PVA Filament Review: Best Soluble, Dissolvable Strand for 3D Printer

PVA filaments are among the most popular materials to use for 3D printing. It can be used independently, and it can also be used as a support material for PLA filaments. 

PVA filament is among several types of filaments that can be used for 3D printing. Each of these filaments has their own distinct advantages. As for PVA, its unique characteristic is that it can quickly dissolve in water.

It highly depends on your project as well as your creative pursuits but PVA 3D printer filament can offer a lot when it comes to providing innovative solutions for your 3D printing projects. However, you must first understand how PVA should be stored and how it can be used so you can make the most out of the material. Read more to

What is PVA Filament?

PVA is the acronym for PolyVinyl Alcohol. It can also be shortened to PVAL of PVOH. It is a synthetic polymer. The process first begins with the polymerization of vinyl acetate so that it can form polyvinylacetate. After that, it is hydrolyzed so that the PVA filament can be created. You now have the material that you can use for 3D printing.

PVA is a material that is water soluble and is usually utilized as a support material. But the PVA can still be independently used in 3D printing.

When used as a support material, you can use PVA filaments for printing complex designs. This is because, with such designs, the manual removal of the material supporting it is difficult if not impossible.

But with PVA material, you just need to leave it in a water bath for a night, and it will dissolve the material completely.

📌What you have to keep in mind when using PVA is that it is hygroscopic. This means that it can absorb water from the air easily. You have to be mindful when it comes to storing PVA filaments by using sealed containers. You can even dry it in an oven prior to using it for printing. 

Advantages of Using PVA

A primary advantage when it comes to using PVA is that it dissolves in water. You may not immediately like the idea that your print is water-soluble. However, there are specific applications where that is exactly what you want to happen.

A good example is when you will need to print a support structure for your other prints and you need to remove that support when it is no longer needed. You can just submerge the print in water overnight and it will dissolve it leaving the main print as it is.

Another advantage of using water soluble PVA filament is that it is sustainable and biodegradable. It is also non-toxic as there is no oil needed in the process of its production.

When you just want to print prototypes or test out some prints, this is a great material to use because you can dispose of it and it will just decompose.

Disadvantages of Using PVA

Since PVA 3D filament easily dissolves in water which is its unique feature as it can be used in many applications, it is also its disadvantage. Again, it depends on your project and the purpose of your print. There may be times that PVA dissolvable filaments won’t be the best material to use.

When the print becomes exposed to weather, moist environments, or water, then the print is at risk of dissolving. Another thing to consider is the manner of storing this material.

It can be quite challenging to not expose it to moisture. Once you do, it will be damaged and it will affect the quality of your print. You will observe bubbles in the print.

In addition, you also need to keep PVA filaments away from high temperature and heated elements because it has a low melting point. The melting point of PVA is just at 190°C. When it is exposed to temperature above 200°C, it will undergo pyrolysis.

When this happens, tar jams will be formed and those are hard to remove. You have to be careful about setting the right temperature because applying force or increasing the temperature will not be able to clear up the nozzle. When the nozzle is jammed, it needs to be re-drilled or even replaced.

 PVA Filament Settings

Firstly, when using PVA filament 1.75, you will need a 3D printer that can perform dual extrusion. It is highly advisable that you use PVA alongside PLA filaments as the primary material because of the similar printing temperature of the two, making them a good pair.

With dissolvable supports, you can print parts that have intricate details, parts with internal cavities that you will have a hard time clearing if you will use the same material for support, or suspended parts that you don’t want to have any scarring when you remove the support.

When you use PVA filament 3mm as support material, you just have to soak the parts, wait overnight, and see your masterpiece in the morning.

PVA Filament Temperature

You have to be aware that the brand of filament PVA that you will use is also a factor in the temperature setting. The PVA filaments from MatterHackers print at around 185°C. For Ultimaker, the temperature for printing is at around 215°C.

Remember not to set the temperature too high when you are using PVA filaments because it is prone to carbonizing and cooking in your nozzle. In short, it easily clogs. So, be mindful of the temperature setting and also remove the filament from your nozzle when you are not using it.

Drying Your PVA Filament Before Using

The same with nylon, PVA filaments are hygroscopic, meaning they easily absorb water from the air. When opening your PVA filament roll, keep the desiccant that came along with it so that you can use it when storing the material in a sealed container.

If you do not store your PVA filaments properly, you will observe that the material will hiss and pop while you are printing. This indicates that it has absorbed water. But don’t worry about it. You can still use your material. Simply pop it in the oven for a few hours so that the moisture will evaporate. And then make sure that you store it properly after that.

