Home Technology 3D Printing File Format – What Format Do 3D Printers Use?

3D Printing File Format – What Format Do 3D Printers Use?

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You will encounter different file formats while working on 3D printing projects. Each format has its own characteristics, which make each file format different from the other formats. Some formats are linked to the 3D software, some are linked to the printer manufacturers, while some file formats are created by the scanners.

Below is the list of the most used 3D printing file formats that people use in the 3D printing industry, with help from ParagonStar.

3D Printer File Format – What File Formats are Used?


STL is the abbreviation of STereoLithography. It is the most commonly used file format in 3D printing, because you can export it through many CAD software and printing systems. These files only have one colour, which makes them unsuitable for multi-colour printer models.


After .STL, .OBJ is the leading 3D printing file format. It contains different pieces of information such as its colour, temperature, texture, etc. Unlike an STL file, it can store multi-colour information. Many 3D printers and 3D software support it both .stl and .obj file formats


.gcode, also called .g or .gco, is the file format that has G-code instructions stored in it. Slicing programs are used to create it. These programs transform a CAD model into G-codes that your 3D printer can comprehend.


3MF (abbreviation of 3D Manufacturing Format) was first created in 2015 by Microsoft. Back then, their aim was to make the printing process easier while using Windows 10. It is an XML-based data format that is also open-source. Compared to the .STL, .3MF stores more aspects (colours, texture, material, etc.) of the 3D model.


VRML stands for Virtual Reality Modeling Language. It is the latest form of file format compared to the STL. It can store only one UV colour model at a time, which makes it suitable for coloured 3D models. It is not as popular as STL, but it provides colour-related info, which makes it more beneficial when dealing with coloured models.


AMF is an abbreviation of Additive Manufacturing File Format (more info). It is also an XML-based data file that can store multiple colours. These files are compressible, and you can reduce them to half of their original size. They can store a lot of object-related information, for instance, its texture, metadata, constellation, and material. Even though this format can store more info compared to the STL format, it is still not used as widely.


FBX (that stands for Filmbox) is a propriety file format that is owned by Autodesk for more than 10 years. People use the .fbx file format when they need to share data between different programs of Autodesk. It helps with workflow improvement, due to which it is extensively used for game development.


X3G is a binary file format, which means it can store printer settings information as well. So, it will not only have 3D model information, but will also contain information, like how fast should the print speed work at while printing. This file is suitable for Makerbot 3D printers.

Last Updated: July 5, 2021

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