Best PVA Filament: Ultimate PVA Buyer’s Guide
PVA is an attractive support material for a few reasons. It is water soluble, so when your print is finished, you can simply dunk the object you printed in tap water and watch the PVA supports dissolve away.
Our top pick for PVA filaments is Gizmo Dorks PVA for a few reasons:
- Excellent adhesion to PLA filaments
- No left over residue when it dissolves in water
- Good price in comparison to other brands
Best PVA Filament: Ultimate Buyer’s Guide
Best PVA Filament: The Top 5 Brands
1. eSUN PVA filament (most popular)
2. Gizmo Dork PVA filament (high quality)
3. SainSmart PVA filament (cheapest)
4. Polymaker PVA filament
5. Fused Materials PVA filament
What Is PVA Filament?
There is considerable confusion about what PVA filament is. Some will say it stands for polyvinyl alcohol while others will say the PVA stands for polyvinyl acetate.
So which one is it? Does PVA stand for polyvinyl acetate or polyvinyl alcohol?
The answer: both!
In fact, PVA can refer to two different materials. They are related, which is why they often get confused with each other.
Here’s what that means:
PVA: Polyvinyl Alcohol (filament)
Polyvinyl alcohol is a polymer that can be used as a support filament in 3D printing. This is what people usually are referring to when they say “PVA filament.”
hydrolysed from polyvinyl acetate. In other words, adding water to polyvinyl alcohol will create polyvinyl acetate.
PVAc: Polyvinyl Acetate (Glue)
Polyvinyl acetate is a common glue (white glue, wood glue, Elmer’s glue, glue stick). It is a very common household product, but it is not what people usually mean when they say “PVA filament.”
PVAc is often used in 3D printing as a bed adhesion material, and it works particularly well with glass printer beds.
Can PVA Be Used With PLA And ABS?
Yes, but PVA works better with PLA than with ABS. PVA sticks very well to PLA and is therefore very useful as a support material.
PVA can also be used with ABS, but this is not recommended. Sometimes PVA has trouble sticking to ABS prints, and as a result, it does not always function well as a support material for ABS.
Instead, we recommend using HIPS support filament with ABS. Check out our guide to the best HIPS filaments here.
One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes users have trouble getting PVA to stick to PLA as well. That usually has to do with using the wrong printer settings.
Play around with the temperature, print speed, and retraction speed. Your slicer needs to be calibrated properly, and the default printer settings will not always work with PVA.
Is PVA Safe?
Yes, PVA is a very safe material in general. It is nontoxic and noncorrosive, and does not naturally have sharp edges.
When water is applied, PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) dissolves into polyvinyl acetate (PVAc), a harmless glue that is often given to children.
The only chemical property that users should be aware of is that PVA is flammable at moderate temperatures. When flames are applied, it will ignite and burn. But it is not more flammable than paper or other common household materials.
Don’t worry: if you leave PVA in a hotend, it won’t burn. But it will eventually undergo pyrolysis, which is sort of like flameless combustion, and it will create a burnt goop that will be hard to clean. So always remove all of the PVA from the hotend after using it.
Why Is PVA So Expensive?
PVA is often expensive because without it, many designs cannot be printed. So that means there is high demand, and that drives up the price.
Even though PVA is more expensive than HIPS, HIPS only dissolves in d-limonene, which is an irritant and not cheap. So PVA cheaper to use overall.
That being said, PVA is still the support material of choice for many printers. We’ve listed the best PVA filament brands for you below
Cheapest PVA Filament
SainSmart PVA filament is the cheapest PVA filament available that is also highly recommended by customers.
There is one other brand that is cheaper (MG Chemicals), but we do not recommend it because it does not stick easily to PLA or ABS, although this could be a case of user error.
PVA Filament Settings
PVA filament is often a little bit difficult to print with because it is so sensitive to small temperature differences. For best results, it is usually best to print at less than 200 degrees C.
Of course, you will need to use a dual extruder. That way you can adequately use PVA as a support with PLA filaments.
But unlike with ABS, you may not need to use a heated printer bed to work with PLA, and leaving the printer bed unheated may improve results. Just make sure to use a good adhesion material on the printbed so keep the PVA supports stuck to the bed.
How To Dissolve The PVA Filament Supports
PVA is water soluable so all you need to do is dunk your prints into a container of water to dissolve the supports. As soon as the PVA comes in contact with water, it will dissolve away and your print will be revealed.
It can often take a long time for all of the PVA to dissolve. In order to make sure all of the PVA dissolves, leave the prints in a container of water for several hours or overnight.
1. eSUN PVA Filament
eSUN makes decent PVA that gets the job done. It is also one of the more expensive eSUN filaments.