How to Dissolve the PVA Filament?

Dissolving the print from PVA filament is very easy. You just have to submerge it in water. Within just twenty minutes, it will begin to dissolve at room temperature. Within twenty-four hours, the print will be dissolved completely. You can also speed things up by using warm water.

One of the best ways that you can clean off the PVA material that you have used as support is to try and break of as much as you can before you soak it. Remember to be careful as you may damage the smaller parts that are in the PVA material.

After you have removed as much material as possible, you can now submerge the parts in warm water. Don’t use boiling water or very hot water because you might damage the parts. Just keep in mind that warm water will allow the PVA material to dissolve faster.

PVA Support Material Limitations

The best material to be used with PVA is PLA because they have similar printing temperature.

If you will use other types of filaments for 3D printing such as TPE, Nylon, PETG, or ABS, you will need to set the temperature higher as compared to PVA.

In this case, you have to consider using another support material. As mentioned, PVA filaments have low melting point and should not be exposed to temperature above 200°C.

For example, when printing with ABS, the perfect support will be HIPS. Get to know which of these materials match well with others so that you get the right support that you need for your 3D printing projects.

3D Filament Storage Tips for PVA

Make sure that you store your PVA filaments inside an airtight container. Place silica in it so that it remains dry.

Store the container at room temperature and make sure that it stays dry. If you store your PVA filaments properly, it will greatly increase its shelf life.

Best PVA Filament: Top 3 Brands On The Market

Now that we have covered the basics that you need to know about this 3D printing material, we’ll share with you some of the best brands that manufacture PVA filaments.

1. eSUN PVA Filament

This brand produces good PVA material that lets you print great parts.

However, it does cost a bit compared to other types of filaments from the same manufacturer. eSUN is arguably the most preferred brand when it comes to PVA filaments today.

Pros
  • Excellent adhesion
  • Great support material
  • Dissolves nicely
Cons
  • May clog nozzles at high temperatures
  • May sometimes bubble when printing
  • May ooze out of control at high temperatures

Shop eSun PVA Filament


2. Gizmo Dorks PVA Filament

This is another brand that manufactures reliable PVA filaments. Just like PVA filaments from other brands, you may find that it can be somewhat stringy.

Do take some time to adjust the temperature settings so that you get just the right temperature so that you won’t have any problems with it being stringy.

Pros
  • Works great when printed slowly
  • Sticks well with PLA
  • Reliable printing material for support
Cons
  • Some find that it does not dissolve as easily as expected
  • May be a bit costly compared to other brands
  • Only sticks to PLA not to ABS

Shop Gizmo Dorks PVA Filament


3. Rigid.Ink PVA Filament

With this brand, you can expect a good quality PVA material that is almost identical with other top brands.

You may observe though that compared to other brands, this one will stick better to ABS and PLA. So it’s a good point to consider.

Pros
  • Bonds well with PLA
  • Easy to clean up after printing
  • High quality material
Cons
  • Some users experienced that it doesn’t stick to the print bed

Shop Rigid.ink PVA Filament


Brand Star Rating Print Temp. Diameter Weight Prices
eSUN 3.8 190-200°C 1.75 mm 1.1 lbs $39.99
Gizmo Dorks 3.7 170-190°C 1.75mm 1.79 lbs $38.95
Rigid.Ink 4.4 190°C 1.75 mm/ 2.85mm/ 3mm 1 kg/ 300g/ 10m $44.63

Conclusion

PVA is a great filament and as a supporting material. However, storage and handling are quite critical as it has a low melting point and should be kept from moisture. But there are certain applications when this is the best option to get the job done.

What do you think about the brands we have listed above? What are your experiences in using PVA filaments for 3D printing? Do share your thoughts with us. We would love to know.

📌For any questions about PVA filaments and other types of filaments or brands, simply leave a comment, and we will get back to you.

References:
www.matterhackers.com/news/how-to-succeed-when-3d-printing-with-pva-support-material
https://www.allthat3d.com/pla-vs-abs/
https://www.allthat3d.com/pla-filament/
www.printermaterials.com/best-pva-filament/
www.amazon.com/eSUN-1-75mm-filament-natural-0-5kg/dp/B00MVIQASU
www.amazon.com/Gizmo-Dorks-Filament-Printers-Natural/dp/B00ITZQT8U
rigid.ink/products/pva-soluble-support-material-1-75-mm-2-85-mm-0-03-mm-tolerance
gizmodorks.com/blog/all-about-pva-filament/