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3D Printing: On Standardizing 3D File Formats

By Formtek

Microsoft has recently organized a consortium of companies to create a standard and open file format for specifying 3D print objects.  The new file format is called the 3D Manufacturing Format (3MF) specification and an initial release of the specification is available for download.



Gavin Gear, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, said that the new file format would “empower people, maximize productivity, and unlock the full capabilities of this technology, a new file format is needed.  It should align CAD software, 3D printing hardware and software on a more information-rich file format, specifically designed to support the needs of modern 3D printing. The file format must support information interchange throughout the entire 3D printing process, from CAD application to printer. The file format must contain a complete definition of the printed model, in a way that allows unambiguous and accurate processing of the model. Finally, the file format must be practical, simple to understand and easy to implement.”


A Microsoft spokesperson said that “3MF is a file format that makes it possible to File->Print from an app to any supported 3D Printer on Windows. It is a file format specifically tailored for 3D Printing and Windows. 3MF supports colors, textures, scale, a print ticket containing recommended print options, and many other improvements. We believe 3MF is a step forward for the industry and ready for the next generation of 3D Printers.  The 3MF specification will empower people, maximize productivity, and unlock the full capabilities of 3D printing.”

Some of the goals of the new 3D print file format are:

  • Highly descriptive to be able to include model geometry, color, and other characteristics
  • Extensible so that it can adopt to future requirements and 3D printing innovation
  • Interoperable and Open
  • Practical and easy to implement
  • More robust than existing 3D printing file formats

Founding members of the 3MF Consortium include Dassault Systèmes S.A.FIT AG/netfabb GmbHMicrosoft CorporationHPShapeways, Inc.SLM Solutions Group AG; and Autodesk Inc.

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2 comments on “3D Printing: On Standardizing 3D File Formats
  1. MRP software says:

    Good news. The huge number of different 3d file formats makes difficult to work with 3d models in any software application.

  2. We already have two other XML based 3D formats, X3D and Collada.
    There is no need to reinvent the wheel.
    Just join their groups and help define ONE standard instead of adding a third.

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