Choosing the appropriate support material for 3D printing: PVA vs HIPS


Supporting Your 3D Prints: PVA vs HIPS

When it comes to 3D printing objects with intricate geometries, overhangs, bridges, and cavities, support structures are often necessary. While powder-based printing technologies don’t require supports, filament and resin printing do. That’s where materials like PVA and HIPS come in. In this article, we’ll explore the use of these two materials in FFF printing and compare their properties, printing characteristics, and applications.

PVA, which stands for polyvinyl alcohol, is primarily used as a soluble support material in FDM 3D printing. It is created by the alkaline hydrolysis of polyvinyl acetate, resulting in a material that gains flexibility and elasticity when exposed to water. On the other hand, HIPS, or high impact polystyrene, is a copolymer that combines the strength of polystyrene with the elastic properties of polybutadiene rubber. It is commonly used as both a support material and a printing material for standalone parts.

HIPS has properties similar to ABS but is harder and more impact-resistant. Prints made with HIPS tend to have a smooth, scratch-resistant surface and exhibit antibacterial properties. It is known for its impact strength, lightness, resistance, and mechanical resilience. HIPS is also not brittle, but PVA, in contrast, is brittle and fragile. However, PVA gains flexibility when exposed to moisture, acting as a plasticizer. This makes PVA soluble in water, making it perfect as a support material but unsuitable for durable prints.

In terms of printing temperature, PVA has a melting point of 230°C, while HIPS melts at 220°C. However, the melting point of PVA can vary depending on the type and degree of hydrolysis. Fully hydrolyzed forms have a lower melting temperature ranging from 160 to 180 degrees. On the other hand, HIPS cannot be dissolved in water, but it can be broken down by certain acids, alkalis, organic solvents, and chemicals.

In terms of post-processing, PVA can be easily dissolved in water, making it environmentally friendly and easy to dispose of. HIPS, on the other hand, requires treatment with substances like limonene for post-processing. Limonene can cause HIPS to become brittle, discolored, and decompose.

When choosing a support material, it’s crucial to select one that is easy to remove after printing and does not leave any traces on the final object. It’s also advantageous if the support material is different from the material used for the printed object itself. This is where having an FFF printer with dual extruders comes in handy, reducing printing time and minimizing the risk of material mixing.

Overall, PVA and HIPS offer different advantages and applications in 3D printing. PVA is excellent as a soluble support material, allowing for easy removal and no traces on the final object. HIPS, on the other hand, is a versatile material that can serve both as a support material and a printing material for stand-alone parts. Understanding the properties and characteristics of these materials can help you choose the right support material for your 3D prints.

If you’re into 3D printing, you’ll know that using support material is often necessary to achieve the desired results. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at two popular support materials: PVA and HIPS.

Let’s start with PVA, which stands for Polyvinyl Alcohol. This material is derived from waste citrus peels, making it an eco-friendly option. PVA is primarily used as a support material for PLA, TPLA, PETG, and CPE. It has a low tensile strength of 22MPa, which means it’s not very flexible. However, when water is added, PVA becomes more elastic, giving you more flexibility in your prints.

One thing to note about PVA is that it should be stored in a cool place, away from light, dust, and moisture. PVA has limited resistance to UV light, so proper storage is essential to avoid printing problems later on. It’s also important to dry PVA before use if it has absorbed moisture. This can be done by heating it for about 8 to 12 hours at 50 to 80 degrees Celsius. To keep PVA fresh, store it in an airtight container.

Next up, we have HIPS, which stands for High Impact Polystyrene. Unlike PVA, HIPS is not derived from waste material but is available as a white filament that can be colored if it’s not used as a support material. HIPS is mainly used as a support material for ABS. It has similar tensile strength to PVA, but it does not absorb moisture and does not need to be dried before printing.

When printing with PVA, it’s important to set the printing configuration so that there is no distance between the support part and the final part. This ensures a smooth surface without any segregation or other issues. To achieve good adhesion of HIPS to the print bed, you can use solutions like glue, adhesive tape, or a slag with a mixture of ABS and acetone. For PVA, painter’s tape works well.

In terms of printing temperatures, PVA requires a printing plate temperature of 45 to 60 degrees Celsius and an extruder temperature of 185 to 200 degrees Celsius. HIPS, on the other hand, requires higher temperatures: a printing plate temperature of 100 to 115 degrees Celsius and an extruder temperature of 230 to 245 degrees Celsius.

Overall, PVA and HIPS are both effective support materials, but they have different applications and requirements. PVA is best suited for PLA, TPLA, PETG, and CPE, while HIPS is mainly used with ABS. Additionally, HIPS is preferred with ABS because it is not destroyed by the solvent used to dissolve the support material.

Whether you choose PVA or HIPS for your 3D printing projects, make sure to follow the proper storage and printing guidelines for optimal results. Happy printing!

Improving 3D Printing with PVA and HIPS Filaments

When it comes to 3D printing, using the right materials can make a huge difference in the quality of the final product. Two commonly used filaments for support structures in 3D printing are PVA and HIPS. While they serve similar purposes, there are some key differences between the two.

