The Best PLA Filament Brands In The World: A Buyer’s Guide To The Best PLA Filaments On Earth
Every 3D printer filament brand claims to be the best PLA filament brand in the world.
But here’s the cold, hard, truth: a lot of them are scams.
There are no regulations or quality control standards in the filament industry. That means that filament brands can sell low quality PLA while claiming that it is the best PLA filament ever.
The problem is that printing with low quality PLA is a waste of time and money. It jams or warps, and sometimes the diameters are so inconsistent that entire spools are unusable.
(In a rush? Check prices of the best PLA filaments here)
We’ve put together this buyer’s guide for you, complete with list a of 3D printer filament brands that are internationally recognized for their quality and reliability. We also included some tips for using each of them and some information about PLA filament in general.
This guide is good for beginners and veterans of 3D printing alike, and we are constantly updating it, so check back here often.
Looking for ABS? Check out the best ABS filaments here
A Buyer’s Guide To The Best PLA Filaments On Earth
PLA is one of the most popular types of filament because it is cheap and easy to use. As we discussed in our review of the cheapest filament brands, PLA filaments can often be found for less than $15 per spool.
PLA plastic is often touted as an environmentally friendly plastic because it is biodegradable and made from renewable resources. In North America, PLA is often made from corn starch, in Asia it is made for starches such as cassava roots, and in the rest of the world, PLA is often made from sugarcane.
Like other plastics used in 3D printing, PLA is a thermoplastic, which means that it becomes soft and deforms when it is heated and then hardens again when cooled. That means it can be molded like clay or extruded through an extruder.
The reason that PLA is so popular is that it is super easy to print with, so if you are a beginner, this is the right type of filament for you to start with. It isn’t as strong as other types of filament, such as PETG or ABS, but PLA is very forgiving of variations in temperature and printing speed.
What Is PLA Used For?
PLA can be used to print any kind of small figurine or plastic toy. The best PLA filaments can even be used to print functional parts, especially if they are enhanced with an additive like carbon fiber or PHA.
There is also some confusion about whether PLA is food safe given that it is biodegradable. Adding to the confusion, PLA has been used in some medical applications such as stents and plates that are eventually broken down by the body into harmless lactic acid.
But unlike ABS and other 3D printer filaments like PETG, PLA filament is not generally considered food safe by most filament manufactures because of the way consumer 3D printers manufacture objects via filament deposition.
Whereas industrial plastic products are manufactured so that their surfaces are smooth on a microscopic level, most objects produced by consumer level 3D printers have microscopic crevices and cracks. Bacteria and microbes can live inside these small microscopic crevices on the surface of the plastic are are very hard to clean and sterilize, so it’s not good to use spoons or forks printed with PLA for a long time.
Hatchbox PLA Filament
Print Settings: Print Hatchbox PLA at 200°C for the first 1 to 3 layers, then drop the temperature down to 190 – 195°C for the rest of the print. Heated printer bed 60 – 80°C, Fan: ON, Infill: 50 – 80% depending on application, Print Speed: 50 – 60mm/sec for PLA
Hatchbox PLA is one of the best filaments available. As we discussed in our full review of Hatchbox filaments, Hatchbox has a huge fanbase and thousands of positive customer reviews.
The reason that Hatchbox is so popular has mostly to do with the fact that it has a large community that can vouch for its quality. Almost everyone who has purchased it has been satisfied with it’s tolerances, color range, and print quality.
In terms of performance, the difference between Hatchbox PLAs and some of the more expensive PLAs on this list, such as ColorFabb and Proto-Pasta is only noticable when it’s used to make functional parts, like gears or cases for electrical devices. But for everything else, whether you are printing jewelry or bobble heads, Hatchbox will be just fine.
The last thing to keep in mind about Hatchbox is that does come from a large manufacturer in China, so it’s not a “designer” filament like ColorFabb or Proto-Pasta. But if price and quality are what you are looking for, Hatchbox is a good brand to start with.
ColorFabb PLA Filament
ColorFabb is a premium Dutch filament manufacturer. It really is one of the best brands in the world. And their PLA is directly responsible for that. ColorFabb PLA Filament has a not-so-secret ingredient that makes it super strong: PHA.
PHA, which stands for Polyhydroxyalkanoates, is a polyester that is created by bacteria during the natural process of fermentation of sugars. As a result of the added PHA, ColorFabb PLA is stronger and more durable than other PLAs but also still biodegradable and very easy to print with.
As far as technical specs and quality control goes, ColorFabb PLA filaments are top-notch. They have awesome tolerances. They never clog or jam. And the spools are always perfectly wound. It really doesn’t get much better than this.
The price point is one downside to ColorFabb. Colorfabb is definitely at the top of the price range. But as you will see, most of the other premium quality PLA filament brands are also expensive.
One trick to getting a discount on ColorFabb is to check out their customizable 16 spool pack. If you are willing to buy in bulk, you can get 16 ColorFabb PLAs for a group rate that is half of what you would pay for each individual spool, shipping included. That’s not a bad deal for some of the best PLA filament on the planet. Read more about ColorFabb filaments here.
Faberdashery PLA Filament
Faberdashery is a classic filament brand. The founders have close ties to the reprap project and are located in the same part of England. Claire Cunningham, the CEO, even claims that the father of the reprap project himself approves of Faberdashery filament. Nice.
Faberdashery PLA filament is an incredible product. And it better be, because Faberdashery only makes PLA! Why do they only make PLA? Well, according to Claire, it all has to do with environmental sustainability. Like many in the 3D printing world, Claire strongly believes that PLA is the best material to print simply because it is biodegradable.
