If you are into 3D printing, you already know the different kinds of materials available. Aside from building materials like PLA, ABS, Nylon, etc., some other materials go unnoticed. These are known as support materials. Choosing the correct support material is as important as choosing a building material. Among those materials, two of the most confusing options you will come across is HIPS vs. PVA.
The major difference between HIPS and PVA is in their application as a support structure. While HIPS best supports ABS for durability and rigidity, PVA is the perfect choice for PLA models for flexibility, solubility, and ease to use.
If you are not in a hurry, I recommend going through an in-depth overview of both these materials. This will give you all the information you need to choose one of these materials for your specific projects.
Overview of both the materials:
First, I will go through both these materials individually and give you a complete idea of how each of them works. I will list out different aspects like advantages of the materials, their usage, and drawbacks you may face with them. So, let’s get started with it.
Overview of HIPS
HIPS or High Impact Polystyrene is a kind of thermoplastic material that is well known for its low heat application in different cases. It’s an excellent material for providing support with its ease of processing capability and high-impact strength.
In the 3D printing world, HIPS has a name for being support material in different models. They create great support structures for the build materials. Without using this material, you will mostly like to come across printing issues where the build material doesn’t have stability or structural integrity.
Technical specifications of HIPS
Let’s take a quick look at the specifications of HIPS and see what they have to offer in terms of core characteristics.
- Composition: Synthetic polymer
- Odor: Aromatic
- Compatibility: ABS, Nylon
- Preferred extruder temperature: 220 degrees to 240 degrees
- Preferred bed temperature: 90 degrees to 110 degrees
- Cooling: Not required
- Health concerns: Produces toxic fumes
- Solubility: Oil-soluble
Now that you are done with the specifications, we can dive deep into the material to check out the features you get from the material.
Features and advantages of HIPS
I will be very honest with you, when you take a look at the advantages or features of HIPS there, are not too many to discuss. Still, let’s take a look at the value you get out of them.
- HIPS is lightweight
The material is typically lightweight. This results in getting a support structure that doesn’t weigh too much. This means your overall printed model will also be quite light. And even if the actual model is heavy, you won’t have to worry about the added weight of the structure too much.
- The material is affordable.
It’s without any doubt one of the most cost-effective materials that you can use as a support structure for your 3D printed models. This makes it an excellent choice if you look to print models where you don’t want to spend too much money.
- It provides good strength and durability.
If you want to get strength and durability into your support structure, HIPS can be a good material for that. It comes with waterproofing as well, so you won’t have to worry about water damage to the structure either. And the level of strength this offers can easily withstand little bumps here and there.
- It can act as a building material as well.
While the material boasts its supportive capabilities, it can also work out as a building material. You can print your 3D models using this material if it suits the requirements of your project. You shouldn’t face too many problems with the durability and strength of your model either. Also, it will be very lightweight.
So, these were some of the core features and benefits that you can get from HIPS. Having said that, there are some drawbacks that you need to be concerned about HIPS as well. Let’s get through them very quickly.
Cons of using HIPS
This is where you may realize why HIPS isn’t the right choice for you in particular scenarios. Some effective cons can have a huge impact on the printing process.
- Leaves out toxic fumes
Whenever you are working with HIPS, you have to be careful of the toxic fumes it produces. You don’t want to inhale those fumes at any cost. This makes using HIPS in some cases pretty risky. Also, if you don’t have the proper safety gear and surroundings, you can’t even think of using the material because of this.
- It needs a high temperature to work.
Whether it’s the bed temperature or the extruder temperature, you will need to have a high temperature in both cases. There is no way around it.
- Not compatible with many materials
Even though it’s a great support material, it’s still incompatible with many other build materials. The reason is the requirement of high temperature. Only ABS has that kind of strength to withstand the high-temperature requirement of HIPS which is why it’s the perfect pick for ABS.
- Weak bed adhesion
The bed adhesion you get from using HIPS is very poor. That’s mostly because of the higher temperature requirements. With high temperatures, materials always tend to have poor bed adhesion with the build plate.
Now, these are problems with using HIPS over any other support material. Yes, there are solutions and fixes that you can try out for each of these problems and avoid them. But in general, you may come across these issues, and that may sway you away from the material.
Overview of PVA
Polyvinyl Alcohol or PVA is another well-known material that people use to support their 3D printed models. The material comes with some amazing adhesive properties and excellent flexibility paired up with great tensile strength.
