Every once in a while you’ll run into a problem when 3D printing After some diagnosis you’ll realize the root cause of your issue was STL, the prehistoric file format most commonly used by the personal 3D printing industry.
There’s no other way to say it, but STL sucks. It permits invalid 3D models in several ways, it doesn’t include any information about color or texture. It’s time it was replaced.
It has already been replaced.
It’s been replaced by AMF, the Additive Manufacturing File Format, approved in 2011 as a standard for 3D models, particularly focusing on 3D printing features. AMF ensures valid 3D models, includes both color and texture information as well as including data describing materials to use during printing and even allowing curved triangles!
But why can’t you use this amazing format? It seems that there are two roadblocks.
First, major 3D modeling software vendors haven’t added AMF capability in their products. They have said it is because they have not had demand from their customers, and that’s likely true at this early stage. But another unstated reason could be they want to focus client activity on their own proprietary formats and thus make it more likely the client doesn’t move to another software tool.
The second reason is 3D printer manufacturer support. While all 3D printers today accept STL files, very few if any accept raw AMF files. It’s not clear to us why this is so, as the addition of AMF compatibility would not decrease interest in a 3D printer; in fact, it may raise interest.
What should happen? We’d like the 3D printer manufacturers to begin pushing AMF capability by adding it to their driver software. Once available, it should simplify their systems. Consider the unusual and unique ways several personal 3D printer manufacturers have gone about implementing color capability; they’ve had to do this because STL simply doesn’t work. There’s no good way to handle color unless you change the file format.
Let’s start changing things today. We’ve had it with STL!