SainSmart Filament Review: One Of The Best 3D Filament Brands With A Mixed Reputation
SainSmart is a cheap electronics supplier from China. The company sells many different parts and accessories for DIYers and makers. Their filament is very good for a stripped down manufacturer. There are no frills about SainSmart filaments, but they get the job done, and the price is right.
SainSmart is an amazing, cheap brand. Most hardcore makers, DIYers, and tinkerers have at some point needed to buy a part or material from a cheaper source, and SainSmart should be one of the top choices. But SainSmart has a bit a mixed reputation. Some customers take issue with the slower shipping times and small manufacturing mistakes. But the majority of the criticism has to do with the cheap cardboard spool that SainSmart uses for its filaments. So is buying a roll of SainSmart filament worth it? In this article, we are going to set the record straight and show you why SainSmart is one of the best filament brands out there.
The truth is that most SainSmart customers are very happy. You can see this on Amazon, where SainSmart receives hundreds of 5 star reviews from die hard fans. SainSmart is a no frills, globally distributed, Kansas based Chinese mass producer of cheaper microcontrollers, Arduino accessories, robotics, 3D printer parts, and 3D printer filament. When we say no frills, we mean old school no frills. When you order your parts or materials from SainSmart, you might not get instructions in the box, you might not even get everything you need for your project, but the parts and materials will work and it will be cheap. Perfect. That’s what you should expect when you choose to buy parts from a massive chinese company that produces thousands of products at a time.
But there is still a vocal minority of makers who insist on complaining about the issues that they weren’t expecting to deal with when buying from a large Chinese manufacturer. And we think that these misplaced expectations about SainSmart are the main cause of the frustration. We’ve seen complaints of this sort for all of SainSmart products, from the their stepper motors to their sensors and 3D filaments. We will investigate all of their products in another post (to check out their other 3D printer parts now, like stepper motors and kits, [click here]). For this article, we are going to focus specifically on SainSmart 3D filament. It’s time to put the debate about whether or not SainSmart filaments are one of the best 3D filaments out there to rest for good.
Who Owns SainSmart?
SainSmart is owned by SainStore inc., whose headquarters are located in Kansas City, KS. SainStore was founded by Damon Cheng in 2010 and focuses on business consulting and other services for manufacturing companies. SainSmart has several warehouses across the world, including in Germany and China. The largest facility is in China and this is where most of their products are shipped from.
Where Does SainSmart 3D Filament Come From? Where Can I Buy It?
The best place to find SainSmart is on Amazon because of their shipping. Many of SainSmart’s filaments, including the Flame Retardant ABS, are available on Amazon and shipped through the Fullfillment by Amazon program. Amazon’s shipping is a huge improvement over the international two-week shipping from China that SainSmart otherwise offers for purchases through their website. In rare cases, orders from the website have arrived late and with massive international shipping charges that the customer must pay in order to receive their shipment. While SainSmart is great at handling these cases, it is more reliable to just buy SainSmart products through Amazon and save yourself the trouble.
The Best 3D Filament on Amazon? Almost…
Let’s get one thing straight: SainSmart is one of the best filament producers around. And the filament Sainsmart makes is so good that it has become one the best-sellers on Amazon.com, competing directly with other leading filament brands, such as Octave, Hatchbox, and eSun. Of course, we know that their filament is good from our months-long research into the company and their materials. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Just check out the hundreds of 5 star ratings SainSmart filament gets on Amazon. Customers are so excited about these filaments that they are writing huge in depth customer reviews. One massive fan of the SainSmart White PLA filament wrote one of the longest customer reviews for a 3D filament on Amazon that we have ever seen, at almost 1000 words! That’s a pretty good example of the kind of excitement SainSmart filaments are generating.
The Filament: Price, Quality, and Color Range
Now we will get right to heart of why we like SainSmart filaments so much. What many of the critics are focussing on are the longer shipping times, the annoying cardboard spool, the way the company doesn’t respond to emails during the Chinese New Year – essentially, all of the little things that are somewhat important but not core issues. These are not the things that make or break filament companies like SainSmart.
At the end of the day, what it really comes down to is one core metric: the quality to price ratio. That is the most single most important metric by which all 3D filaments brands are measured and it is surprisingly hard to find companies that pass this basic litmus test.
SainSmart knocks the price to quality ratio out of the park. It has some of the lowest prices for a high quality available, putting it in the same league as Hatchbox. And while Hatchbox beats SainSmart and a few of the other top filament brands on the price to quality ratio in our opinion, SainSmart is definitely in the top 5 best filament brands, if not the top 3 filaments.
Let’s break this down in more detail. But first, here are some of the most popular SainSmart filaments:
Thankfully, we haven’t seen many people complaining about SainSmart prices. That would really grind our gears.
Most of the SainSmart filaments that are priced in the low $20’s are their regular PLAs and ABS. You can even find some deals for under $20 on their website. It’s hard to find a filament brand that is so cheap but also good quality. But not all of their filaments are priced super low. The SainSmart specialty filaments like wood, TPU, PETG, etc., are priced in the mid-to-low $30’s. That’s still on the low end when compared to many high end filament producers, but it isn’t as much of a good deal as the price of the regular filaments.
