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PVA and 3D print

PVA and 3D print

Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) is a water-soluble polymer and should not be confused with PVAc (polyvinyl acetate), which is a water-soluble white glue. PVA is a colorless, odorless synthetic polymer with remarkable biocompatibility. Its toxicity is also very low, so it can be used in health products, such as contact lens solutions, and can be reasonably biodegradable.

This passage is going to talk about the followings of Polyvinyl alcohol application:

(1) What is 3D printing?

(2) PVA and 3D printing

(3) 3D printing experience using PVA


(1) What is 3D printing?

3D printing or additive manufacturing is the process of making three-dimensional objects from digital files.

The creation of 3D printed objects is achieved using additional processes. In the addition process, the object is created by placing successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be regarded as a thin cross-section of the object.


(2) PVA and 3D printing

In the 3D printing community, PVA is widely known as a support material for use with multi-extruder 3D printers.

Usually, the FDM machine has only one extruder, and the printing parts and supporting structure are all made of the same material. Removing supports can be a tricky task, depending on their location, not to mention that they leave unsightly marks on the part.

On the other hand, double extrusion FDM printers allow different materials for parts and supports, which is where PVA comes in handy. The biggest advantage of PVA filament is that it is soluble in water, so the supporting structure printed with this material can be easily removed by exposing the part for a few hours.

This method not only helps to remove the support, but also prevents any marks from being left on the parts and reduces post-processing work such as sanding and painting. Very good solution, right? Sadly, it is not that simple. Double extrusion can be very difficult and requires a lot of calibration to finally obtain high-quality 3D printing.

Because PVA uses similar printing conditions (including temperature), it usually works well with PLA filaments. PLA is a hydrophobic material, which means it is not like water. Therefore, if a PVA support is printed on a PLA part, only the support will dissolve in water, leaving the part in an ideal state.


(3) 3D printing experience using PVA

These tips will help you reduce the chance of common 3D printing problems associated with PVA, such as moisture absorption, warpage, and smoke.

Because PVA has high reactivity to water, the filament must be stored in a moisture-free container. PVA that has absorbed moisture in the air tends to bubble and break during the printing process, which will damage the quality and strength of the finished product. After finishing the PVA spools, make sure to take them out of the printer and put them in a sealed container together with the desiccant to remove the moisture in the container. If your filament has absorbed too much moisture, you can use a commercial dehydrator or an oven set to the lowest possible temperature to dry it for a few hours. This will draw the water out of the filament without melting, so that it prints smoothly and without bubbles.

When using PVA as a support material for PLA prints, please consider adding an anti-leak cover with at least two contours. This will have the benefit of priming the PVA extruder after each tool change, which will ensure that the extruder is ready to print at the beginning of the layer. In addition, the anti-seepage liquid shield will catch the exudates from the two nozzles to prevent these plastic deposits from reaching your parts. Once printing is complete, the impermeable liquid cover can be removed and discarded. If you find that the leak cover is too weak or easy to separate, consider adding an additional leak cover profile to thicken the cover. PVA can be very expensive, so you want to minimize the amount of material used to support the structure.




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