Filament is crucial for 3D printing, and the cost of keeping your spools full can add up, especially if you are using filaments that are in high demand, like PVA. PVA isn’t everyone’s go-to filament choice since it can be pretty costly, but it has properties that make it highly desirable for almost any 3D printing project.
PVA filament is so expensive because it is in high demand. PVA filament is water-soluble, and many people use it to make support structures that wash away. This frequent use and increased demand drive up the price of PVA filament, making it more expensive than most other filament types.
In the rest of this article, I’ll take a closer look at PVA filament and discuss why this desirable material is so expensive. I’ll also teach you what compounds are used to create PVA filament, how it’s most commonly used in 3D printing, and some safety features to keep in mind when using this type of filament.
The Reason PVA 3D Printing Filament is So Expensive
PVA filament is a polymer, and the letters stand for Polyvinyl alcohol. PVA is a biodegradable polymer, and it’s a user-friendly filament that’s easy to work with, even for new 3D printmakers. It’s also non-toxic, making it safe to use around children and pets. However, it has one property that makes it incredibly desirable and, thus, expensive.
PVA filament is expensive since it can dissolve when submerged in warm water. This dissolvability means you can use it to print supports that you won’t have to cut away from the final printed project, and anything you print with it will disappear if you soak it in water.
This popular material isn’t as easy to make as most commonplace filaments like ABS and PLA. So, with little supply and high demand, you can expect to pay a pretty penny for a small spool of PVA.
How Is PVA Filament Used in 3D Printing?
PVA filament is most often used in 3D printing to create support structures that hold up the rest of a project as you print it. These support structures create a stable, easy-to-remove platform that holds even the most delicate printed pieces.
PVA filament is in high demand amongst 3D print creators. It is the preferred type of filament to use when printing support structures.
Although you can use practically any filament to create support structures, most materials require manual removal using a knife or other sharp implements. In addition, most filament types can leave ridges and protrusions behind on a project, and you will have to buff or clip these seams off later.
Using a water-soluble filament such as PVA solves this problem as the support structures will dissolve completely. Once the print is complete, you can dip it in warm water, which causes the PVA filament to dissolve completely, leaving no traces.
In addition to external support structures, PVA filament can also be extremely useful in creating temporary support within internal 3D printed cavities.
PVA makes additional supports that help the print hold its shape during the printing process. These internal PVA filament supports dissolve when submerged in warm water, leaving the cavity solid and hollow.
Here is a short video explaining how PVA dissolvable filament works:
Storing PVA Filament Projects and Materials
In addition to water, high temperatures, humidity, and moisture can cause the PVA filament to degrade and lose its shape. So, you should be careful to store any PVA filament printed projects in a clean and dry location resistant to moisture, such as a latched plastic bin.
Additionally, you should store the spools of PVA filament in airtight and vacuum-sealed containers to ensure that they don’t get moist or break down.
PVA filament has a relatively low printing temperature with a melting point of 190º C to 200°C (374º F to 392°F). That makes it simple to use.
You should take care to keep the temperatures at these optimal levels, as high temperatures can cause the filament to jam inside of the extruder, and cool temperatures (often caused by using a fan) can cause the filament to become brittle.
This low-temperature range also means that you shouldn’t use PVA filament to print projects that need to withstand high temperatures in their final format.
Is PVA Filament Safe To Use?
PVA filament is safe to use. It’s non-toxic, which makes it a great choice to use when printing around both children and pets, as it won’t cause damage if accidentally consumed.
An additional feature of PVA filament that makes it safe to use is that it can easily and quickly dissolve in plain water. It doesn’t require any extra oils or solvents to dissolve.
PVA filament creates Polyvinyl acetate, the harmless household glue if you dissolve it in water. It doesn’t make any dangerous chemicals during the water dissolving process.
PVA filament creates smooth structures without any sharp edges, making it easier to remove the printed design without the danger of getting nicks or cuts on your hands. It’s non-corrosive and won’t harm other substances it touches or sits on, such as wood or plastic.
Where Can I Purchase PVA Filament?
You can purchase PVA filament from specialty stores that carry supplies for 3D printing. Additionally, you can find this filament online in mega-stores such as Amazon.com.
Still, no matter where you get your PVA, be sure to always read the information about the product you’re considering carefully to make sure you understand how a specific brand will work with your 3D printing device.
PVA filament spools can run from 0.5-1 kg (1.10-2.20 lb). It’s also available in a variety of colors, as well as clear.
I recommend the Fused Materials PVA Printing Filament (available on Amazon.com). This brand promises a consistent filament diameter, with a +/- .03 mm accuracy. It can be used with various other filaments but works best with PLA.
PVA filament is an ideal printing material for creating temporary external or internal supports as a project is printing. The supports will dissolve easily in warm water, leaving the primary structure behind. Given its usefulness as water-soluble supports, PVA filament is a high-demand project with a correspondingly high price.
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I started 3D printing since 2013 and have learned a lot since then. Because of this I want to share my knowledge of what I have learned in the past years with the community. Currently I own 2 Bambulab X1 Carbon, Prusa SL1S and a Prusa MK3S+. Hope you learn something from my blog after my years of experience in 3D printing.