Additive Manufacturing Strategies

3MF Consortium Aims to Set New Standards for 3D Printing Files; GE Global Research Joins

ST Medical Devices

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3mfThe 3MF Consortium aims to make some changes to the very foundation of 3D printing–and that begins with files. Concerned with file formats and a lack of standards for what is still a fledgling industry in many ways, their goal is to rid the industry of ‘inadequate formats,’ which offer far too much opportunity for failure in 3D models. As an industry-wide consortium, they hope to be able to release a specification expediently that will allow innovative companies to focus on creating and inventing rather than dealing with ‘interoperability issues’ that take up unnecessary time.

The idea is to provide a new file format that is:

  • Complex in the model description, offering and retaining internal information, color, and a range of characteristics
  • Able to support new 3D printing innovations
  • Interoperable
  • Highly useful and able to be broadly adopted
  • Issue free

GE_globalresearch_logoNow, it should be interesting to see what happens as heavy hitter GE Global Research has joined forces with a founding membership.

As with most endeavors GE is involved in, when it comes to 3D printing they are also pioneers. We’ve followed with great interest as they’ve opened new and large facilities such as the one in Auburn, Alabama, which operates as the first mass production additive manufacturing facility in the US. Many may be surprised to find out how involved–and invested–GE is within 3D printing, and especially to discover that they are the world’s largest user of additive technologies with metals.

“With the successful integration of 3D printed metal parts in two different jet engine platforms and the construction of GE Aviation’s $50 million state-of-the-art high-volume additive production plant in Auburn, Alabama, we achieved major milestones with our additive program in 2015,” said Prabhjot Singh, Manager of the Additive Manufacturing Lab at GE Global Research. “But we have only scratched the surface on additive’s potential. With even better design tools, machines and new materials, we can dramatically expand the additive industry’s footprint in manufacturing. That future will arrive faster through the strong ecosystem that 3MF is building to bring the right stakeholders together to accelerate new innovations and breakthroughs in this space.”

tumblr_nysljjV2o01qk4ealo1_1280Many may also be surprised to find that those working with 3MF find that the most common 3D file format, that of .stl, has ‘significant limitations and issues,’ and they see 3D printing having progressed past many of that file type’s abilities. With the new 3MF file specification, they hope to evolve past the .stl as well as eliminating issues associated with it.

“GE Global Research is a recognized leader with real-world experience using 3D printing and additive manufacturing to drive innovation,” said Adrian Lannin, 3MF Consortium executive director. “We look forward to working with GE Global Research to enrich the 3MF standard and create new opportunities for both 3D printing and the additive manufacturing ecosystem.”

According to the consortium’s website, 3MF is an XML-based data format made up of data definitions for 3D manufacturing–as well as including third-party extensibility for custom data. The consortium is a Joint Development Foundation project and their end goal is to define a 3D printing format that will allow design applications to send full-fidelity 3D models to a mix of other applications, platforms, services, and printers.

Launched in 2015, the 3MF Consortium offers either founding or associate memberships. Members work collaboratively to develop, enhance, and promote the 3MF specification. Other founding members are 3D Systems; Autodesk; Dassault Systèmes.; FIT; HP, Inc.; Materialise; Microsoft; Shapeways; Siemens PLM Software; SLM Solutions Group; Stratasys, and Ultimaker. Discuss your thoughts on the consortium’s goals in the New 3D Printing File Format forum over at 3DPB.com.

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