Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Microsoft Unleashes the 3MF File Format for 3D Printing, Launches 3MF Consortium

ST Medical Devices

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31It’s been a long five days since we initially broke the news that Microsoft would be unveiling details about a new 3D Printing Consortium as well as file format which will make 3D printing easier for those running the Windows 10 operating system and beyond. As Microsoft’s Build Conference kicked off yesterday, anticipation for the presentation by Emmett Lalish and Steve Olsson at 6:30 PM this evening has been growing, as the two are expected to unveil details we have all been eagerly waiting to see. Luckily, if you are a reader of 3DPrint.com, you see these details now!

To start, the new consortium is called the 3MF Consortium (A Joint Development Foundation project) and will initially be made up of the following seven companies: Microsoft, HP, Shapeways, Autodesk, Dassault Systems, netfabb and SLM Solutions. The consortium, we are told, will not be limited to membership, and has set out to spread the use of a unified file format which closes the design loop. What this means is that from design to print, only one file is required, and there will be no loss of information what-so-ever in the process. The consortium will work to define this file format that will allow ‘full-fidelity’ 3D models to be sent to other applications, services, platforms, and printers, eliminating issues found with current file formats like .STL. It will allow 32companies and designers to concentrate on innovation rather than interoperability issues. Some of these issues include:

  • AMF, STL: Too many features, or too few
  • IGES, STEP: NURBS: High barrier to entry
  • OBJ, VRML: Poor in manufacturability

“We’re proud to be a founding member of the 3MF Consortium and eager to lend our expertise with Spark, our open 3D printing platform, towards a new 3D printing file format that unlocks the tremendous promise of this technology, stated Samir Hanna, vice president and general manager, Consumer and 3D Printing, Autodesk.”

The file format, called .3MF, is being adopted by the consortium today with their full backing. The file format has existed for years, by now Microsoft has completely overhauled it.  Below you will find some of the benefits of the 3MF format:

  • All the information of a model is contained within one single archive34
  • Designed specifically to be an additive manufacturing format
  • Will clearly define human readable compressed XML and well known binary formats like PNG & JPEG
  • Format is extensible, allowing for information to be added
  • Supports transforms and object references
  • Open royalty-free specification from 3MF members who agreed to make necessary patent claims available

“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,” stated Gian Paolo Bassi, CEO, SOLIDWORKS, Dassault Systèmes.

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The great thing about the .3MF format is that it’s able to adapt to future technologies, setting a baseline which can be used to add new capabilities as new technologies develop, something previous 3D model file formats have not been able to accomplish.

Without a doubt, this is huge news for the entire 3D design and printing industry, and may have some fairly large implications moving forward. Let us know your thoughts on this new consortium and file format. Discuss in the 3MF Format forum thread on 3DPB.com.  Specifications for the 3MF format will be made available here shortly.

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