What File Format do 3D Printers Use?

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You perhaps have a 3D printer for your manufacturing business. After that, what’s next? Well, your job does not stop there! What are the file formats you can employ? In this article, you will know the common types of options. Read on for more information! 

What is the File Format for a 3D Printer? 

To print a three-dimensional object, its digital blueprint can play a critical role. What do you mean by 3D printer file format? It is simply a file that stores different data about a specific object, including the geometry, color, materials, and texture. 3D printer file formats serve as a tool for 3D printing. Although all options are ideal for printing purposes, only a few choices have become a go-to format. 

What makes a 3D Printer File Format Important? 

A 3D printer file format is critical for businesses of all sizes. It decides what information goes to a company’s technology. Did you know that the 3D printer file serves as an information carrier from the CAD model to a printing device? Yes, you heard it right! But remember that not all formats can carry a variety of information. 

When printing a particular material with a single color, STL can come into play. For multi-color printing, consider other file formats for your optimal convenience. 

Another reason why a 3D printer file format is imperative is that it is tightly coupled. While some are compatible with a range of software, others are a different case. 

The CAD software Blender, for example, is ideal for importing or exporting any STL files. However, it doesn’t support the 3MF 3D printer file format. so, turn into another CAD software with all the necessary capabilities. But it can cause a dent in your savings account. Plus, it is not easy to use, which requires a lot of time to learn. 

Common Types of 3D Printer File Formats 

STL – First 3D Printer File Format 

Searching for the most common file format in 3D printing? Don’t look further than the STL. Since 1987, it has been considered as the de facto standard in the industry. 

STL, Standard Triangle Language, is the first-ever file format designed for 3-Dimensional printing purposes with “.stl” as the file extension.

What makes the format special is that any STL files can save 3D models. Then, it can turn the model into a triangular mesh. However, it cannot display its color, texture, and other information. 

When to Use? 

STL has been a trusted file format for designers. It’s no wonder as it offers great flexibility. In fact, it supports almost any piece of hardware or software, which allows you to use any CAD programs, slicers, and repair tools with peace of mind. 

STL file format is also effective when your 3D model necessitates a single color. For those who want to download a wide array of 3D models, the STL file format has got you covered. 

OBJ – Precision 

Another file format 3D printers use is the Wavefront OBJect (OBJ). How does it work? How is it different from STL? Well, it is a 3D printer file format that’s used as a neutral interchange format in printing 3D graphics. Its extension is .obj

Compared to STL, OBJ is designed to encode color or even texture information. It supports surface geometry’s accurate coding. In other words, it doesn’t curb the surface mesh into a triangular facet. It also enables everyone to use polygons, including quadrilaterals. But it is not an ideal tool for animation purposes. 

When to Use? 

While STL is perfect for 3D models with a single color, OBJ is used when a 3D object needs more than one color. Like STL, it has been a favorite tool for designers because of its flexibility. With the continuous innovation of developers, OBJ can encode the geometry of 3D models. 

What else? OBJ provides other features like free-form curves, free-form surfaces, and other advanced schemes. All of these features are employed in encoding curved geometry without data loss. 

Whether you’re in the automotive or aerospace industry, this file format is an excellent addition to your technology. Thanks to its precision. 

AMF – A Great STL Alternative 

AMF was basically an auxiliary for STL file format when introduced back in 2011. Commonly called STL 2.0, AMF was specially designed to address the drawbacks of STL. With its development, designers can now address issues in material or texture information. 

As an XML-based format, AMF supports geometry, duplicates, orientation, scales, and lattices. Unlike the STL file, AMF is a superior format 3D printing businesses cannot afford to miss. 

Despite its technical advantage, 3D printing industries are not able to incorporate the technology into their network. 

When to Use? 

When your 3D model requires multiple materials, multi-colors or precision, AFM, 3D file format should be on top of your list. With its capability, it guarantees that every file is easy to read, process, or write. 

Apart from planar straight triangles, AMF is designed for curved triangles.  Having said that, you can label a curved surface without using various faces. This saves your time, reduces cost, and streamlines your procedures over time. 

3MF – Complicated 3D Objects 

Over the years, developers have been looking for solutions to address the problems associated with STL. After decades of research and innovation, the 3MF 3D printer file has been possible. Thanks to Microsoft, Autodesk, Ultimaker, 3D Systems, EOS, Stratasys, and other big companies. 

Unlike STL, 3MF was made with a goal to create a high-quality and seamless 3D printing experience for manufacturers, consumers and other folks around the globe. 

3MF features a more compact geometry representation than the AMF 3D printer file or STL. Despite this, only a few manufacturers and companies incorporate this development into their technology. So, it requires more industry recognition. 

When to Use? 

Do you want to avoid print failures or low-quality geometry? Then, 3MF is the go-to solution. Used by designers, the file format can handle 3D models that utilize different materials and colors. It is also ideal for complicated 3D objects.

So, what’s your choice? Before anything else, determine your needs. From there, pick the solution that suits your expectations!

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