Building a filament extruder to produce your own 3D printing filament has become quite easy today. You can choose from several complete kits with features like automated filament winders, length counters, force adjustment and online thickness measurement. There are a lot of commercial products out there ranging from 300$ to 2000$. I don’t want to say the Filabot is a bit expensive if you go for the deluxe premium edition in a
ugly nice green metal casing but …yeah I do. Keep that number in your cerebral gyrus. Or you can build your own like I did for around 150€.
But no matter which way you choose to go, you will always end up with the question: ‘Where do I get the pellets now?’.
I did a quick search for ‘ABS pellets’ an found several shops selling those on the first page. Also a lot of people ask on the reprap forum where to get those. So there must be a high demand in pellets.
I checked out some online shops to get an idea of the price/kg pellets. And there it struck me. It’s not the problem where to get it but where to get it cheap or at a reasonable price.
On an average those shops charge 5-10$ per 0.5kg. And then there is shipping. Now let’s do some simple math how much 1kg of self-extruded filament costs if you buy in one of those shops.
Some German Shop
1kg ABS plain white = 7.99 €. Oh wait no…this is for 0.5kg. So let’s start over….
1kg ABS nature = 15.98 €. Whoooooshhhhh okay let’s go on.
Masterbatch 25gr (you want color, don’t you?!) = 4.99€
Shipping (up to 2kg) = 4.90 €
Σ = 25.87 € / 1kg
Don’t forget the spool to wind it on. To go easy on the budget, you will need to build it yourself. Some wood and glue -> 2 €
I cumulate this to around 0.20€ per hour of power consumption which is already a lot. So let’s say, on an average, your machine extrudes with 100cm/min, it will take 5-6 hours to produce 1kg.
5h * 0.20€ = 1€
This all sums up to 28.87 € and for the sake of it I round down to 28€.
You still may not want to forget that getting your extruder adjusted to get a steady even flow of filament it takes some hours…and pellets. Now, let’s take a look how long it takes until the extruder pays off. Therefore we need to know how much money we safe compared to ABS filament from eBay.
One spool of generic colored ABS filament on eBay (1kg) is 24.90€…. Wait I don’t need math to see that this is all going in the wrong direction. But… okay just for fun. For every 1 kg of self extruded filament you fork out ~4€. No matter how cheap the machine is you have, you will pay extra. Even if they gift it to you.
If you rather print with PLA, which is nicer to print and smelling lesser, you can get 1kg filament for as low as 20€ on eBay. Moreover, finding PLA pellets is even more time-consuming.
The 3D printing community can be described as an open source minded bunch of idealist. At least this is what I imagine it. But looking for resources like ABS/PLA pellets and finding 3d printing shops that sell those cheap pellets for horrific prices really pisses me off. I mean, it’s plastic in it’s crudest form and the only reason why you want to buy it is to safe some money on filament by making it yourself. But from the math lesson above even a first-grader can tell that this is not economic. So I ask myself, who is buying pellets at this rate. Brain amputeed ? Dyscalculia’ists ?
So, there must be a source to get cheap pellets or let’s say ‘pellets at a reasonable price’. And those sources exists. You just have to dig deeper.
Where to get ABS/PLA pellets at a reasonable price !
First, there is China of course
Alibaba for example. A quick search revealed some traders selling (even PLA) pellets for 2-3€ per kg. THIS is a reasonable price. One downside though: Minimum order batch is 25kg. That means 75€ per 25kg bag.
Another problem that might come up with ordering via Alibaba is the payment procedure. There might be some additional taxes like import duty and stuff. So this might be an option but I personally don’t want to hassle around with all the regulations. This gets us to ….
Local traders/suppliers of the plastic processing industry
Some time ago, while scavanging the net for pellets I found a local distributor of raw pellets and used machines. I made contact with the sales team and they were really nice. After a 40 minute ride I stood in their warehouse and was slain by the amount and diversity of pellets. On the price level they were on par with China. No, it was even cheaper (!) and the pellets were even of higher quality. The guy told me, this plastic compound is used in dashboards and panels by Porsche. So I granted myself some 10kg. These are the ones I also used in my Filament Factory.
Oh yeah this is the link to the company. Schulz & Partner International.
So one good hint is to look for local plastic distributors. They often only sell 25kg bags but hey, what the hell! If that is still too much for you, you could team up with others and split the bag or you could resell it in small quantities. As long as it doesn’t exceed the price of ready made filament, of course. I can already see dollar signs in some eyes.
So my advice is to go local. If you really want to extrude your own filament start looking for distributors of plastic near you. Some might have more luck than others having an industry nearby but on the other side, dropping filament prices are more and more common. The last 1kg of black PLA i bought was 19.90€ including shipping. The filament prints very nice. No need for brand named 40€ filament anymore.