hips filament 3d printing guide

HIPS Filament: The Complete HIPS 3D Printing Guide

HIPS filament, or High Impact Polystyrene, is an effective 3D printing material mostly used for supports in ABS 3D printing with a dual extruder 3D printer. However, this undersells HIPS as its stellar 3D printing properties make it a great standalone filament for rapid prototyping and more.

HIPS is also fully recyclable, making it a great environmentally friendly filament.

In our HIPS 3D printing guide, we review the exact temperatures, settings and recommendations for getting the best results from HIPS, recommend the best HIPS filaments you can buy, and some great HIPS 3D printers.

History of HIPS in 3D printing

German apothecary Johann Eduard Simon first discovered polystyrene back in 1839, but it was not industrialized and sold until almost a century later in 1931 by I. G. Farben company.

However, standard polystyrene is brittle, and was therefore unsuitable for many industrial uses, and other materials were generally preferred.

A solution was found however by mixing it with polybutadiene – a synthetic rubber – to create a copolymer called HIPS, making it tough yet flexible and solving the brittleness problem. This primed HIPS to become a wildly successful material used in signage, point-of-sale and food packaging across the world.

different hips filament colors
Though mostly seen as a clear support material, HIPS offers many different color options.

HIPS filament has very similar 3D printing properties to ABS, making it a perfect support material. Both filaments melt and print at similar temperatures, and HIPS’ solubility in d-limonene makes it perfect for dissolving after printing to leave a smooth part without any of the imperfections associated with standard supports.

Properties of HIPS filament

Despite HIPS’ similarity to ABS, HIPS is superior in several aspects: it is lighter, offers better impact resistance, and sports a glossy, clear surface finish which many will prefer.

This makes HIPS a great filament for durable pre-manufacturing prototypes – as long as they do not come into contact with limonene.

Some comparisons to ABS and PLA include:

  • HIPS density: around 1.05g/cm3, compared to ABS: 1.07g/cm3, PLA: 1.24g/cm3.
  • HIPS tensile strength: around 40 MPa, compared to ABS: 27 MPa, PLA: 37 MPa.
  • HIPS glass transition temperature: 90-100C, compared to ABS: 105C, and PLA: 60-65C.

Dissolving HIPS in limonene

Limonene is an affordable and readily available solvent made from lemons, oranges, and other citrus fruit peels.

HIPS dissolves completely in limonene within around 24 hours — but does not affect ABS — making it perfect for removing HIPS supports from ABS parts with a dual extruder 3D printer.

HIPS prints at the same temperature as ABS, making it the most appropriate dissolvable filament for ABS. Other dissolvable materials such as PVA filament print at far lower temperatures and will not work with ABS, and for this reason PVA is instead commonly used when 3D printing PLA.

dissolving hips
Stages of HIPS dissolving process. Source: gambody.com

HIPS 3D Printing Properties & recommendations

What extruder temperature should you print HIPS at?

Depending on your HIPS filament, generally print between 220C and 245C, with the higher end of the scale better for adhesion.

If you are struggling to get good layer adhesion, increase the temperature, but if you encounter stringing or oozing, lower the temperature slightly and check your retraction settings.

Do you need to use a heated bed and enclosure to 3D print HIPS?

Yes. Though it doesn’t warp quite as much as ABS, HIPS filament will warp if you do not use a heated bed and a heated chamber or enclosure.

Use a heated bed of between 90C and 115C depending on your type of HIPS filament, though 100C+ can be best for adhesion. Higher temperatures prevent warping due to the material cooling too quickly.

clear hips filament for 3d printing supports
HIPS is commonly a clear filament used for supports on ABS parts.

Using an enclosure or heated chamber also keeps the high ambient temperature consistent during printing, preventing any rapid cooling that causes warping and deformation. Many desktop FDM 3D printers now come with enclosures, but 3D printer kits and RepRap 3D printers are typically open printing and will struggle to 3D print HIPS.

Best build surfaces for 3D printing HIPS

HIPS is a forgiving 3D printer filament, and can work well with Kapton tape, PEI sheets, glue stick and hairspray. If using a build surface that adds height to your build plate, remember to adjust your first layer in your 3D slicer settings before printing.

However, as with ABS, HIPS releases toxic fumes when melted and 3D printed. Therefore, it is essential to store your 3D printer in an area with good ventilation where you will not inhale any styrene fumes.

Best HIPS filaments

Some HIPS filaments and selections we recommend are included below:

Best HIPS 3D Printers

To 3D print HIPS as a support material, you’ll need a dual extruder 3D printer, and a printer with a closed enclosure.

We recommend a number of these in our dual extruder buyer’s guide.

Advantages and disadvantages of 3D printing HIPS filament

Advantages of HIPS filament

  • Reasonable price: though not as cheap as ABS, HIPS offers more than ABS does at not far higher prices.
  • Non-hygroscopic: whereas almost all other filaments are hygroscopic and will deteriorate over time if left out in open air, HIPS is not hygroscopic.
  • Dissolvable: leaving HIPS in limonene dissolves it quickly, leaving smooth ABS parts with no imperfections.
  • Versatile: HIPS parts can be easily painted, machined, sanded and processed, making it a great material for rapid prototyping and testing new iterations of products.
advantages of hips filament

Disadvantages of HIPS filament

  • Toxic odors while printing: like ABS, HIPS emits fumes while 3D printing, and therefore you must store your 3D printer in a well-ventilated area or room while printing.
  • Warping: therefore, you must use a heated bed and chamber to minimize warping and cracking between layers. 3D printer kits are therefore less suitable for HIPS 3D printing.
disadvantages of hips filament

Applications of HIPS in 3D printing

HIPS is most used as a support material for ABS 3D printed parts to be dissolved post-print in limonene.

However, HIPS also has standalone uses in aesthetic parts and projects such as cosplays and other costumes due to its glossy clear finish, as well as in 3D printed toys and other appliances. Its light weight, strength and ease of painting and post-processing also makes it a great filament for testing pre-manufacturing models.

Outside of 3D printing, HIPS is used in toys, laptop, CD, DVD and phone cases, and is used extensively in signage and point of sale displays due to its ability to be vacuum formed, bent and molded into shape with ease.

Due to being classed as food safe, HIPS is also used in millions of food and drink packaging, disposable cutlery, and yoghurt pots every year.

hips plastic sheets
HIPS’ color range and versatility make it a commonly used copolymer for signage.

How much does HIPS filament cost?

Standard HIPS filaments typically cost between $30-$55, depending on the quality and blend.

Though more expensive than basic filaments such as PLA or ABS, HIPS falls far below the industrial filament prices of Polycarbonate and carbon fiber filaments.

3D printing HIPS with ABS

To 3D print HIPS as a support for ABS, you need a dual extruder 3D printer. By using ABS in one extruder and HIPS in the other, you can print your model in ABS, and dissolve the HIPS supports away afterwards.

HIPS supports ABS by being printed in areas where there are overhangs or any area where gravity would pull the print out of shape before it solidifies. As the two materials print at similar temperatures, printing HIPS supports also helps minimize warping and deforming when they are layered together.

Is HIPS recyclable?

Yes, HIPS is fully recyclable. However, check your local recycling center to ensure they accept HIPS before attempting to recycle it.

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