One of the most frustrating problems that one can run into in 3D printing is an unsupported file format, particularly when utilizing online 3D printing services such as Shapeways and i.materialise. The vast array of options to choose from when it comes to 3D printing software is great, but it gets difficult when each type of software uses its own file format with its own features and quirks. Meanwhile, as more specialized online printing services are being offered by startups, chances are that you’ll run into some incompatibility issues between your native files and the file formats accepted by online services.
While files can be exported or converted, i.materialise would like to make the lives of designers easier by eliminating that step in as many cases as possible. This week they announced that they have expanded their list of accepted file formats, including both their online and offline pricing options, to include a total of 42. If you’re unfamiliar with the site, online prices, i.materialise explains, can be quoted instantly once a supported file is uploaded. Offline prices take a bit longer: the files can either be emailed to the company or uploaded as .zip or .rar files to be handled by support engineers. Currently supported formats include:
- Accepted file types for online prices: .3ds .stl .igs .model .mxp .obj .wrl .3dm .fbx .matpart .zip .rar .7s .skp .dae .ply .magics .mgx .x3d .x3dv .3MF
- Accepted file types for offline prices: .matAMX .amf .ndo .asc .cli .slc .mtt .mdck .cls .f&s .ssl .sli .jt .prj .sat .CATPart .CATProduct .dxf .zcp .prt .asm
The latest format to be accepted by the site is .3MF, the new upstart of a file format that caused great excitement when it was introduced by Microsoft in April. I.materialise’s parent company, Materialise, joined the 3MF Consortium in July, becoming the latest of a growing number of 3D printing companies joining forces to support and develop the new format, which is expected to dominate the industry in the future.
If your file format of choice isn’t listed above, take heart: i.materialise assures users that they will continue to add to their collection of supported file formats according to demand, as long as the files are technically suitable for their printing services.
The company has demonstrated in the past that they are willing to put a lot of effort into making 3D printing easy and accessible to their customers. In August, they meticulously researched and compiled a list of the top 25 most popular 3D printing software on the market, making it easier for newcomers to choose wisely from the overwhelming number of 3D modeling tools vying for their business. Until a universal file format is developed for 3D printing, which the developers working on .3MF aim to do, we can thank companies like i.materialise for making it just a little bit easier to navigate through the muck.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this move by i.materialise in the 3MF File Format forum thread on 3DPB.com.