Let’s start with PVA filament. PVA stands for Polyvinyl Alcohol, and it is known for its water-solubility. This makes it a great choice for support structures that can easily be dissolved in water after printing. One of the advantages of using PVA is its easy post-processing. After printing, the structure can be simply placed in a warm water bath and, after waiting for 1-2 hours, the finished part can be easily extracted. Another advantage is that PVA is completely biodegradable, so disposing of the water down the drain is safe and environmentally friendly.

On the other hand, HIPS filament, which stands for High Impact Polystyrene, does not dissolve in water like PVA. HIPS is lightweight and highly impact-resistant, making it suitable for a wide range of applications. It is often used in the production of toys, children’s articles, automotive interior parts, and packaging. However, when it comes to using HIPS as a support material, post-processing is a bit more complex. Chemical solutions must be used, which can be expensive and require careful handling. For safety, it is recommended to wear a respiratory mask and protective gloves when working with HIPS.

When it comes to printing with these filaments, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. For PVA, a cooling fan is recommended to solidify the plastic faster, reducing stringing and improving the quality of the printed part. For HIPS, however, a cooling fan is not necessary. Instead, it is recommended to use a closed enclosure to limit the temperature difference between the printed object and the ambient air. This helps prevent curling, warping, or delaminating due to sudden temperature changes. It is also advisable to have proper ventilation, such as a HEPA air filter, as HIPS can produce unpleasant fumes.

Printing speeds also differ between the two materials. The recommended printing speed for PVA is about 30 mm/second, while for HIPS, the printing speed can range from 40 to 80 mm/second. Both filaments are relatively easy to print if the printer has been properly configured beforehand. However, it’s important to note that HIPS may occasionally experience shrinkage during cooling, leading to warping of the printed object. This effect is less of a problem when HIPS is used for support structures, as they are removed anyway.

In terms of availability and cost, PVA filament is available in both 1.75 mm and 2.85 mm, and prices can range from $18 to $185 for a 500-gram spool. Some well-known manufacturers of PVA filaments include Arianeplast, eSUN, FormFutura, MatterHackers, and UltiMaker. On the other hand, HIPS filament is generally more affordable, with prices ranging from $13 to $38 per spool. Manufacturers such as Arianeplast, eSUN, Intamsys, MatterHackers, and Zortrax offer HIPS filaments.

In conclusion, both PVA and HIPS filaments have their advantages and applications in 3D printing. PVA is great for water-soluble supports and easy post-processing, while HIPS is known for its impact resistance and versatility. Understanding the specific requirements and characteristics of each filament can help achieve better results in 3D printing projects.

Title: An Unconventional Approach to 3D Printing: Support Materials That Challenge


3D printing has revolutionized the way we bring our ideas to life, but the question of removing support materials after printing still persists. While traditional support materials offer facilitation during the printing process, their removal can often pose challenges. However, there exist unique alternatives that push the boundaries of support materials, making removal a bit more demanding. Have you ever used these unconventional materials? Let us know in the comments below or on our social media platforms!

Support Materials: PVA or HIPS – Can you Handle the Challenge?

Traditionally, support materials like PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol) and HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene) have been widely used to enhance the printing process. PVA, known for its water-solubility, allows for easy and hassle-free removal by simply submerging the print in water. HIPS, on the other hand, requires the use of limonene – a citrus-based solvent – to dissolve the support structures, leaving behind a clean print.

However, today we explore a different avenue where the ease of support removal takes a backseat, and instead, a greater challenge awaits.

Support Materials That Push the Boundaries:

These unconventional support materials may hinder the removal process, but their unique characteristics offer other advantages that might be worth the additional effort. Let’s delve into two such materials that are gaining traction within the 3D printing community:

1. Magnetic Support Materials:

Imagine a support material that sticks firmly to the desired points during printing, ensuring stability and accuracy throughout the process. With magnetic support materials, achieving intricate prints is now within reach. While removing these supports might require some skill and patience, the benefits of accuracy and stability during printing outweigh the temporary challenge.

2. Biodegradable Support Materials:

In an era where sustainability is increasingly prioritized, biodegradable support materials present an eco-friendly alternative. These materials are designed to break down naturally over time or with the help of specific agents, reducing environmental impact. The downside is that the removal process may require extra care, as the slight fragility of the material necessitates a more delicate approach.


The printing process continues to evolve, pushing the limits of what we thought was possible. While traditional support materials like PVA and HIPS have proven effective and convenient for many, the unconventional options discussed above offer unique advantages, albeit with slightly more demanding removal processes. The choice ultimately depends on your printing needs and priorities. So, have you experimented with magnetic supports or biodegradable materials? Share your experiences and insights in the comments below or join our conversations on social media. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox, and check out our YouTube channel for informative videos on this fascinating technology. Let’s embrace the exciting possibilities that lie ahead in the world of 3D printing!

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