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How long does a roll of filament last?

  • Jan 25 / 2015
  • Comments Off on How long does a roll of filament last?

How long does a roll of filament last?


Many 3D Printer companies are trying to use the same business model that printer companies use: relatively low upfront cost with absurdly expensive, proprietary ink cartridges. They don’t make any promises on how long it will last or how much you get, and insist on using vague benchmarking terms that don’t really answer your question.

Ultimaker is actually not guilty of this, as they use an “open filament system” which allows for a variety of materials to be printed that are not necessarily sold by them. However, I wanted to know how much a standard roll of PLA filament lasts under normal use cases. The short answer: a little more than 100 hours. This means if you’re printing every day for 8 hours, you will be out in about 2.5 weeks (Assuming an 8 hour work day and 5 day work week.)

One thing that I found which was surprising was the variation in material consumption rate depending on the model. My overall finding was that smaller models tend to use less material per hour than larger ones.

Bear in mind that this is NOT a scientific test by any means. There are definitely improvements that could be made to get a better answer. For starters, instead of using the estimated print time generated by Cura, I would want to time the prints myself. I’ve found that it is pretty accurate for the most part, but it would be nice to verify that. I would also like to adjust some of the basic settings: infill, print speed (which did not affect the time in the way I thought it would), layer height (which seems to behave linearly), and others.

I used the default settings for the Ultimaker 2 (100 micron layer height, 20% infill) and loaded up a few model files which I considered to be fairly representative of common use cases.I then scaled them up and recorded the estimated print time and material consumed. From there I calculated the speed at which filament is consumed in meters per hour. Since the filament is 90 meters long, I was then able to calculate the total print time in hours. Results are in the table below:

Model Scaling Factor Time (hours) Material (meters) Consumption Rate (m/h) Total Time (hours)
Bust 1x 0.83 0.6 0.722891566 124.5
Bust 2x 4.53 3.51 0.774834437 116.15385
Bust 3x 12.4 10.39 0.839256866 107.23773
 –  –  –  –  –
Checker 1x 0.98 0.91 0.928571429 96.923077
Checker 2x 5.45 5.15 0.944954128 95.242718
Checker 3x 15.3 14.87 0.970626632 92.723605
 –  –  –  –  –  –
Pawn 1x 0.52 0.28 0.538461538 167.14286
Pawn 2x 1.9 1.58 0.831578947 108.22785
Pawn 3x 5.32 4.55 0.855263158 105.23077
 –  –  –  –  –  –
iPhone Case 1x 2.36 2.05 0.868644068 103.60976
 –  –  –  –  –  –
Average 4.96 4.389 0.827508277 111.69922

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