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How Much Filament Should You Buy for Your 3D Printer?

How Much Filament Should You Buy for Your 3D Printer? | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone

/

September 16, 2021

You just purchased a 3D printer and are ready to start printing. But you need to know how many spools of filament you should buy.

You should buy at least two rolls of filament for your 3D printer to get started. A good rule of thumb is to estimate the weight of the items you intend to print and purchase at least that amount in filament. Make sure to include about thirty percent extra for test prints and print fails.

Filaments come in different kinds of materials as well, so you’ll have options available for your 3D printer projects. So how much filament is used can vary slightly depending upon the material. There is more information below.

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How Much Filament is Used in 3D Printing?

If you are just beginning your 3D printing journey, you should consider buying at least two rolls of filament to get started. This will be plenty for you to make test prints and account for print failures, as well as any supports and raft beds.

Once you have your print file, upload it to your splicing software and this will tell you how much material you’ll need to complete the print. Most filament spools will list the size and weight of the material on the package.

If you aren’t sure how much your print will weigh, print one as a proof-of-concept and go from there. For the best accuracy, use a postal shipping scale.

For example, let’s say you want to make a bunch of 3×3 Rubix Cubes. And you plan on using PLA, or Polyactic Acid. This is one of the most widely used kinds of material and is an excellent starter for test prints and proof-of-concept prints.

  • Each Rubix Cube weighs about 95 grams or 0.2 pounds
  • One roll of PLA filament is 2.2 pounds.
  • You can make 5 Rubix Cubes from one spool of PLA filament.

You can also use the measurement your splicing software gives you for the estimated amount of material to calculate the amount of filament based on the length of the filament.

What Kind of Filament Material You Should Buy?

There are several different kinds of filament material you can buy. What kind you buy depends on the project you’re working on.

  • PLA plastic
  • ABS plastic
  • TPU plastic
  • PETG plastic
  • Nylon
  • Polycarbonate

While there are other kinds of materials to use for printing, these are the most common. You can also purchase filaments of modified materials. When you modify a material, you add another kind to it to alter the characteristics of the source material. Maybe to make it stronger or more impact resistant.

Some of the materials are sensitive to temperature. This means that they don’t tolerate hot environments or really cold weather. Others can be difficult to use for printing and need high heat print beds and environments.

So as long as you pay attention to the needs of the material and have a quality printer that can handle it, you should be able to print anything you need.

Why You Should Choose Which Filament Material for Printing

When you are looking to choose a filament material for creating your 3D print, there are some pros and cons to consider.

Making a decision on which kind of material you need for your project includes taking cost and availability into consideration. Most of these filaments can be purchased online, but there are other reasons why you might choose them.

PLA plastic is widely available and considered to be the hobbyist’s go-to material for 3D prints. One of the reasons is because

  • It’s easy to print with
  • Has several color choices.
  • It can be modified to change its characteristics. Such as making it stronger.

But PLA can experience creep over time, or change shape, especially if it is used for a load bearing print. Which is why it doesn’t make a good option for structural material.

ABS plastic has a good blend of strength and flexibility. Plus, it is easy to clean up the print surface by using vapor or solvent.

One of the biggest downsides to using ABS is its potentially harmful fumes. This requires

  • Venting during the print process
  • It also requires high heat and heated bed.
  • The prints can experience some lifting and may need a better bed adhesion.

If you can overcome these issues, ABS is a quality plastic to work with and is used for things like kitchen utensils and plastic wall socket covers.

TPU or thermoplastic polyurethane is a flexible and impact resistant plastic used for prints that need to be flexible or to be compressed. Such as skateboard wheels.

Some of the downsides are that

  • It takes a long time to print
  • You might need to modify the extruder.
  • It’s sensitive to temperature
  • It’s prone to warping.

It comes in a variety of colors. This is not good for any print needing a sturdy structure.

PETG plastic is a blend of PLA and ABS. It doesn’t have PLA challenges with temperature and has become more popular than ABS.

  • It has lots of color choices
  • Can be budget friendly
  • It can be modified
  • It’s good at different temperatures.
  • It’s considered food grade quality

The problem with printing with PETG is that it gets boogery and gums up the nozzle. There are items you can purchase, such as silicone socks to cover the nozzle, or use a brass nozzle.

PETG doesn’t produce as great looking of a print as PLA, but it’s an excellent choice for functional print items, like water bottles and food storage containers.

Nylon is one of the toughest materials to print with because of its physical strength.

It’s best used for items that need impact strength.

It can also

  • Be colored with dyes
  • It’s not stiff.
  • Handle being dropped or hit with hammer.

You can also use different kinds of filler material like carbon or glass, but there are some trade-offs.

For example, you may lose the strength characteristic but improve the surface finish. It can be made into fabric or used in electrical circuitry because it’s non-conductive.

PC or Polycarbonate is stiff and very strong.  Which is why it’s good for such things as eye protective wear or skylights.

Polycarbonate is often modified with other materials such as carbon fiber. It is

  • Chemical and temperature resistant.
  • Has good optical clarity.
  • Impact resistant

Some of the drawbacks with PC is that it puts out fumes when printing and can be a pain to print with. The layers may separate during the print and it needs hotter temperatures.

Buying Enough Filament for Your 3D Printer


Regardless of what kind of material you decide to work with or what you want to print, it’s important to have enough filament for your project. Start with at least two spools of filament and go from there. After some experimenting, you’ll have a good idea of your needs.

About THE AUTHOR

William Stone

William Stone

William has spent 20 plus years in the custom manufacturing industry as a COO, CEO and Owner of various custom product businesses. His experience has exposed him to all types of manufacturing from die cast, die struck, injection molding, CNC machining, laser etching, engraving and of course 3D printing.

Learn more about William Stone

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How Much Filament Should You Buy for Your 3D Printer?

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