The capabilities of modern 3D printers have outstripped the capabilities of the 3D printing file formats commonly used today. People are unable to access the full potential of 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing because of basic limitations in core technologies used by 3D printing.
Popular 3D printing file formats are information poor. STL was designed in 1989 and describes surface geometry without color or texture. Meanwhile, modern 3D printers, even low cost devices, are capable of printing items that are difficult or impossible to describe using existing formats. The 3D printing process today requires people to perform numerous unproductive activities that prevent us from realizing the full potential of 3D printing.
Left: 3D Model (mesh view), Center: 3D Model (surface color render), 3D Print (Colorstone with surface color)
To empower people, maximize productivity, and unlock the full capabilities of this technology, a new file format is needed. It should align CAD software, 3D printing hardware and software on a more information-rich file format, specifically designed to support the needs of modern 3D printing. The file format must support information interchange throughout the entire 3D printing process, from CAD application to printer. The file format must contain a complete definition of the printed model, in a way that allows unambiguous and accurate processing of the model. Finally, the file format must be practical, simple to understand and easy to implement.
A new industry consortium has been formed to do this important work. Last week at the Inside 3D Printing conference, HP announced their commitment to this work. Next week, at the Build conference, in the session "Developing 3D Printing Applications and Services in Windows 10" on the afternoon of Thursday April 30th, Microsoft will explain how to learn more about the consortium and the format. If you can't attend the Build conference, check back here after the conference for additional information.