File Formats for 3D Printers

There are four main file formats for 3d printers File Formats for 3D Printers : file formats

.stl

.amf

.dae

and .obj

File Formats for 3d Printers .stl

This is still the most popular, but I can see this fading away into the distance with new printers coming onto the market. The limitations of the .stl (stereolithography) format will not allow the addition of colour – so two colour printer will struggle to use the file format without major modifications. The colour mixing of the Zmorph printer already uses their own software rather than the usual slicer.

This file type can be opened with:

Windows Cura
Repetier
Geomagic
Meshlab
Mac Meshlab
Cheetah3d
Glcplayer
Linux Meshlab
Glcplayer

 

File Formats For 3d Printers .amf

As time goes on and 3d printers become more complex the need for a new standard was identified. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) released an open format .AMF file type.

It is XML based and is designed to be simple, scalable, forwards and backwards compatible.

It uses triangular meshes to describe surfaces. Colours are described using the RGBA ( red, green, blue and alpha channels) values.

This file type can be opened with :

Windows Meshmixer
Cura
Repetier
Mac Meshmixer
Cura
Repetier
Linux Meshmixer

 

File Formats for 3d Printers .dae

Sony developed the .dae file format with a view to exchanging digital assets between multiple graphics programs.

Based on the COLLADA ( COLLAborative Design Activity) xml schema, now owned and developed by Autodesk.

The COLLADA format is now supported jointly by sony and the Kronos group.

This file type can be opened with:

Windows Autocad
Bently Systems
Daz 3d
Trimble Sketchup
Luxology Modo
Photoshop CC2017
blender – with plugin
Cura
Repetier
Mac Photoshop CC2017
Apple Preview
Daz 3d
Trimble Sketchup
Luxology Modo
Cheetah3d
Glcplayer
Linux Glcplayer
Google Sketchup
Blender- with plugin

 

File Formats For 3d Printers .obj

The .obj format is widely considered to be the universal format for 3d image editing applications.

The file contains 3d co-ordinates, texture maps polygonal faces along with other information.

It can be opened by the widest range of programs

This file type can be opened with:

Windows Lightwave 3d
Photoshop CC2017
Maya 2017
Daz 3d
Turbocad Pro 2016
Blender
Meshlab
Cinema 4d
Solidworks
Autocad
Solidedge
Cura
Repetier
Mac Lightwave 3d
Photoshop CC2017
Maya 2017
Daz 3d
Turbocad Deluxe V10
Cheetah3d
Blender
Meshlab
Cinema4d
Linux Maya 2017
Meshlab
Blender
Glc player

 

XML format

xml is a widely used format, which in itself does not do anything. It is only when a program is written to take the information and display it in a form the user understands that it becomes useful.

The xml author must define both the tags and the document structure.

The tags – like in html <H1>, <table> are specific to each application.

The file format has been designed to be forwards and backwards compatible.

File Format For 3d Printers .gcodeFile Formats for 3D Printers : gcode

This file format is also known as RS-274. It has been used for donkey’s years in the electronics industry and later in the CNC mechanical machines.

It tells the computer aided machines how to do something.

The CNC gcode tells the machine to move a tool to a certain position and start cutting.

The same concept has been adopted by non-cutting machines such as photoplotters and 3d printers.

Different codes are used for different functions, the file is in text so can be looked at with notepad.

The slicer program you use takes care of the translation between the output of your cad and the gcode necessary to drive the printer.

So every time the printer moves to a new location or feeds more filament this is a line of code.

The Future File Formats For 3d Printers

In the future I can see the file format for 3d printing changing fromFile Formats for 3D Printers : cad shaded gcode to something else. What, I don’t know. You will get the usual manufacturers wars on the formats with everything becoming incompatible with everything else.

At some time a consortium of manufacturers will group together and sit down and talk through the problems.

They will take a few years to agree, but in the end will come up with a workable idea for a new specification to take the industry forward.

This is all assuming there is the take up form the consumers. If the File Formats for 3D Printers : cad meshdemand isn’t there then it will stay as it is and not grow. This would be a shame as there is a lot of potential in the industry for good. Bringing back designing to the common people, allowing freedom of expression again. Similar to the punk era of the 80’s.

Leave a comment in the box below with what you think would be a good move for the manufacturers to make with regards the file format for 3d printers?

Thanks for reading

Phil

2 thoughts on “File Formats for 3D Printers”

  1. During designing 3D models, you would come across a few various kinds of files. Some file types are owned by 3D printer manufacturers; some are related to design software, and some are produced by 3D scanners. so thanks a lot for giving us these overview about files.

    1. Hi Shalmali, thanks for dropping by and spending some time reading the article.
      With all of the different file types for all of the different processes it is no wonder that things do go wrong every now and then.
      I know that there will be a new standard for 3d printing coming out soon as the gcode is too limiting at the moment.
      Whether it will be an extension of Gcode or a new format is undecided.
      But once it is finalised i will update this blog to include it.

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