3D Materials Suppliers and Product Updates

Where To Buy 3D Printing Materials in the USA

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https://store.makerbot.com/3D printing can look a bit expensive when you start to look at the materials. From US$10 to $15 per pound (usually priced in metric kilograms, however), depending on where you buy the typical ABS or PLA filament spool.

If you hunt around, you will no doubt find some places are pricing their filament for less. The standard ABS or PLA spool will last you for quite a few 3D prints.

When you start looking at conductive or metal-infused ABS or wood fiber-based thermoplastics, it can get a bit more expensive. Do a search on Google or Amazon and you will find a wide range of sellers and shops. Or, just peruse my list here.

Most 3D printer manufacturers sell their own materials, optimized to their printer, of course, but you can buy on the secondary market, too. I have a few printer companies listed here, such as Lulzbot, SeeMeCNC, and Makerbot, to name a few.

As I said above, Walmart, Amazon, Ebay, Google Shops, and many more merchants are stocking and selling 3D printer material. These are not in rank order, but I will say that the guys at Proto-pasta (fun name) are trying to mix new materials together to give your 3D prints a different look and feel.

  1. Proto-Pasta
  2. Monoprice ABS (PLA available, too)
  3. NinjaFlex
  4. Zen Toolworks Flexible 
  5. Seacans.com
  6. FilaFlex
  7. 3D-Printer-Filaments.com
  1. GizmoDorks (doing wood fiber-reinforced ABS, kinda neat)
  2. FAIRWAGON.com
  3. 3D Printer Hub
  4. 3D Printer Stuff
  5. Afinia
  6. BotMill
  7. LulzBot
  8. JustPLA
  9. SeeMeCNC
  10. MakerGear
  11. Makerbot

Wherever possible, I tried to link directly to the PLA or ABS (or both) product page. As always, please feel free to ping me with suggestions and ideas for other suppliers.

These 3D materials suppliers are predominantly Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) style printers, considered the more common hobbyist and small business 3D printers, thus you see ABS and PLA as the primary materials. However, I am working on a resin post for the FormLabs, Spark/Ember printer fans out there. 

I am also continuing to describe and explain what I know (or learn) about common and lesser-known 3D printing materials. You can read a bit about the material properties here: 3D Printing Materials.

3D Printing Materials is a super-fast part of the industry. Materials are constantly changing, morphing, and improving. I regularly visit the 3Ders.org page on materials. In that section, you will find news and data on new materials almost as soon as they hit the market. It is a trusted news source where you can get specifics on materials and just about any other 3D printing subject. I highly recommend it. 

My last resource on materials is from Shapeways, the 3D printing service bureau and community that I mentioned in 3D Printing Services When You Do Not Have A 3D Printer.

The folks at Shapeways have put together a guide, of sorts, to materials that they offer, but it also gives you a great look at what a silver 3D print looks like, or porcelain, different plastics, or castable wax.

There is a matrix to help you figure out which material is right for you and your print, even if you are not using their service -- still a great resource. They also have a sample kit you can purchase (the $29.99 kit comes with a $25 store credit, at press time - Jan 30 2015). Not bad if you are going to use their service instead of buy your own printer. 

The Latest Filaments for FFF/FDM 3D Printers

Extrusion 3D printers are the most widely used by consumers and small businesses. These printers generally allow you to print in ABS or PLA plastics of numerous colors. However, as the market grows, more options are being offered that go beyond color.

Here are the most common 3D filaments and their benefits:

  • Regular ABS and PLA are the industry standards. ABS is easier to use, in many cases, but requires a heated bed because it shrinks as it cools- something you don’t want to happen while you are still printing. PLA is a little more difficult to use but has almost no shrinkage. You can find both of these at almost any consumer retailer that is selling 3D printing materials–even Walmart and Amazon carry them. There are also many ABS and PLA blends that improve on properties of the originals, such as heat sensitivity.
  • Flexible ABS and PLA:  Ninjaflex has developed a flexible thermoplastic made from polyurethane that comes in a variety of colors including gold, silver, flesh tones, and water (which is semi-transparent). Although this company has recently introduced a slightly less flexible material called SemiFlex. SemiFlex is still somewhat flexible but allows you to print in higher resolution and with more detail. To use either of these, you set your printer as if it were printing ABS.
  • Another flexible filament is Filaflex by Recreus. Again, you have a variety of colors, including fluorescents, transparent, two skin tones, and some neon. Their website also has great pointers for printing with flexible filament. If you have a double extruder, Filaflex will combine with ABS or PLA.
  • Lulzbot is a 3D printer company, but it has some unique offerings in the filament department. HIPS is a beginner-level high-impact polystyrene with ABS qualities that comes in a variety of colors and dissolves in limonene. Other offered print materials include PVA (water-soluble), nylon, and polycarbonate. You can also find conductive filament, Laywoo-3D (which prints with a wood-like texture), Laybrick (which prints with a brick-like texture) and PET-based T-glase (which is translucent and comes in a variety of colors). Lulzbot seems to be the only company that is offering “cleaning” filament that allows you to clean your print nozzle before adding a different type of filament, but some of their filaments require its use. Some of the materials offered are for experienced 3D printers only and come with special instructions for printing.
  • If you are looking for plastic that prints with other qualities, such as those of metal, ProtoPasta has several specialty PLA mixes. Their stainless steel polishes like metal while their magnetic iron attracts other metals and rusts for a truly iron finish. They also offer carbon fiber filament, a PC-ABS alloy, and a conductive filament that is still in the works.
  • ColorFabb has taken a unique look at 3D printing filament and combined PLA with bronze, copper, bamboo, wood, and carbon. The filament you print has the properties of the item that was mixed with it. For example, after printing with bronzefill, you can polish your item to a bronze-like finish. It is also heavier so that it doesn’t feel like plastic. Some of these special materials require specific nozzles or treatment.
  • Another interesting recent development has been in color-changing ABS filament. Among 3D Printing Systems specialty filaments, you will find “chameleon” filament that changes from one color to another in the presence of heat. Their “twisted” filament has color variation within the roll which is another nice option and also of note is their “crystal” high impact ABS. Other companies that offer color-changing filament in their specialty lines are Afina and Maker Geeks. Maker Geeks actually has a wide variety of specialty filaments, including ceramic (which can be fired in a kiln and glazed after printing), UV sensitive (changes color in UV light), and porous filament (although you have to look under the dissolving filament tab to find it).

    New materials are constantly becoming available as the needs of 3D printers and their applications expand. This list will give you a good place to get started exploring all the options.