3D Materials Suppliers and Product Updates

Picture of someone carrying spools of filament

3D printing can look expensive when you start to research the materials. Depending on where you buy the ABS or PLA filament spool, it could run from $10 to $15 per pound.

If you hunt around, you will no doubt find that 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.

Places That Sell 3D Printing Materials

Do a search on Google or Amazon and you'll find a wide range of sellers and shops. Most 3D printer manufacturers sell their own 3D printing materials, optimized to their printer, of course, but you can buy on the secondary market, too. Walmart, Amazon, Ebay, and many more merchants are stocking and selling 3D printer material.

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. 

These 3D materials suppliers are predominantly Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) style printers, considered the more common hobbyist and small business 3D printers—you'll see ABS and PLA as the primary materials.

The folks at Shapeways have put together a guide 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's a matrix to help you figure out which material is right for you and your print—even if you're not using their service, it's still a great resource. They also have a sample kit you can purchase which isn't bad if you are going to use their service instead of buying 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.

Regular ABS and PLA

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).

This company has a slightly less flexible material called SemiFlex, which 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.

Filaflex

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 a flexible filament. If you have a double extruder, Filaflex will combine with ABS or PLA.

HIPS

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 come 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.

Others

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.

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's 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'll 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.

Also of note is 3D Printing Systems' 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.

The 3Ders.org page on materials has news and data on new materials almost as soon as they hit the market. It's a trusted source where you can get specifics on materials and just about any other 3D printing subject.