I got a 3D printer and so I searched for a reputable filament supplier.
All of them stated “this PLA has European origins”, or “the pellet used for this filament doesn’t come from China, but from Europe”, as if this is a mark of quality. This is why this doesn’t mean anything.
The cost of raw materials
The most popular plastic for 3D printing is NatureWorks PLA 4032D. A 20 kg box costs 140 dollars, 6 euro for each kg. If we order a ton, wholesale, the price is much lower!
This is the price in China:
22 yuan for 1 kg is around 3 euro, to which you have to add shipping fees. You can’t get shipped 20 kg of plastic pellets with the UPS, or you will pay 300 euro to get 60 euro of raw material! You have to make a LCL (less than a container load) shipping by sea. For my personal experience, shipping 1 cubic meter with LCL, costs around 1000 euro with all various fees.
A cubic meter of PLA weighs 1250 kg, so you have to consider that you’re paying 80 cents for each kg, for shipping.
The “chinese” PLA, is industrially made and it’s absolutely identical to “european” PLA, costs basically the same! They use european PLA, because it’s cheaper and more accessible!
Plastic is cheap, and shipping it between continents is very expensive.
How the filament is made
Moreover, it depends how the filament is made
Which one is better, a “Made in Italy” filament, made by an amateur in his garage, pulled with a $300 Filastruder, or a “Made in China” filament, pulled in an expensive high-tech factory?
They seem to imply that “made in Europe” equals to say that “it’s premium”, but it doesn’t mean anything.
Personally, I trust more a Chinese factory that has a daily production of thousands of rolls, and so has optimized the process, than a roll “made in Italy” by an unknown entity, without knowing how they make it…