of 3D printing filament due to differences in labour costs, raw material costs, and shipping costs. Filament made in countries with lower labour costs, such as in the Far East region, may be less expensive than filament made in Europe.
Minimum wage can be considered an indicator of labour cost, as it represents the minimum amount that employers are legally required to pay their employees for their work. In general, the higher the minimum wage in a given region or country, the higher the labour costs for businesses operating in that area. This is because businesses must pay their employees at least the minimum wage, and higher wages generally translate to higher overall labour costs, including payroll taxes and other benefits.
When looking at minimum wage, China is 376 USD/Month. As of 2022, the average minimum wage in the European Union is nearly 1,000 euros. Almost three times that of China’s.
Spooling / Packaging
The packaging – more specifically, the spool used to ‘reel’ the filament – is also a cost factor. Traditionally, 3D printer filament spools are made from plastic. However, in recent years, there has been a transition away from plastic to more sustainable spooling options, such as cardboard.
Cardboard 3D printing filament spools are generally more expensive than plastic ones due to several factors. One of the primary reasons is that cardboard is a more expensive material than plastic to produce. The manufacturing process for cardboard spools involves several steps, including sourcing the raw materials, cutting and shaping the cardboard, and adding any necessary coatings or finishes. This process is more labour-intensive and time-consuming than the process for manufacturing plastic spools, which can be produced at a lower cost.
Furthermore, the cardboard spools market is relatively small compared to plastic spools, which can also contribute to their higher cost. This smaller market can result in fewer manufacturers and suppliers, which can limit competition and lead to higher prices.
Filamentive offers 100% recyclable cardboard spooling on products up to and including 2.3 kg. This ensures easy recycling for the end-user and avoids hard-to-recycle (plastic) reels going to landfill.
Delivery / Transport Costs
The cost of getting the product to the end-user is also a factor in the overall product price of 3D printing filament. Assuming a £6 average delivery price, the shipping cost as a proportion of a filament order may be as much as 20% (based on PLA 1 kg price of £27).
When buying filament for your 3D printer, it is important to check the delivery / shipping costs as some retailers may charge extra, some may offer free delivery over a certain value and some – like Filamentive – may offer free UK delivery on all filament orders with no minimum value.
Taxes are another cost factor when looking at 3D printing filament price. In the UK, the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate is 20%, which means that 20% of the total price is made up of tax.
It’s important to note that smaller businesses (e.g., a ‘one-man band’), do not need to register for VAT until the total VAT taxable turnover within 12 months is over £85,000.
Filamentive is a UK VAT registered business in England and Wales – VAT ID: 232618228. Furthermore, as the business has grown, as has the contribution to the UK economy and tax take, via VAT, Corporation Tax and PAYE.
Filamentive prices are subject to VAT at 20% when selling to UK customers.
For example, PLA 1 kg is £26.99 excl. VAT and £32.39 including VAT @ 20%.
3D Printer Filament Prices in the UK
Please see the below 3D printing filament prices in the UK, based on 1 kg. Excluding VAT:
PLA filament = £26.99
Matte PLA filament = £31.99
Tough PLA filament = £34.99
PETg filament = £29.99
Carbon Fibre PETg filament = £63.99
ABS filament = £29.99
ASA filament = £39.99
In conclusion, the cost of 3D printing filament can vary widely depending on various factors such as material type, quality, brand, type of spooling, delivery costs and manufacturing location.
Reducing environmental impact is increasingly important for many 3D printing users and so the demand for sustainable materials is rising in line with the consumer demand.
While it’s essential to consider the cost when selecting filament for your 3D printing project, it’s equally important to consider the quality and reliability of the filament to ensure a successful 3D-print, in line with your needs and requirements.