Feb 16, 2016 | By Alec

When defending the hobby from critics unfamiliar with 3D printing, there’s usually only one argument that cannot be parried easily: it’s expensive. There’s no way around it; it really just is expensive. After dipping into your savings account for a half decent 3D printer, you’re still faced with ‘hidden’ costs in the form of endless filament spools. Even if you stick to the trusty and cheap PLA, good luck paying less than $30 for a 1 kg spool – and then there’s shipping to worry about. Fortunately, one Oregon-based company called ProtoParadigm LLC has been working hard to reduce costs on every front without lowering product quality, and have just brought $5 filament spools to the market. Though these are 200g spools, they still cost just $9.97 per lb – far less than competing prices.

If you’ve never heard of ProtoParadigm, that’s probably because they are just a small 3D filament manufacturing business in rural Oregon – in Ilton-Freewater to be precise. If you’ve ever worked at a small business, you’ll know how hard it is to cut down costs to stay compete against industrial and commercial giants, but they have found an excellent way to exactly that: by applying the power of 3D printing to packaging. “There is a growing demand on businesses to absorb much of the cost of shipping their products to customers. But without the shipping power of larger companies, there is intense pressure on small businesses to develop inexpensive packaging that can reduce shipping costs,” they explain.

Having done the math, they actually realized that packaging brings a lot of hidden costs with it. “Before, 25% of the product shipping weight was packaging, with this new spool it’s just over 1%. Said Luke Chilson, Co-Founder of ProtoParadigm. “We’ve taken what was before a significant part of production and freight costs and made it basically free.” By using a thin 3D printed spool, they have actually cut down on packaging costs by 95% - not only making them competitive, but also allowing them to cut down filament prices to $9.97 per lb.

As you can see, these spools actually optimize the amount of necessary material by 3D printing it. All spools are made in house in Oregon, and have been made possible by creating an automated production system that removes the need for human interaction. “This surprisingly sturdy 3D printed spool holds and dispenses 3D Filament on standard 3D Printer spool holders and allows us to maximize our shipping potential while sending you as much filament as possible,” they say. "We’ve taken what was before a significant part of production and freight costs and made it basically free.” Taking up just 1.5% of shipping weight, it’s a fantastic and simple idea. The spool format can also be adjusted to accommodate different weights.

The first product to benefit from this clever packaging option is their $5 Filament, which they say offerse generous portions of 3D Printer Filament for only $5 a Spool, while still consisting of quality American-made filament. “$5 Filament™ is working to help you explore the creative possibilities of 3D Printing by making high quality filament with both a low unit cost and low cost per pound. If you want affordable filament for everyday 3D Printing or just want to sample a wide range of colors and materials we want to keep you 3D Printing for only $5,” they say. Though only 200g each, this is perfect for trying a new color. Why splurge for a 1kg spool if you’re only going to use it once?

What’s more, this is just the first product. ProtoParadigm says it will continue development of the spool and plans to pursue intellectual protection for the automated 3D Printing system and spool design. 1kg spools benefiting from these designs are expected in the near future. Currently, only 1.75 mm filament is available for this price, but 2.85 mm is expected to follow soon. Until that time, you can also simply benefit from the $9.97 per lb price and purchase dozens of spools simultaneously.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Nerys wrote at 8/14/2017 8:21:03 AM:

??? 1kg pla for $13.99 to $17.99 is "common normal and plentiful" prime shipped on amazon and has been so for a few years. sometimes you can nab a special as long as $9.97 to $11.99. heck even esun pla pro (truly amazing filament) is only $20 to $25 a kilo.

yeah wrote at 2/17/2017 4:40:41 PM:


Lonnie wrote at 10/27/2016 8:36:02 AM:

its not Ilton-Freewater its Milton-Freewater http://www.mfcity.com/ :P

James wrote at 9/24/2016 1:11:57 AM:

AIO Robotics is offering $9.99 white PLA (500g) via Amazon Prime (free shipping)

cashflys wrote at 5/2/2016 7:06:05 PM:

Proto Paradigm filament is a premium product made in the USA, not China. It prints beautifully and I have never had a single issue with clogging, print failure etc. I can't say the same for the cheaper crap PLA out there. If $1 or $2 more per kilogram means I don't have to babysit the printer or restart failed prints, that is very much worth it. I will never buy "off brand" white boxed store filament again. What is worse than having a small spool of filament that you can't use... a large spool.

Bill wrote at 2/17/2016 12:29:08 PM:

Microcenter sells PLA for $14.99 a kg. Their more advanced materials are normally $17.99 or $19.99 as well.

Andreas wrote at 2/17/2016 8:56:25 AM:

Goto 3ders.org/pricecompare, check cheapest PLA filament. Oh, look, 19.19$ per kg, or 3.84$ for 200g... I agree that 200g spools can be nice to try out a new brand or color of filament you probably will not use that much. But if you print larger stuff in standard colors, thats where the price of filament starts to have a significant effect on your project cost and where every $ counts. And who would want to start a large print that uses around 500g of filament when you only have 200g spools around? I would not even care if they sent out the filament without any spools if that would help to cut cost of it by another 25%, i'm shure i could hack up a 1$ filament-reel with some wood or printed parts that would work well enough...

Mgoerke wrote at 2/17/2016 6:32:27 AM:

Yeah I don't see the savings unless this is the most amazing filament ever this is still about $20 per 1kg 2.2 lb , they state their $9.97 for 1lb then 2lb still under the normal 2.2 will cost $19.94 ... For not a full 1kg roll industry standard size. I can get good foxsmart for $16-18 per roll and unlimited rolls for only $4 s&h total no matter how many . then I can get Hatchbox for $20-24 with prime shipping ... I don't see the savings !!!

Elmo Clarity wrote at 2/16/2016 10:21:08 PM:

Hatchbox PLA on Amazon Prime - about $22/kg with free shipping. Now if the big guys can reduce their shipping costs with lighter spools, I would expect to see their cost per pound go down too.

Bill P wrote at 2/16/2016 6:20:23 PM:

I don't see why this is such a big deal. If you buy the inhouse brand from MakerGeeks you can get ABS, PLA or HIPS for 21.55 / Kg. Only 54 cents more than this companies offering. And you get it on a standard spool

Wee wrote at 2/16/2016 6:04:59 PM:

Chinese manufacturers sell their filaments for $7-8 per kg on regular "heavy" spools. Wholesale, though, but anyway. Can be retailed for $20 with decent profit. But that can't make news, of course. 3D Printed spool can.

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