Only european PLA

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:

“Chinese” PLA, chemically identical to the “European” one

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…

Thinking to the import

Searching ways to become a millionaire (I’m very far to the goal) I found an item that is usually sold in stores for 10 euro tax included.

In Italy you can get this item from wholesalers for about 2.50 euro + tax

But what’s the price in China?

If you search it on Aliexpress you can find it for 2 dollars, free shipping. The shipping is very slow, it takes up to 2 months, if the post office doesn’t lose it.

If you search on Alibaba (that’s a “Wholesale Aliexpress”) you can find it for $0.90 + shipping, with a minimum order of 500 pieces. Shipping is a big fee, because a 500 pcs box weights 20 kg and sending it with a fast delivery like the FedEx costs at least 1000 yuan.

If you search on Taobao (that’s a “Chinese eBay”) you can find them for 4 yuan each, no minumum. If you ask for a quantity discount, you can get them for 3.5 yuan.

So, the prices, converted in chinese yuan are:

  • MSRP in Italy: 60 yuan
  • Wholesale in Italy: 18 yuan
  • Aliexpress slow shipping, 1 piece: 13 yuan
  • An agent sources them for you in China: 5.80 yuan. With 1000 yuan for shipping, its 7.80 yuan each.
  • If you can source them by yourself (you need to speak Chinese): 3.50 yuan; shipped is 5.50 yuan each.

It’s interesting seeing how a product price rises, at each middleman: once the final customer gets in their hand, the price increased ten times!

Of course there’s the problem about how you can sell them in stores: it’s almost impossible to sell 500 pieces at 10 euro each if you are not a big chain, like Target.