Every 3D printer filament brand claims to be the best PLA filament brand in the world. And many filaments are very good.
But which 3D filament really IS the best?
Check out our top recommendation: Hatchbox PLA
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.
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
PLA 3D Printer Filament Is Cheap, High-Quality, And Easy To Use
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.
While many plastics are made from oil, you might be surprised to learn that PLA can also be made from starches found in many staple agricultural crops. As a result, PLA plastic is often touted as an environmentally friendly plastic because it is biodegradable.
In North America, PLA can be made from corn starch, in Asia can be made from starches such as cassava roots, and in the rest of the world, PLA is sometimes 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. So when it is warmed up, it can easily be pushed through an extruder in a controlled manner to create objects.
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, and it is strong enough for most applications. Let’s talk about what some of those applications are next.
What Is PLA Filament Used For?
PLA can be used to print basically any kind of small figurine, accessory, and really most objects you can find on Thingiverse. The best PLA filaments can even be used to print functional parts like gears, 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. Here’s why:
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. Why are those nooks and crannies a problem?
Basically, bacteria and microbes can live inside these small microscopic crevices on the surface of the plastic and are very hard to clean and sterilize. Cleaning agents have surface tension that prevents them from entering the nooks and crannies. That’s why it’s not good to use spoons or forks printed with PLA for a long time – they may have germs accumulated in microscopic holes that you can’t see.
Still, there is an ongoing debate on this topic. Check with regulatory agencies and medical professionals for more information.
1. Hatchbox PLA Filament
Print Settings: Print Hatchbox PLA at 200°C, heated printer bed 45°C, Fan: ON, Infill: 20 – 80% depending on the application
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 its tolerances, color range, and print quality. Best of all, it is always available, even when others are not.
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 noticeable in highly specific applications, such as when it’s used to make very specific functional parts, like some types of gears or cases for electrical devices. But for everything else, whether you are printing jewelry or bobbleheads, 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, availability, and quality are what you are looking for, Hatchbox is the best brand out there.
eSUN is famous in the 3D printing community and definitely one of the most widely available filaments to come out of the 3D printing boom in the last 15 years.
eSUN PLA filament is also some of the best PLA filament available today because it is so reliable. It costs about the same as every other regular 1 kg. spool, just like the rest of the high-end filaments on this list.
If you aren’t interested in spending so much on a spool, you can try eSUN filaments and know that you aren’t getting ripped off. It is sourced from China, so every once in a while the, quality will vary slightly if the distributor chooses to source eSUN from a different manufacturer. But the fact that this brand has a stellar reputation across businesses and communities across the world means something.
Overture is a fantastic addition to the filament industry. It has only been around for a few years, but already Overture has gained a reputation for excellence. Like other Chinese brands, it is reliable and the quality is never a problem. Let’s talk about quality a bit more.
As far as technical specs and quality control go, Overture 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 major upside to Overture. Overture is priced similarly to most other filament brands, but the one thing you can count on is that it will be available, and it will be available for years to come. If you are looking for a go-to filament, this is the one.
4. Faberdashery PLA Filament
Let’s go for a more niche filament next. Many people may not have heard of Faberdashery but it is worth a mention – here’s why:
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.
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.
Here is yet another great filament company for you to consider. Tianse PLA filament is easily in the same quality class as the other PLAs on this list. It has fantastic tolerances and great strength.
Tianse is one of the less well-known brands but that doesn’t mean it is any lower standards than, say, eSUN or Hatchbox. However, it does have a slightly higher price, and with that higher price comes a great presentation, perfect adhesion, and vibrant colors.
Tianse caters specifically to beginners. Make sure to read the reviews to make sure you are buying the right product for your applications. For instance, Lithophane filaments are not always what people are looking for when they buy Tianse.
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 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.
8. 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.
Final Thoughts: Best PLA Filament
So there you have it. These are the best PLA filament brands because they are strong and have fantastic tolerances.
Notice how there are a few Chinese brands on the list? Most Chinese filaments today do a fantastic job due to the quality control standards that manufacturers and distributor brands have put in place outside of international regulation.
Focusing specifically on Hatchbox and eSUN, these Chinese brands will never clog your printer because of bad tolerances. But that is also true of the rest of the filaments on this list. And The tolerances of all of these brands are impeccable, often +/- 0.03 mm or less.
Keep in mind that other brands are more expensive than the brands on this list. But, the filaments here very well priced. They are specifically priced to fit most budgets so that everyone can enjoy them.
So there you have it! We have given you what we consider to be the best 3D printer filaments our there right now. And the first two filaments on the list, Hatchbox and eSUN, sell high-quality PLA to consumers and businesses all over the world. They are the OGs of the filament world.
As always, if you feel that we’ve missed any premium brands that should be on the list, leave a comment below. Thanks for reading! Happy printing!