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When it comes to 3D printing filaments there can be at times an overwhelming number of choices for filament. From no name brands on eBay to the dozens of choices both from overseas and domestic sources, there?s a wide range of price, quality, and performance.

In this blog post, we?re going to take a look at 5 of the budget PLA and PLA+ filament options:

  1. Matterhackers Build Series PLA
  2. Sunlu PLA+
  3. eSun PLA+
  4. Amazon Premium PLA (I suspect this too is a PLA+)
  5. Hatchbox PLA

I?ve been printing with all these brands for a couple of months now so I could determine which I?d stick with in the long run.

And the results surprised me.

Let?s go in order from worst to best:

5. Matterhackers Build Series PLA

This filament was disappointing I must confess. As the only American company on this list I was really hoping that even from their budget line the quality might be high, but alas that wasn?t true.

PLA on a filament spool

For starters, the filament wasn?t spooled nicely at all. There?s overlapping sections and it leaves me scared that it?ll tangle on itself mid print. It?s the only filament I?ve ever used which you can hear pulling it self free from tangles as it?s printing.

That reason alone is enough to cause pause for most 3D printing purposes longer than small prints which you can look over to ensure there are no issues.

On top of that, the filament was the least consistent of all. My calipers only accurately measure the first decimal place of mm, and their readings for this filament ranged from 1.6 to 1.7mm in diameter.

3D printed follower showing noticeable layer lines

This lead to very noticeable issues in print quality with wide variances between layer lines.

Price was $19.99 per KG.

I don?t have a means of scientifically testing filaments, but when squeezing followers printed in these materials to their breaking points (via hand) the MH Build Series filament was the only one to break across multiple layer lines. In general it felt brittle and fell apart very easily as seen below.

PLA filament pushed to its breaking point
Notice the brittle and separated MH Build series filament while the rest deformed rather than breaking.

Bottom line: I do not recommend this filament.

4. eSun PLA+

This filament too was a bit more disappointing than I would?ve liked. It?s the one most often recommended by members of Deterrence Dispensed, but fell short in a few ways with one surprising benefit.

Price for this filament is $22.99 per KG.

eSun PLA+ Review

It too suffers from some less than stellar wrapping, but never left me feeling like it might tangle mid print.

All diameter measurements on my calipers read 1.7mm. Again, since my calipers don?t go to the second decimal place we can only assume they don?t vary more than .5 mm, unlike the MH Build Series PLA.

Still, print quality wasn?t as nice as I expected with some noticeable variations in layer lines.

However there is one benefit to this filament which caught me off guard. The spool is reusable! This removes a common element of waste for filament where most spools are created of plastic and are single use.

On top of that, since so many firearm frames have been printed out of this, we can rest easy knowing the strength has been proven.

Bottom line: If you?re printing a firearm and don?t want to risk using a less proven/tested filament this is a decent choice, but there will be noticeable layer lines here and there.

3. Amazon Premium PLA

This filament was a bit surprising! It was one of the first brands of filament I purchased and have since purchased a couple additional spools.

Price for this filament was something like $26 per KG. Unfortunately I can?t see the current price because Amazon seems to be phasing out their PLA. It seems there?s a new company selling the same PLA under the brand Overture but I can?t confirm. Overture currently sells for $14.99 per KG.

While there are no mentions of PLA+ on the product page, based on their claims of higher melting point and strength as well as the advertised print temperature and range, I?m pretty confident that this is indeed a PLA+.

At this point, my calipers can?t measure any noticeable deviation, reading 1.7mm diameter at all points.

The surface quality was nearly perfect, with few noticeable variations in layer lines.

The spool has a very nice filament left indicator which comes in handy for checking remaining grams on the spool without weighing. Additionally, the filament was wound neatly with few instances of overlap.

At this time, I?ve printed all of my Amazon basics PLA so I have no pictures of the spool reeling.

Bottom line: With Amazon phasing out their filament and Overture taking over production, it seems like a great budget choice. However, I?ve not personally tested Overture so I can?t attest to its quality. Additionally, while I?m pretty certain it?s PLA+ I can?t be sure, so you may want to stick with the proven eSun for your firearm related prints.

2. Hatchbox PLA

Hatchbox PLA is one of the most often recommend manufacturers around. Look anywhere online and you?ll see someone mentioning their quality. I?ve gotta say, I?m in agreeance.

Hatchbox is quality stuff.

The price is $19.99 per KG.?

Filament is spooled nicely, but not perfectly as seen below. And as any of these top filaments, my calipers detect no variations.

Taking a look at print quality, variations between layers is almost imperceptible. So if you?re looking for a filament that will print consistently this is it.

However, one issue for me is that Hatchbox does not produce PLA+ filaments. This means for parts that will undergo high impact stress and need a bit more heat resistance it?s not ideal. (That means most firearm parts.)

Bottom line: I can recommend Hatchbox PLA in general, but if you?re looking for a filament specifically for your firearm parts I?d opt for a brand that produces a PLA+. 

1. Sunlu PLA+

This caught me extremely off guard. I bought this filament during an Amazon lightning deal and have been incredibly impressed with its quality, especially for its price!

The cost is $18.99 per KG, but with bundles and sales you can get it for far cheaper. I got mine during a sale for around $14 per KG!

The winding on the spools is immaculate. I have 0 worry there will ever be a tangle or even the slightest bit of under extrusion due to filament spooling.

As with all these top prints, my calipers can?t detect any variation in diameter.

The surface quality of the prints is about as nice as it can get with no perceptible variations in layer lines.

And since this is a PLA+ filament it should be capable of functioning reliably in most 3D printed firearms part designs.

Bottom line: This is the PLA I will be buying from here on out. The price to quality ratio is insane and I?m confident that any prints in this filament will come out top notch.