The color range for the regular PLA and ABS filaments is not that great unfortunately. There are about a dozen total colors to choose from. If you include all of the other specialty filaments, that number comes closer to 2 dozen. That’s not too many to choose from. And it’s certainly not enough to make SainSmart your one stop shop for all of your filament needs. For instance it would be great if you could buy simple colors like orange or various shades of blue. However, SainSmart tries to make up for this a little bit by offering a fairly wide range of materials. Still, more colors would be nice, and hopefully SainSmart improves the color range in the future.
Quality and Materials
SainSmart offers a fairly wide variety of materials, and more than just the regular PLA and ABS subtypes, such as clear and glow in the dark. The most unique of these is probably their specialty Flame Retardant ABS. Cool, right? And in general, SainSmart filaments are great quality. The 3D filaments they sell on Amazon have hundreds of positive ratings, over 80% of which were given 4 or more stars. On forums across the internet, SainSmart 3D filaments are recognized as top quality materials. We’ve gone in depth into each type of filament they sell, but make sure you at least check out their TPU filament. At under $30 bucks per spool, it is some of the best quality TPU available anywhere.
The SainSmart PLA is very good. The price is low for a PLA filament of this quality, and very few other brands can compete with it on that front. There are no bubbles, clogs or breaks. Some of the PLA from SainSmart can be slightly brittle and snapped during prints. But recently this problem seems to have been solved. Spools of SainSmart PLA have average tolerances of between +/- 0.01mm and +/- 0.07mm. Some spools have slight ovality of around +3mm but all spools generally have a good shape. The color of the PLA also translates well into prints. The only other consideration that prevents this PLA from being top ranked is that it prints at a slightly higher temperature than other PLAs. Many customers have the best results at 210ºC. This indicates that the PLA has some additives or impurities that require a higher melt temperature. Nevertheless, SainSmart PLA is a favorite cheap PLA filament for thousands of printers.
NOTE: It is worth noting that there are hundreds of positive 5 star reviews for SainSmart PLA filaments on Amazon, making it one of the most highly rated PLA filaments available today.
SainSmart ABS is one the best ABS filaments you can print with. Aside from it’s fantastically popular PLAs, SainSmart ABS is one of the main reasons why we think that SainSmart is one of the best filament brands in general. After initial calibrations, most customers are able to print for days with both the SainSmart ABS filaments with no issues. One customer heard a bit of popping in the extruder since the filament had absorbed some humidity, there were no issues with the filament itself. One of the only downsides we can think of is that Hatchbox sells an equally fantastic ABS filament at a slightly cheaper price. But that’s why Hatchbox is the king of all filaments. So if you aren’t going to buy the king, then SainSmart is one of the best filament brand for your ABS needs.
SainSmart sells two types of wood filaments, light brown and dark brown. The light brown wood filament is not a bad wood filament but it is not the best out there. It is very week and you can’t stain it at all. But it looks a lot like wood and is perfect for small prints. The dark brown wood filament doesn’t look like wood much at all, which is disappointing. It’s also very brittle and pieces have a tendency have to snap. Overall, we can’t really recommend this filament, unfortunately.
The SainSmart TPU is the possibly the best TPU filament available right now. It is definitely better than Ninjaflex in terms of strength and printability. And it is very flexible, of course. While printing test cubes, try dropping the temperature to get a surface finish that doesn’t have pock marks on the surface. This TPU definitely requires printing on a heated bed with fans on. Also we recommend printing a raft with this filament and, as with any TPU flex filament, we recommend printing slowly, around 30mm/s. The surface cleans up nicely with a heat torch or hot air gun. However, due to it’s superb strength, you will need a surgically sharpened knife to cut it in a controlled way. Overall, this is one of the best 3D filaments on the market right now.
Note: Out of 131 reviews on Amazon, SainSmart TPU filament received 76% 5 star positing reviews. Just something to keep in mind.
Fire Retardant filaments are interesting PLAs but there aren’t too many around. Other than SainSmart, only eSun, Ultimaker, NinjaTek and a few other filament brands make a Fire Retardant. Hopefully it becomes more popular because you can make some really cool things with them. For instance, you could make an ashtray and candle holders. And if you give this filament a shot, you can get it on Amazon for a great price and fast shipping.
SainSmart is so good that many customers make it they’re go to PETG filament. It is stronger than ABS and not as brittle as PLA with virtually no warping and only slight stringing (most PETG filaments have some stringing). SainSmart PETG is also very similar in quality and price to the best PETG filament brands, like eSUN and Hatchbox, although Hatchbox offers more colors. SainSmart only offers clear PETG. And the clear PETG is more like a milky white color than crystal clear. But it is still amazing quality and if you buy a spool you will be very happy with it.
