Microsoft Launches a New 3D Printing File Format

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Last year Microsoft announced the launching of a new 3D printing file format. The software giant is reclaiming its place as an technology industry leader by entering the fast-growing world of  3D printing. The 3MF is intended to replace the current STL file format and Microsoft promises it’ll combine all the capabilities of the current popular formats  and lack their without drawbacks.

The world’s largest software maker has established a 3MF Consortium which operates as a Joint Development Project where multiple companies work to develop the format and maintain its specifications. The founding members of the Consortium are Microsoft, 3DSystems, Dassault Systemes, Shapeways, HP and other leading 3D companies.

3FM Consortium members image, 3D printing file format

Their promise

  • The 3MF file format will be rich enough to fully describe a model, retaining internal information about colour and other characteristics
  • It will be extensible so that it supports innovations in 3D printing
  • Interpolable
  • Useful and broadly adopted
  • Free of the issues besetting other widely used formats

If the 3MF Consortium succeeds in developing a format which is clear of all the failure points of other formats, it could have a tremendous impact on the entire industry and unlock many opportunities.

Embrace, extend, extinguish?

In the same time, many within the 3D printing community were not too excited to see Microsoft being the main driving force behind the new 3D printing format. Indubitably, the 3MF looks very promising. However, critics see it as an easy way for Microsoft to sweep into 3D printing space and gain a dominating influence on over the entire industry. The company has often been criticised for the proprietary extensions it has implemented on widely used standards in the past.

3D printing technology is a marvelous innovation which has the potential to impact and bring a positive change in almost any field. In the past new technologies have been subjects to secrecy and patents. On the other hand, the 3D printing community is built around the principles collaboration, support and sharing. We are passionate about every aspect of this industry, thus we hope the spirit of cooperation and openness will be nurtured as it grows and develops. We hope Microsoft will respect this openness.