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If you keep up with the latest news in the 3D printing industry, you’ve probably noticed that something’s up with PLA filament- literally. The price of PLA filament has been steadily increasing due to a massive increase in demand and a simultaneous supply shortage. This material is one of the most popular 3D printing materials, so the price increases are sending many consumers into a frenzy. 

What is going on? 

For years, consumers have been pushing for biobased, sustainable products, so production companies have slowly been converting to eco-friendly materials. This has drastically driven up demand for PLA, as the material is biodegradable, does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions from raw materials, and is made from plants like corn, wheat, and sugarcane. 

At the same time, PLA suppliers have been experiencing difficulty keeping up with this demand. There are limited factories that produce PLA in the first place, and many of those that do have recently been affected by floods and tornadoes making it difficult, and in some cases, impossible, to harvest the raw material. 

Furthermore, PLA is especially popular in food and packaging, which are massive, global markets. The market share of PLA in 3D printing is a mere 10%, meaning that the filament is not a priority for manufacturers. As a result, 3D printing PLA supplies are currently severely limited. 

In sum, demand for PLA is through the roof and there is both a lack of supply and major complications with raw materials. Furthermore, the suppliers still in regular operations are working to meet the needs of the food and packaging industries over the 3D printing industry, as they hold a much greater market share. 

What should I expect for the future of PLA?

You should anticipate stock issues from suppliers and increased prices for PLA filaments that are still available. As mentioned before, you may have already noticed these price increases. You can choose to stock up or to wait it out- it’s based on your printing needs! 

Once raw material production is resumed back to normal operations, prices should settle back to normal. Also, as production companies seek to expand their operations to meet global demand, PLA should return to being the affordable and accessible 3D printing material consumers know and love. Just a little patience and all should be well again. 

If I can’t find PLA to purchase, what should I do? 

Maybe it’s time for you to explore some different materials. There are many affordable filament options with similar properties to PLA- in fact, many filaments may even be better suited to your project. PETG is just as popular as PLA for 3D prints, so that could be an ideal option. If you’re set on PLA, consider exploring PLA hybrid filaments, such as PLA + metal or PLA + wood, as they may be more readily available and not subjected to the same level of price increases. 

When will this be resolved?

While big producers like NatureWorks are hard at work increasing their production capacity, these changes take time. Likewise, flood and tornado recovery efforts also take time. There is no definitive date for the resolution of PLA price increases, however, we are in contact with our suppliers regularly and will update our customers with important progress updates. 

If you’re interested in purchasing PLA (or other filaments), we have them in stock. Simply visit https://3dprintingcanada.com/collections/filaments to complete an order. If you want help selecting a filament, you can contact us for a consultation here: https://3dprintingcanada.com/pages/contact