On my quest to get the right part for the right price, I had become complacent going with Amazon. Overall, they are a great vendor with fast shipping for Prime members but I realized Amazon is not as competitive in pricing as many people believed. In most cases, if you are sourcing a part, it is best to go directly to the manufacturer but this is not always possible as some manufacturer do not directly sell to customers but rather large vendors such as the 3 giants below and prices may seem uncompetitive.
There are smaller or more specialized companies such as Filastruder which is the official U.S. distributor of Britain’s E3D’s hotends and Germany’s Watterott Electronic’s Trinamic TMC2100 stepper motor drivers. If you are looking to source quality specialized 3D printing parts such as V-slot extrusions then there is OpenBuilds or if you just need a ton of nuts and metric bolts, Mr. Metric has everything you need.
Each online store has its strengths and weakness and below is a list of best places to source filament and parts in terms of price and quality.
Filament Price: eBay – For PLA and ABS, eBay has the most competitive pricing with brands like California’s Excelvan selling 1KG of PLA for ~$15, ABS for ~$14 and unbranded PLA and ABS for $11. Excelvan’s filaments have good overall print quality but is sold on Amazon at $23 for 1KG spool.
Filament Quality: Amazon – Hatchbox PLA is well known for their quality and they sell on eBay and Amazon but you get the benefit for 2-day Prime shipping with Amazon for about $23 for a 1KG PLA spool. Amazon is also better source for TPU and PETG as eBay vendors have not caught onto the diverse filament market competitively.
Hotends Price: Aliexpress – I was shocked to see Aliexpress had a variety of hotends at a much lower price than eBay. From a discussion on Reddit, the general consensus is that the knock off hotends are a hit or miss. Some companies have perfected the trade while others continue to source the cheapest materials and/or inaccurate machining the parts. Buyer beware, you should always check the vendor’s sell history for reviews of the items before making a decision to purchase.
Hotends Quality: E3D, Filastruder – It is best to go directly to the manufacturer or redistributor when you can afford to. These vendors are the pioneers in either designing or marketing the product and generally have the most experience and best communication and support plus the idea that you are supporting a company that is working hard to provide you with a high quality, innovative product.
Printboards, Stepper motors, etc: Aliexpress, eBay, Amazon – In that order as far as pricing. Quality should be the same across the board. Amazon does generally have the advantage with their fast shipping which compensates for the small extra cost.
Nuts, bolts: Mr. Metric & OpenBuilds – Mr. Metric provides a wide variety of parts at competitive prices. Amazon does sell nuts and bolts but you are limited to the specific sizes or packs they are selling. OpenBuilds has a wide variety of specialized parts for 3D printers. They are currently most noted for their V-slot extrusions for the D-Bot Core XY.
If you believe there is a vendor I missed or agree or disagree, please feel free to comment below.
Disclaimer: 3D Print Creations is not associated with any of the companies mentioned in this post nor is receiving any paid sponsorship or financial gain.