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Don’t print with crappy plastic. Here’s the best 3D-printing filament you can buy

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Filament is to 3D printers what gasoline is to cars. You need it in order to run your machine; you can get it from a variety of different places; and it’s available in various levels of quality. Not all filament is created equally. Just as you can fill your car’s tank with premium gas to make it run better, it’s also possible to load up your printer with nicer filament that will optimize the machine’s performance.

But what filament should you choose? Before you purchase your next spool of plastic from the bargain bins of the internet, check out this handy guide to the best 3D printing filament out there. Your printer will thank you.

Hatchbox: cheap, reliable, and vast

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Hatchbox is a 3D printing enthusiast’s dream store. Whether you need just one spool or fifty of them, Hatchbox has you covered. With every color of PLA and ABS you could ever dream of, along with other specialized filaments like PETG and TPU, you won’t just find what you need here — you’ll also find what you want.

Plus, in addition to its regular catalog of plastics, Hatchbox offers a variety of limited edition filaments, such as their special glow-in-the-dark PLA. Overall, Hatchbox is arguably the top dog when it comes to material variety, color options, and consistent quality from spool to spool.

Proto-Pasta: fun, personal, and interesting

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ProtoPlant is the only company on this list that makes filament with its own proprietary industrial extrusion technology. Why does that matter? Well, basically, it gives the company a higher degree of control over what kinds of materials it can process, as well as more control over the quality of the end result.

Thanks to this tech, ProtoPlant can be (and is) highly experimental with its filaments. It was the first company to release a carbon fiber composite reinforced PLA, and has since gone on to release a wide range of other incredible materials, including steel, iron, high temperature, and conductive PLA. We’re definitely excited to see what these guys will think up next.

Taulman: professional, strong, and nylon

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Nylon and PETG are materials that are unfamiliar to many 3D printing enthusiasts, but highly sought after by others. While more expensive, nylon and PETG filaments offer numerous advantages over traditional plastics like PLA and ABS. As such, you’d think that tracking down these high quality plastics would be a chore, right?

Well, not with Taulman. With a thick catalog of plastics ranging from regular PLA to silky smooth nylon and PETG, Taulman has you covered. As an added bonus, the company’s site is also super straightforward and professional. If you’re looking for a specific type of performance, Taulman’s no-nonsense spec breakdowns will ensure you find exactly what you’re after.

3Dfuel: eco-friendly and pleasant smelling

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3Dfuel has an interesting policy on what goes into its plastics, and by that we mean that, well — just about anything goes into its plastics. We’re not just talking eco-friendly biodegradable stuff, either — we’re talking filament made from various kinds of industrial waste. In addition to normal spools of thermoplastic, the company makes filament from coffee waste, old beer wort, and discarded hemp stalks. There’s even one, called  “landfillament” that’s created from upcycled landfill plastic. Thankfully the “landfillament” is left out of the aromatic category that the coffee and beer plastics fall into.

If all that craziness isn’t enough for you, and you want some more traditional plastics to put through your machine, 3Dfuel also offers a wide range of PLA spools. From standard printing plastic to high-end stuff, 3D-Fuel has not only the plastic, but also the information to help you make the right choice.

NinjaTek: technical, flexible, and professional

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So we’ve got ultra-tough plastic, coffee- and beer-based plastic, and glowing plastic on this list. What else could you possibly want? How about flexibility. NinjaTek is the leader in flexible filament production, and offers a wide range of plastics that allow you to create soft, squishable parts in your printer.

Now to be fair, lots of printing companies offer some sort of soft or flexible filament option these days — but in our experience, none can hold a handle to NinjaTek’s plastic in terms of durability and performance.

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Forrest Daniels
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