It’s a water-soluble material and has great resistance to oil and grease. Because of all its characteristics, it’s a go-to option for support structure material most of the time.
Technical specifications of PVA
Looking at the specifications of the material will give you a distinct idea of its properties and capabilities.
- Composition: Synthetic polymer
- Odor: Odorless
- Compatibility: PLA, PETG, TPU
- Preferred extruder temperature: 180 degrees to 200 degrees
- Preferred bed temperature: 45 degrees to 60 degrees
- Cooling: Necessary
- Health concerns: No toxic elements
- Solubility: water-soluble
Well, it’s good to know about the specs, but it surely doesn’t give you a clear idea of the material. So, let’s dive a little deep and find out all the good and bad about this material.
Features and advantages of PVA
There are quite a lot of benefits that you can get from using PVA as a support material. Let’s get through them one by one to see how it stands out as a support structure material.
- Easy to dissolve
Since the material is dissolvable using water, you don’t need to get any kind of third-party solvent to get the job done. It makes the whole process much simpler and more affordable for you.
Also, you don’t have to go through the hassle of choosing a proper solvent either. So, this can be a great option for beginners to use as support material.
- No toxic elements
There is nothing to worry about any toxic fumes or anything. You can use the material for your printing without concern over health and safety measures. This is also a perfect material if you are worried about the environment.
- Works on low-temperature settings
One of the best things the PVA material offers is the fact that you don’t need a very high temperature to use the material. This means you don’t need to have a heated bed for using the material.
- Provides good bed adhesion
Because of the lower temperature requirements, the material provides great bed adhesion as well. You won’t struggle with the bed adhesion of your printing projects as long as you are using PVA.
- Compatible with different build materials
Since the temperature requirement on the material is pretty low, it is compatible with different types of material as well. While it works best with PLA, you can still use the material with TPU and PETG as well.
As you can see, PVA is a great material in terms of all the benefits you get from it. It’s undoubtedly one of the best support materials for getting a good structure on your 3D printed models. Having said that, it’s not perfect either. There are some imperfections that you should be aware of with this one.
Cons of using PVA
Even though there aren’t many cons or deal-breaking cons, still, there are some things to worry about for sure.
- A bit expensive
These materials are quite expensive compared to other support materials. So, if you are working on test models or printing something in general, then they aren’t worth the money.
- Requires careful storage
Since the material is pretty reactive to moisture, you will have difficulty storing it. You will need to make sure that there is no way for moisture to enter the packaging of the material. Storing the material can be a bit tough in that regard.
- They can clog up the nozzle.
One issue that you can face with PVA is the fact that it can clog up your nozzle. While it may not be the case all the time, there is a chance that it will happen.
PVA can be a great option in the correct situations, even with these cons. Also, you can just avoid these cons by taking the proper measures.
Which one to choose between, HIPS or PVA?
Now, the PVA will sound a bit better than HIPS in terms of various factors. Let’s check out some of the key differences that dictate which one you should use in which scenario.
These two materials are opposite based on their requirement for temperature. While PVA requires very low temperatures to work, HIPS needs a very high temperature.
This results in different factors like bed adhesion, which gives it the compatibility factor.
In terms of using dissolvent, I would say PVA is a better pick because you can simply use water to dissolve the material. Whereas with HIPS, you will need to find a proper dissolvent to work with it.
PVA is a much safer option to use compared to HIPS because of its non-toxic behavior. With PVA, you don’t have to worry about any toxic fumes at all. So, it’s a better choice if you don’t have any safety gear and also if you are conscious of eco-friendliness.
Aside from that, there is a noticeable price difference. HIPS is much more of a cost-effective solution compared to PVA. So, if you want to save up some money, then HIPS is the option for you.
Now, these differences still don’t matter that much when you have to choose one option between these two. The decision comes down to the build material you will be working with.
If you use PLA as your build material, then your clear choice is PVA. And if you are using ABS, then you should use HIPS. The main reason for that is the temperature factor. Since you have to use high temperatures on HIPS, you can’t use that with PLA as they don’t work well with higher temperatures.
In short, when it comes to choosing an option between HIPS vs. PVA, you will always have to look at the build material that you are using. While one is better in some aspects than the other, you still can’t choose it because it’s incompatible.
For instance, if you think about affordability, the clear choice is HIPS. However, you can’t just use HIPS when you are printing with PLA as your build material. In that scenario, you have to use PVA. So, that’s why it all comes down to your build material when you are choosing the support structure.