Website, Packaging, and Spool Design
The SainSmart website, SainSmart.com, is a top-notch e-commerce site offering the full range of SainSmart products. You can by filaments and 3D printer parts, as well as other maker gear and accessories. SainSmart also offers some good deals through their website, like express shipping on orders over $150, which is helpful since the orders are being shipping from China. You can also find a fair bit of explanatory information on the site, including detailed product specs, a SainSmart wiki site, and some customer reviews. The site also special filament sales where you can pick up certain filaments for cheaper than regular prices. SainSmart also offers a decent selection of Youtube videos about their products to help you make your purchasing decisions. It is overall one of the best filament brand websites around.
The packaging that Sainsmart filaments comes in is not the greatest packaging ever but it gets the job done. The main downside to the packaging is that the spools isn’t vaccuum sealed. The spools are simply wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, which isn’t air tight. But it does contain a desiccant packet to absorb moisture. Just make sure you don’t keep it sitting on your shelf for a long time in the package because it will absorb moisture over time, and after a few months the filament quality will definitely degrade. If you aren’t going to use the filament immediately, put it in a container with a tight lid and a bunch of desiccant packets or a bag of rice.
Quick Tip: A great way to to store spools of filament is in a plastic storage bin with a bag of rice. Rice naturally absorbs moisture and makes an excellent desiccant for keeping things dry. Simply leave a pound or two of rice in a tupperware container with the lid off at the bottom of the your storage bin and let it suck up all of the humidity. Your filaments will stay nice and dry.
SainSmart spools are by far the worst part of the entire SainSmart filament customer experience. Yeah, as much as we love SainSmart, there is just no way to sugar coat how bad these spools are. They are just terrible. And we are fairly sure that these spools are responsible for the majority of the negative reviews that customers leave on Amazon and forums across the web. If it weren’t for these spools, SainSmart might have a much better reputation for customer satisfaction.
First of all, Sainsmart spools are made of cheap cardboard that warps easily. Many customers report that the edges of the cardboard bend significantly, leading to problems with spool being able to spin freely on some spool holders. Also cardboard has a tendency to fray easily, which means that little bits of cardboard fiber can cover your filament. Those bits will mess with the flow of plastic through your extruder and introduce impurities into the plastic that could damage your prints.
Second, the filament reels are wound too tightly. There is simply too much filament on the spools to be would properly. The cardboard spools are also just barely too small for the amount of filament on them. So when you open the package, a few loops of filament will likely pop off of the spools immediately. As a result, you will have to watch out for tangles while you are printing.
Third, the center hole on SainSmart spools is too small for most spool holders. So you are going to most likely have to print off a new spool holder from Thingiverse before you can use these filaments. The small center hole also contributes to winding problems. When you get near the end of the spool, the filament becomes very tightly wound around that small center spoke. So you are going to have to keep that in mind when setting up your spool holder to make sure that it can spin freely. You might even want to put the spool itself on a controlled roller so that you can regulate the speed at which it unwinds.
SainSmart seems to be moving toward using standard hard plastic spools for their filaments. This would solve many of the above problems since these standard black plastic spools have larger spool holes. They can also hold more filament on the roles than the cardboard spool that SainSmart currently uses.
Recommended Printer Settings
The recommended printer settings that SainSmart provides are a good starting point. SainSmart filaments tend to print at higher temperatures than other filaments, but most printers will produce good results between 210-230ºC across all filaments, including PLA. You should definitely print with fans on and a heated printer bed set to 60-70ºC.
SainSmart filament is great quality for a great price. That’s why we think it is one of the best 3D filament brands available. The SainSmart TPU is particularly good. It is stronger than ABS and not as brittle as PLA, which is amazing. SainSmart PLA filaments are also some of the best selling filaments on Amazon and have hundreds of positive five star customer reviews. The ABS filaments that SainSmart makes are also incredible in terms of quality and price. It ranks up there with Hatchbox as some of the best ABS filament you can buy.
The major downside of using SainSmart filaments is the spool. It is made of cardboard and has a small center hole, which causes problems with the winding and compatibility with printer spool holders.If you can make due with the cardboard spool that the filaments come on, then this filament will be great for you. The shipping times are also sometimes a bit longer than other producers because, while the company has an office in Kansas, most of its products are shipped from China.
Overall, SainSmart is clearly one of the best filament producers on the market. A lot of the criticisms that people have with SainSmart products have to do with convenience. American customers really want convenience. But this isn’t what you will get from many Chinese manufacturers. As a result, many of the products, while cheaper, take a little extra effort to use or procure.
If you are willing to put in a little more effort, SainSmart filaments and printer parts will reward you with quality at a low cost. So if you are just looking for a fully ready to go stepper motor or a perfectly wound filament spool, this will be a challenging but rewarding brand for you to work with. But if you are a hard core DIYer or tinkerer, or just willing to put in a little extra effort, this is one of the best 3D filament brands to buy from. Check out SainSmart filaments now on Amazon, where you will find their full product line-up.
Similar Filament Brands You Should Try
- 3D Solutech