Faberdashery nails all of the key indicators of a high quality PLA. The tolerances are fantastic, which means no clogging. The melt temperatures are within the normal range of 190ºC to 210ºC, which means that purity is high. And it is strong, with a nice matte surface finish.
One of the more unusual aspects of the Faberdashery business model is that they sell their filaments mostly by the meter. That means you can buy exactly the amount of filament you need and no more. It also means that you will have to check directly on the Faberdashery website or their US supplier fbrc8.com for exact prices.
But to give you some idea, a 100-meter coil of PLA costs as much as an entire 1 kg. spool of regular quality PLA. 100-meters of PLA is about 310 grams, so that’s not much PLA for the price. But remember, Faberdashery is the best of the best, so it is bound to be expensive. You can read more about Faberdashery in our full brand review.
Ultimaker PLA Filament
Here is yet another high-end Dutch filament company for you to consider. Ultimaker PLA filament is easily in the same quality class as the other PLAs on this list. It has fantastic tolerances and great strength.
In fact, Ultimaker PLA is almost too strong. It has been known to stick to printer beds and support materials so well that you might have to apply serious force to get the stuff off. But this strength also means that you can expect a high detail resolution from your prints.
Ultimaker PLA also has a fairly mild odor, which is an added perk. The one thing to keep in mind is that it is a bit more expensive than the other brands and sells in .75 gram spools on fbrc8.com.
But if you look around a little, you can get Ultimaker filaments from other third party vendors for much lower prices. It just takes a little bit of hunting. And PLA isn’t the only product that Ultimaker makes well. Check out our full review of Ultimaker products.
MakerBot PLA Filament
Finally, a US brand! MakerBot is somewhat infamous in the 3D printing community and definitely one of the most controversial companies to come out of the 3D printing boom in the last 10 years. They make fantastic printers that are generally considered a little over priced. But they can charge what they want because they are the best.
MakerBot PLA filament is also some of the best PLA filament available today. Yes, it costs twice as much as a regular 1 kg. spool, just like the rest of the high-end filaments on this list. But it is made in the US and comes with the absurdly high quality control standards of all MakerBot products. The thing that really makes it outstanding is that there is no warping with this PLA. None.
If you aren’t interested in spending so much on a spool, you can still try MakerBot filaments for smaller .2 kg. spools. But if you are sure that MakerBot filaments are the filaments for you, definitely check out the jumbo XXL 10 lb. spools of PLA that MakerBot sells for discounted prices. With these bad boys, you won’t have to swap out spools for a long time. Learn more about them in our full MakerBot review.
Proto-pasta PLA Filament
Proto-pasta’s superb PLA filament is produced at the ProtoPlant in Vancouver, Washington, USA. Founded by a bunch of materials scientists in 2013 who set out to make the best filament in the world, Proto-pasta has gained wide popularity for it’s super high quality and reliable tolerances.
In fact, the Proto-pasta team has been focused on material quality so heavily over the last few years that they only recently released aesthetically pleasing filament: it smells good, looks good, and performs perfectly.
Proto-pasta is filament by makers, for makers. They are super focussed on making new materials for 3D printing in order to keep things fun and exciting.
If you want to try out a regular Proto-pasta PLA filament, a spool will be quite pricey. But there are many specialty spools of filament available that will make up for the high prices.
Have a look around to see what weird materials you might like to try next.
IC3D PLA Filament
IC3D PLA filament is a premium filament manufactured in Ohio, USA. The quality control standards at IC3D are super high.
That means that there are almost never any tolerance issues and no warping. Some printers have even been able to print without using a bed adhesion material, which is pretty rare for PLA.
The best part is that it is cheaper than the other premium brands. You can get a 2 lb. spool for good prices compared to higher end filaments from brands like ColorFabb.
IC3D also sells 5 and 10 lb jumbo sized spools so that you don’t have to constantly swap out smaller spools and recalibrate between prints.
Polymaker PLA Filament
Polymaker is a large Chinese filament manufacturer with offices in Europe, Japan, and the USA.
Like MakerBot, Polymaker is one of the privileged few filament brands that were listed in the Natureworks 2016 filament brochure. That is a big deal.
Natureworks LLC is the worlds largest distributer of high quality PLA. By listing Polymaker as their preferred Chinese filament distributer, Natureworks essentially said to the other 3D filament brands, “Hey, check these guys out, they are better than all of you.”
And it’s true. Polymaker makes amazing PLA filaments and specialty filaments. Their Polymax PLA filaments are 9 times stronger than regular PLA (measured by impact resistance tests) and have better overall mechanics than ABS.
However, like the other filaments on this list, Polymaker isn’t cheap. Expect to pay twice as much as the normal stuff for a single spool. But if you buy in bulk you can get a few dollars off the spool price. Buying in bulk might not be a bad idea either considering that you are probably going to want to print a lot with these filaments.
So there you have it. These are the best pla filament brands because they are strong and have fantastic tolerances.
Notice how there are only two Chinese brand on the list? Most Chinese filaments just can’t compete with the quality control standards that European and US brands have. Except for Hatchbox and Polymaker, Chinese brands tend to clog your printer because of bad tolerances. But the tolerances of the brands on this list are impeccable, especially the Dutch brands.
The only thing that you have to keep in mind is that premium quality is often more expensive. As a result, the filaments on this list aren’t super cheap.
But the extra few dollars you spend on higher quality filament will save you time and frustration that comes with unclogging extruder jams. And these filaments won’t break your bank either. Check prices here.
We’ve tried to give you some hints about finding deals, though. And the last filament on the list, IC3D, sells high quality PLA for lower prices.
If you feel that we’ve missed any premium brands that should be on the list, leave a comment below. Happy printing!