How Long Will 3D Printer Filament Last? A Quick Look

Curtis Satterfield, Ph.D.

Curtis Satterfield, Ph.D.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

If you’re new to 3D printing you may be wondering how much printing you will get from a roll of filament. There are no exact answers because filament rolls are sold by weight not by length. In this article we will estimate how long or how much you can print from a roll of filament.

On average a standard roll of 1.75mm PLA filament will last approximately 123 hours of printing time. A standard roll of 3.00mm PLA filament will last approximately 141 hours of printing time.

To come up with these averages I used a slicer to calculate the filament usage of several models. I used the information from my slicer to calculate print time for each model. Examining the data from my tests I was able to determine an average amount of time a roll of filament will last. As always with 3D printing the real answer is “it depends.” In the next section we will explore the topic in detail and examine some caveats of filament usage.

Approximate Filament Length of a 1kg Spool

The first thing you need to know is that rolls of filament are sold by weight not by length. It seems rather odd when you think about it. You need a certain length of filament to make a print. And yet, here we are buying rolls of filament by the kilogram. There are two different diameter sizes of filament, measured in millimeters, 1.75mm and 3.0mm. 3.0mm filament has less length on the roll as it is denser that the 1.75mm diameter filament.

Let’s start with an approximate measurement of 1.75mm PLA length for a 1kg roll of filament. A standard roll of 1.75mm PLA filament will contain approximately 330 meters or 1080 feet of filament. A standard roll of 3.0mm filament will contain approximately 110 meters or 360 feet of filament. Even though 1.75mm is the most common size I will include calculations for both diameters. Since all the slicer measurements use millimeters, I used meters for the length. This made the math much easier.

Let’s talk about what we mean by how long filament will last. For this article we are discussing how much printing you can do with a single 1kg roll of filament. The question of how long filament will last in storage is a different topic.

To determine an average time, I examined print times and length of filament used for five models. Each model below has a picture that will give you an idea of the size of the print. Using a slicer, I imported each model and sliced it. This showed me the print time and length of filament needed for each model.

A huge factor in determining how much print time you get from a roll of filament is your printing speed. To gauge speeds across a variety of printers I set up 6 profiles in my slicer for the test. Three profiles were set up to print 1.75mm filament at speeds of 50mm/s, 100mm/s, and 150mm/s. The other three were setup to print 3.0mm filament at speeds of 50mm/s, 100mm/s, and 150mm/s. These three speeds represent various printer speeds currently available in consumer grade printers. All the models were sliced with 20% infill and a 0.2mm layer height.

Testing How Much Print Time in a Spool

I display the results for each model in table form below. The tables contain the following information:

  • Filament diameter
  • Print speed in millimeters per second
  • Print time for one print of the model
  • Filament used for one model in meters
  • Prints per roll of filament. How many times can you print this model with one spool of filament
  • Time per roll. How much printing time you get from a roll for the given model. Time is in Hours:Minutes format.

Impossible table

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3970291

Impossible Table

This awesome impossible floating table consists of two bases and two arms for a total of four parts. The soda can sitting on top of the table gives you an idea of its size.

Test Results

Filament DiameterPrint SpeedPrint TimeFilament UsedPrints per rollTime per roll
1.75502:4811.7528.0978:38
1.751001:3911.7528.0946:37
1.751501:2011.7528.0937:37
3.0502:481.668.75192:30
3.01001:391.668.75114:07
3.01501:201.668.7592:07

Mini Octopus
https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3495390

3D printed Mini Octopus
Courtesy of Thingiverse

These flexible octopi models don’t use a ton of filament and can be printed in under two hours.

Test Results

Filament DiameterPrint SpeedPrint TimeFilament UsedPrints per rollTime per roll
1.75501:516.055101:55
1.751001:366.05588:00
1.751501:346.05585:48
3.0501:512.0354.2100:15
3.01001:362.0354.286:42
3.01501:342.0354.284:31

Curved Honeycomb Vase

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2376777

3D Printed Curved Honeycomb Vase
Courtesy of Thingiverse

I sliced this model using vase mode as suggested by the creator. Printing in vase mode means that the printer makes one continuous line of filament as it prints. Using around 15 meters this vase can be printed in around 3 hours.

Test Results

Filament DiameterPrint SpeedPrint TimeFilament UsedPrints per rollTime per roll
1.75503:1921.1815.5851:43
1.751003:0521.1815.5847:59
1.751503:0121.1815.5847:03
3.0503:194.3825.183:22
3.01003:054.3825.177:21
3.01503:014.3825.175:50


Wireframe Skull Pen/Pencil holder

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1388237

3D Printed Wireframe Skull Pen Holder
Courtesy of Thingiverse

This wireframe skull pen/pencil holder uses the least filament of all the models. Using only 2.4 meters it takes longer to print than the octopus due to the complexity of the shape.

Filament DiameterPrint SpeedPrint TimeFilament UsedPrints per rollTime per roll
1.75502:502.4137.5389:07
1.751002:432.4137.5374:00
1.751502:352.4137.5354:45
3.0502:500.84130.3368:50
3.01002:430.84130.3354:40
3.01502:350.84130.3336:15

Lion Statue

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3969747

3D Printed Lion Statue

This is the largest print in the test using a whopping 150 meters of filament to print. It uses so much filament that you can’t even print a full lion from a roll of 3.0mm!

Filament DiameterPrint SpeedPrint TimeFilament UsedPrints per rollTime per roll
1.755032:32150 meters2.271:34
1.7510019.67150 meters2.243:16
1.7515016.37150 meters2.236:00
3.05032:3251.12.270:01
3.010019.6751.12.242:20
3.015016.3751.12.235:14

Comparing the Results

After slicing all the above models, I entered the data in their respective tables. I then took an average of the print time per roll for each model. I took separate averages for 1.75mm and 3.0mm filaments. Time per roll is in Hours:Minutes format.

DiameterTableOctopusVaseSkullLion
1.75mm54:1891:5148:55372:3750:16
3.0mm132:5590:2978:51353:1249:12

Averaging all the times from the table we have our answer. You can print for approximately 123 hours and 36 minutes with one roll of 1.75mm filament. For 3.0mm filament you can print for approximately 140 hours and 55 minutes. Now this was not a perfect test. I did not actually print entire spools worth of each model. The goal was to give you an idea of approximately how much printing you can get out of a spool of filament.

There is still a problem though. Saying you can print for 123 hours is meaningless. What most people want to know is how much stuff can I print? Unfortunately, the answer is “it depends”. As you can see from the tests above the amount of filament used per model varies. Other factors such as infill and support structure impact how far your filament goes. And all these calculations don’t account for lost filament due to oozing and failed prints.

I included the number of models you can print per roll for each test to give you an idea based on size. And as you can see from the results of the tests the answer to how much stuff you can print is definitely, “it depends”.

If you want to read more about FDM (filament) printing you can check out my article on getting started with FDM printing.