In a previous blog I discussed what makes good 3D printing filament. That blog was written from the hard earned experience I got in working with the filaments I’ll review here.
All of these bands were 3D printed on a Makerbot 5th gen Replicator or Lulzbot Taz 5. The 5th gen 3D printed in 1.75 mm, while the Taz 5 3D printed with 1.75 mm and 2.85 mm filament. All were printed to temperature recommendations from the factory. I’ve 3D printed (or tried to 3D print) a whole spools worth of material from all these filament brands.
All filaments will be graded on a 4.0 A – F scale, with the final grade for each assessed at the end.
- Spooling: How well the filament is rolled on the spool.
- Storage: How long the filament last in storage.
- Color quality: How well the filament looks before and after printing.
- Filament quality: Is it flexible, or does it turn into plastic shards?
- Other: Those other quirks that are unique to all brands of filament.
For major 3D prints and everyday printing, ColorFabb XT is my go to filament. I can print with both 1.75 and 2.85 mm filament in my Taz 5 printer. I’ve been happy with the performance of their XT, PLA/PHA, and exotic filaments. All of them are low warp, which is great on the large prints that I have done with them.
ColorFabb has great customer service, which have only had to use once. Their filament comes in bulk 2.2 kg sizes, which is great for commercial 3D printers and long 3D prints.
On the gripe side, the spools for their 750 g and 2.2 kg can be a bit bulky in their width, and require a separate spool holder for your 3D printer. Spooling is a weak point, as I’ve had a few spools (both sizes) tangle mid-print.
- Spooling: More of a problem with 1.75 mm filament, but 2.85 mm has tangled as well. B
- Storage: No degradation of filament with time. A
- Color quality: Solid consistent color from start to finish. A
- Filament quality: XT and PLA/PHA have been good to me, though BronzeFill exotic did become brittle. A
- Other: Starting build plate adhesion can be tricky compared to others. Good selection of colors and sizes, and samples from ColorFabb are enough to make 3-4 small items. A
- Overall Grade: 19 / 20 A
MakerBot is one of the leading 3D printing companies in the world thanks to effective marketing, but not the quality of their 3D printers. My first 3D printer was a 5th gen, and I’ll admit that I went overboard in ordering bulk packages of filament from them.
In a future blog I’ll detail my heartache as I smashed headlong into the 5th gen printer. Despite the cluster fuck that is the 5th gen, Makerbot is redeemed (somewhat) by their filament.
MakerBot 1.75 mm filament is what I started 3D printing with and it has been a great learning experience for filament. I learned that this PLA will warp on long prints without a heated bed, and will warp on the glass build plate of a 5th gen.
It does 3D print at a consistent temperature, and has been shelf-stable longer than other PLA brands I have used. I have liked using their filament, if not their printer.
- Spooling: Good spooling with no tangles. A
- Storage: Shelf stable longer than other PLA brands. A
- Color quality: It has darkened from spool to print; it appears darker than advertised on site. C
- Filament quality: Solid consistent quality in stark contrast to the 5th gen printer. A
- Other: Being marketed as an exclusive filament does hurt its appeal to 3D printers. The cost is also overblown like all MakerBot products. D
- Overall Grade: 15 / 20 C
Prototype Supply PLA
This has been the wild card in my filament supplies. I got a couple 1 kg spools from a local 3D printing shop, and it is a good filament for test prints. It prints well at a low 190 C, which is unusual in my experience with PLA, which
normally prints at 200 – 210 C for all other brands. The 1.75 mm filament has performed well in all the test printing I’ve used it for, with minimal warping. The color has not been consistent, but for test printing it does not really matter.
- Spooling: Good spooling with no tangles. A
- Storage: Shelf stable and forgiving of bad storage. A
- Color quality: It has lightened from neon pink to pepto bismol pink when 3D print. Likewise the spool of purple I used lightened as well. D
- Filament quality: Good performance in both 3D printers, and nice to print at a lower temperature. A
- Other: This is good for test prints, with low warpage. It was affordable even from a retail store. The color shift was disappointing. C
- Overall Grade: 15 / 20 C
Printed Solid PLA
This was a brand that I’ve used a few times for their unique colors. I got some 0.2 kg spools of dark green 1.75 mm filament that turned out to have a honey / gold irradiances to it. When I made some fidgets for the Autism Community Store, they loved the dual colors.
However Printed Solid made this color in a limited production run, so now I’m holding onto my last spool tightly.
- Spooling: The 0.2 kg spool is tight, and the filament was prone to stress breaks near the end of the spool. C
- Storage: It did lose its flexibility after 3-5 months, and it became brittle. D
- Color quality: The two tone iridescent filament produced amazing results on the final product. A
- Filament quality: On the stiff side coming out of the box, it did become more brittle with time. C
- Other: Prone to warping. Being a limited production creates some issues if you want to 3D print in bulk. C
- Overall Grade: 11 / 20 F
Bee Supply PLA
This was an off brand filament I got from a 3DHubs customer. He wanted 3 of the Fallout4 Pip Boys printed, and I gave him a discount for providing the filament. This was the first mistake in what turned out to be the 3D Hub order from hell (That is another blog) .
The client provided me with 3 0.2 kg spools of OD green 1.75 mm filament. It is from these tinny spools I learned the importance of spool size. The filament was wound so tightly around the small spools that they just would not flex enough to get into the print head.
The PLA was stiff from the start. As I ran it through my printer, I learned a new sound could come from my printer. I started hearing a “snap, sprang, click, click” sound as the filament snapped like dry spaghetti, sending bits all around the room. This snapping tended to happen a couple hours into a 6-8 hr print job, resulting in lost days of time on this printing job. This snapping happened to all 3 spools, extending a 1 week printing job into a 3 week cluster fuck.
I finally gave up on Bee Supply and ordered some ColorFabb for the client. To show his gratitude, the client left me the entire Bee Supply filament to deal with. I tried latter to salvage it, but sometimes you just can’t raise the dead.
- Spooling: Tight diameter spools and even tighter winding turned the PLA into an inflexible spring that would not feed without snapping frequently. F- – – –
- Storage: The filament did not store well, and fell apart on the spool itself. F –
- Color quality: What did print did lighten a bit. C
- Filament quality: Quality and this filament do not belong in the same sentence. Frequent stress breaks and brittle PLA killed many long prints. F – – – –
- Other: I’m glad I did not buy this crap, but feel sorry for the client that got burned with this trash. F – – – – –
Overall Grade: 2 / 20 F