But eSUN PVA filament is also probably the most popular brand of PVA filament on the market these days. When people look for PVA, they usually go with eSUN.
That has more to do with the widespread recognition of the eSUN brand name than the quality of the PVA filament itself, but it is a good PVA nonetheless. It dissolves completely in hot water and also easy to remove by hand if needed.
eSUN PVA filament is very easy to print with and doesn’t leave a mess behind. In fact, this filament will save you a lot of time with cleanup after a print if you integrate it into your workflow because it simply disappears when you dunk it in warm water.
Again, this filament is expensive, but if you consider the amount of cleanup time that this filament saves, the cost becomes much smaller.
2. Gizmo Dorks PVA Filament
Gizmo Dorks makes a good PVA filament. It is a bit stringy, like other PVA filaments. But Gizmo Dorks sticks very well to PLA, which is the purpose of the material.
Gizmo Dorks is almost catching eSun in terms of popularity because of it’s price and quality. Due to the fact that PVA settings change from one printing environment tot he next, it will probably take some trial and error to find the right settings.
After all, PVA dissolves in water, including water in the air, aka humidity. So make sure that you store this filament in an airtight container, like these.
One thing to keep in mind is that it will ooze a bit no matter what retraction setting you use. That’s just the way it is. Otherwise, there’s no reason not to give this PVA a shot.
Check out this video to see Gizmo Dorks PVA in action:
3. SainSmart PVA Filament
SainSmart PVA filament is good quality and will print with basically the same results as any other PVA filament on this list. The main selling point of SainSmart’s PVA filament is that it is sometimes a bit cheaper than others and you can sometimes find it on sale.
Otherwise, it has all of the same specs as other PVA filaments:
- Dissolves in warm water
- Leaves no residue behind
- Accurate tolerances and easy to print with
- Bonds to many types of PLA
The main thing to keep in mind with SainSmart PVA is that it won’t bond with every type of PLA with same strength, especially if the PLA you are using has additives to enhance strength or surface finish.
Also, SainSmart packaging is often not the best packaging possible, and sometimes air gets inside. Because PVA is so strongly affected by humidity since it dissolves in water, you might have to dry this PVA filament out a bit when it arrives before you use it.
If you need to dry the PVA, simply put the spool in a box with a desiccant for a day or two.
Finally, if you leave PVA in the extruder when you are not using it, it will begin to absorb ambient humidity and degrade. As a result, the roundness of the filament could change shape and no longer flow properly through the extruder, causing clogs.
4. Polymaker PVA filament
Polymaker PVA filament is one of the more expensive PVA filaments on this list. It is almost twice as expensive as SainSmart PVA filament, for instance.
The main thing to keep in mind when using the Polymaker PVA is that you cannot leave the palette settings in Canvas, Chroma, and P2PP at the default of 0-0-0. For Canvas, Chroma, and P2PP, the required settings are 6-2-8.
If you do leave the settings at the default settings, the prints may fail. But if you change the settings to 6-2-8, then this PVA works perfectly. It will bond to PLA strong enough to tug on it.
One thing to keep in mind is that Polymaker has great technical support. If you do run into any problems such as with bonding or with an accessory like a palette, contact them to have the issue resolved.
5. Fused Materials PVA filament
Like other PVA filaments, the PVA from Fused Materials is a water soluble filament used with dual extruder 3D printers as a support material. It works best with PLA.
Fused Materials is very proud of their PVA and sells it based on the fact that PVA is technically biodegradable. While that is true, it is not something that makes Fused Materials PVA any better than other brands.
The one thing that Fused Materials provides that other brands do not is a set of instructions on the side of the box that the filament comes in. The packaging is very good with good information.
The quality of the packaging is important because, as mentioned above, PVA reacts with water and can dissolve if it gets wet. The high quality packaging means that Fused Materials PVA has a lower likelihood of coming in contact with humidity that could reduce it’s effectiveness.
Final Thoughts On The Best PVA Filament
While PVA is a good support material in theory, it is sometimes difficult to work with in practice. However, unlike HIPS, it is very easy to remove and works well with dual extruders.
The main thing to keep in mind is that PVA works best with PLA. Keep the temperatures low, and with the right settings, PVA will bond well with PLA everytime.
Overall, the best PVA on our list is probably the tried and true eSUN brand PVA. If that one doesn’t work for you, you can also check out the Gizmo Dorks.
Between these two, you should be able to find what you need. But if you want the absolute cheapest option, check out SainSmart PVA.
And if all else fails, you can check out HIPS, which works very well as a support material for ABS filaments.
If we missed a brand that you would like us to include in our list or if you disagree with any of our conclusions, leave comment below. Otherwise, hopefully this list of the best PVA filaments helped you find what you are looking for.