SainSmart Filament Review: Top Quality, Good Price
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 mixed reputation.
Some customers take issue with SainSmarts’ slower shipping times and small manufacturing mistakes. But the majority of the criticism has to do with the cheap cardboard spool that SainSmart used to use for its filaments.
The truth is that most SainSmart customers are very happy. You can see this on marketplaces and forums across the internet, 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.
SainSmart Filament: Quality and Materials
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 and 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 filament available, putting it in the same league as Hatchbox. Check out our list of the best PLA filaments to see other similarly high quality filaments.
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.
And in general, SainSmart filaments are great quality. Their filaments 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.
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 +/- 0.01 mm and +/- 0.07 mm.
Some spools have slight ovality of around +3 mm 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.
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 brands 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.
Sainsmart Filament: Fire Retardant
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.
It might take a while to find the right print settings for this filament, so be prepared to do some calibration prints.
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 filaments are vacuum sealed and contain a desiccant packet to absorb moisture.
Sometimes the vacuum seal is broken. Just make sure to check the packaging, because if the seal is broken then the filament may have absorbed moisture , and the filament quality may have degraded.
The only issue with SainSmart spools is that sometimes they are wound too tightly. There is simply too much filament on the spools to be wound properly.
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.
Otherwise, SainSmart spools are fantastic. The new black plastic spools are vast improvement over the old cardboard spools that they were using a few years ago.
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: The Take-Away
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 the internet 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 here, where you will find their full product line-up.