In 2015, a group of 3D printing companies set out to develop a new and better 3D printing file format, called 3MF. The stl file format, developed already back in the 1980s was, and is, limiting, especially if you want to add additional information to your 3D file. In light of new 3D printer solutions, such as HP’s new colour printers, the stl file format simply isn’t enough.
The 3D Manufacturing Format (3MF) is a 3D printing format that allows design applications to send full-fidelity 3D models to a mix of other applications, platforms, services and printers. The 3MF specification allows companies to focus on innovation, rather than on basic interoperability issues, and it is engineered to avoid the problems associated with other 3D file formats.
This year, the 3MF file format has seen some progress. In an interview with TCT Magazine, Adrian Lannin, Executive Director for the 3MF Consortium, says that the goal for the organization in 2019 has been to become an industry leader in colour. He believes that the 3MF format is a key component of the best additive manufacturing solutions.
Proof of the 3MF Consortium’s work with colour can be seen in the recently launched HP MJF 500 printer series. In their 3D printers, HP is using the 3MF file format natively. This allows users to control colour in a 3D file, down to individual voxels, or three dimensional pixel.
In the last couple of years, the 3MF file format has seen a few updates that add to its capabilities. Some are focusing on materials, properties and production workflow, others for more complex design work, such as beam lattice and slicing.
Many well-known brands work with the 3MF Consortium to add 3MF support to their solutions. Some of these are Solidworks, HP, Materialise and 3D Systems. We will most likely see more updates to the file format in the near future and more companies added to the list of partners.
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