How to print with PVA support

Get started with Cura: Printing with PVA support

Ready to start 3D printing with Cura? Our guides are here to help you get the best possible results from your 3D printing software. This week, we’ll show you how to achieve a great print with PVA support.

PVA support is the best way to create complex geometries and innovative designs. It’s water soluble and easy to remove, which boosts the print quality of the supported areas. If you want to find out more about handling, storing, and dissolving PVA material, check out this guide. In today's tutorial, we'll walk you through the steps necessary to slice your dual-material model.

Ready to get started? Fantastic, let’s go!

How to print with PVA support

1. Load the model. It’s easy to load your model file. All you need to do is select the Open File icon and locate the model file you’d like to use. Cura supports the following files: .3mf, .x3d, .stl and .obj – so you’re well covered, whichever type of file you’re using. Cura also accepts 2D images and converts them into a 3D photo effect.

Load your 3D model in Cura

Once you’ve chosen your model, it will automatically appear on the build plate. You can also select multiple files in your file browser if you want them to load simultaneously.

2. Make adjustments. It’s likely you’ll want to make some adjustments, which is where the Adjustment Tools come in. They can be used to position, scale and rotate the object. To access them, you just need to left click the model. As the engineering model must be strong, you’ll need to rotate it to make sure the layer bonding is strongest in the desired direction. Great news – because you have complete geometrical freedom, you don’t need to worry about bridges or overhangs.

Rotate your 3D model in Cura

3. Set the print cores/materials. It’s important to check if your print cores and materials are correct. Print Core 1 should contain a print core AA 0.4 loaded with PLA. Print Core 2 should contain a print core BB 0.4 loaded with PVA. You can check this in the sidebar. If your Ultimaker 3 is connected via the network to Cura, and loaded with the right print cores and materials, Cura will automatically sync with your printer.

4. Select the profile. Next, you’ll need to select a Profile quality. You can choose from Draft Print, Fast Print, Normal and High Quality. In the Recommended mode, both print cores have the same settings. If you want to adjust these, use the Custom mode.

5. Set helpers. To set the right strength and print core for your support, you’ll need to select Helper Parts (sidebar), then print support using natural PVA (Print Core 2). You can see how long your print will take in the bottom right corner of the 3D viewer. To adjust the print time, simply change the profile quality.

6. Preview the layers. It’s important to check your design is good to go before printing. To preview the print (and check your profile and support settings are right), go to View Mode and select Layers. With Print Core 1 selected in the sidebar, you’ll now be able to see the model highlighted in the layer view. This shows you which parts are printed using Print Core 1. When you switch visible print cores (by selecting Print Core 2 at the top right corner), the support will become highlighted, which tells you it’ll only be printed with that print core.

PVA layer preview in Cura

7. Get printing! Now for the fun part. In the bottom right corner, select Save File, Save to USB or Print Over Network, depending on how you want to print it. While printing, you can view the process by entering the Print Monitor (via the button at the top right corner of the screen). Note, you can only do this when the printer is connected to the network.

We hope you found some useful tricks and have enjoyed this tutorial! Feel free to download it for free and learn more about Cura here. Do you have any questions or comments? Drop us a line below or join the discussion on our forum!