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A richer 3D printing file format is growing in popularity

Stereolithography (STL) is the oldest and most popular format for 3D printing files. But an influential group that believes STL’s long reign should end has been pushing an alternative called the 3D Manufacturing Format (3MF).


According to the group, known as the 3MF Consortium, 3MF allows design programs to send full-fidelity 3D models to other 3MF-compatible programs, platforms, services, and printers. A complete package of model information—including data on colors, textures, and materials—can be contained and delivered in a single file.


Introduced in 2015, 3MF started out as a Microsoft initiative. When the idea for it was conceived, “the file formats available were ancient,” said Alexander Oster, director of additive manufacturing at Autodesk Inc. and chairman of the 3MF Consortium’s technical working group. STL, Oster added, dates back to the 1980s. Besides being old—STL dates back to the 1980s—it is […]


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