Once you have the actual 3D printer, the next biggest expense -- and it's an on-going expense -- is the 3D filament. I live in Canada, so some of the 3D pricing I mention could be in Canadian dollars, and some may be in American money. Where I can, I'll try and remember to specify the date (since the exchange rate fluctuates) and which currency.
My printer, an Anet 8 Prusa i3, came with a 1.75 millimeter extruder, so the filament I'm talking about is, obviously, 1.75. I've been told that PLA is easier to work with, and that ABS is stronger but also that the two are very similar.
I ordered the Anet 8 Prusa i3 from a company called 3D Printers Bay (I've reviewed them on a different page in this blog). Like a lot of 3D printers, it shipped with a 10 meter sample of filament. I knew that i would use up 10 meters fairly quickly setting up and playing with the printer right at the beginning. 3D Printers Bay also gave the option to include .5 kilogram spools of filament in the order -- but without the option of choosing the color, or whether you got PLA filament or ABS.
At the time, December 2016, the price for the half-kilogram spools was 1 for $13, 2 for $20, 3 for $35, 4 for $50, 5 for $65. All those prices are in US dollars. The 2 for $20 is the cheapest ($10) per spool so I went for that. I imagine the filament price jumps up per spool at three and higher because the size of the shipping package increases. I ended up with a spool of black PLA and red ABS filament.
Because of the deal I received on the initial two spools, I used their price as a benchmark when looking for new spools of filament -- $20 USD for a 1-kilogram spool of filament. To date, I haven't seen a significant difference between the price of PLA filament and ABS, so I use the price benchmark interchangeably.
Ebay has always been my go-to for most online ordering, so that was the first place I checked. The following prices are as of January, 2017. Unless it's specified differently, the price includes shipping.
For your reference (and my future reference)
1 kilogram = 330 meters. 10 meters = 30 grams(.03 kilogram)
The absolute cheapest filament I found on eBay was $16 USD for 1 kilogram. However, it was a brand new seller with a poor ad and store layout, so that made me a little nervous. The next cheapest was $24 USD ($31.50 CAD) of 1 kilogram in red. For some reason, color creates a difference in price with some sellers.
Following is a list of prices I found on eBay, for 1 kilogram spools of PLA 1.75mm filament. I didn't include links because it's unlikely they'd still be active by the time you read this.
USD $24 -- diff colors
USD $38 -- diff colors
USD $33 -- diff colors
USD $32 -- diff colors
USD $35 -- black
USD $22 – GBP $16 -- diff colors
USD $23 -- diff colors
You can also find a lot of listings for 10 meters (10M) lengths of 3D printer filament on eBay. They're often labelled as being used for 3D printer pens, but it's the same material and length that many 3D printers ship with. The 10 meter price compared to buying 1 kilogram is approximately double. However, at a couple of dollars a shot, you can build up a selection of colors, a little bit at a time or a lot at once,without spending hundreds of dollars. Plus, the smaller packages are far less likely to get additional charges for taxes and duties when shipping. See one of my real-life examples below!
As a reference, I read an article that said 1 kilogram of filament can print out 392 chess pieces. That means 10 meters of filament can do 11 chess pieces. The article didn't mention if the printed them hollow, solid, or partial fill.
Following are sample 10 meter 1.75mm PLA filament prices I found on eBay.
USD $1.35 (CDN$1.78) -- diff colors 1kg equivalent = $45
USD $1.39 -- diff colors 1kg equivalent = $46
USD $1.46 -- diff colors 1kg equivalent = $48
USD $1.69 -- diff colors 1kg equivalent = $56
Here's an actual purchase I made via eBay.
I bid $1.31 CAD on a one kilogram spool of filament that would ship for $26.40 CAD. obviously the shipping cost is inflated to keep the listing near the top when searching by the price of the item. That's why I always price my purchases based on price and shipping. So I got the filament for $27.71 CAD ($21.08 USD at the time). But then I was unexpectedly hit with a $19.01 taxes and duties charge from the carrier. That made the total price $46.72 CAD ($35.31 USD). So I paid more than I expected... but not way more than I should have.
Here's the sad, funny part though. I didn't notice that it was 3mm filament instead of 1.75mm. Ouch! I think I can replace the nozzle throat and nozzle (a nuisance but, I think, cheap) on my extruder and use the 3 mm filament. I'll make sure I write it up and post it if I do so.