3MF, a new promising format for 3D printing

In Archive by trinckle team

Since August 2015, we fully implemented the new 3D file format 3MF into the trinckle 3D and MeltWerk 3D printing service.

Here is a short (by no means complete) Q&A to 3MF for those of you not yet familiar with the format.

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The “3D Manufacturing Format”, short 3MF, is a container format issued by the 3MF consortium, with the goal of creating a new standard 3D format for all applications from modeling to manufacturing.
The consortium consists of well known 3D printing players like Materialise, Shapeways, 3D System and Stratasys as well as global tech powerhouses like HP and Siemens under the leadership of Microsoft.

You can find the full list of members here.

I’ll leave this one to some of the CEOs from the 3MF consortium’s members.
“There is a pressing need for a standardized data format for large additive manufacturing organizations […]” Carl Fruth, CEO, FIT AG
“A new format will enable anyone to fully use 3D printing to its current potential, and, most importantly, will be adaptable for future technological advances.” Gian Paolo Bassi, CEO, SOLIDWORKS, Dassault Systèmes
“With the rapid adoption of 3D printing capabilities and increased usage across industries, the need for a file format that can accurately and completely transfer data from a CAD system to a 3D printer became instantly obvious.”
Carl Fruth, CEO, FIT AG
As stated above, the 3MF is a package format, i.e. a file format able to contain different classes of information, as well as other files.

The 3D model sits at the core, and is composed of different meshes, each of which can be assigned with different 3D texture i.e. material or color. Metadata can be encapsulated in the file as well.

3MF files follow XML and are therefore human readable.

For more information read the 3MF Core Specifications.

Due to it’s versatility, 3MF can be used from designing to CAD all the way to the actual 3D printing process.

So no more interoperability issues between different softwares or steps in the design cycle, provided the format is accepted as new standard.

This is where the consortium itself is an advantage, since it can facilitate the broad adoption of 3MF as a new standard 3D file format.

STL is the standard 3D file format right now. While there is nothing wrong with it per se, it is very limited, since it contains only one 3D shape described as a mesh of triangles.

3MF on the other hand can contain several 3D objects and encode for color, material and other information.
It also provides a clear definition of manifoldness, a major source of error in STL files.

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