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Prusa Joins 3MF Consortium

Josef Prusa announcing 3MF Consortium membership [Source: Prusa Research/YouTube]

Prusa Research quietly announced they’ve joined the 3MF Foundation in a live video this week.

In the company’s weekly “Prusa Live” YouTube show, CEO Josef Prusa announced some important news. He said:

“We became members of the 3MF Consortium, which is wonderful, and we have been pushing the 3MF for quite some time. This is a way we can influence its future and hopefully push for more standard ways to save additional stuff, not just 3D models into the 3MF files, for example, custom supports.”

You can hear the announcement, which begins at the 17 minute mark of the 73-minute episode, here yourself:

Prusa added:

“This is a big thing.”

And he’s quite correct, this is indeed a big thing.

3MF is an increasingly popular format for representing digital data for 3D printing. Its objectives are:

  • Complete: Containing all of the necessary model, material and property information in a single archive
  • Human Readable: Using common structures such as OPC, ZIP, and XML to ease development
  • Simple: A short, clear specification, making development easy and validation fast
  • Extensible: Leveraging XML namespaces allow for both public and private extensions while maintaining compatibility
  • Unambiguous: Clear language and conformance tests ensure a file is always consistent from digital to physical
  • Free: Access to and implementation of the 3MF specification is and will always be free of royalties, patents and licensing

Readers familiar with the old STL format will note that perhaps the only point that matches with 3MF is that they are both free. Otherwise, 3MF is massively superior to STL in almost all aspects.

STL was developed in the 1980s to support the rudimentary original 3D printers of that time. However, time has moved on and the deficiencies of STL have increasingly become problematic. A typical example of STL’s inadequacy is that it is entirely possible to create a syntactically valid STL file that presents an ambiguous and essentially unprintable 3D model. It’s because of this issue that “repair” applications and services exist.

If everyone used 3MF these and other problems would decrease significantly, but it’s a huge effort to move users, software and in some cases hardware to 3MF.

Prusa Research has been doing their part for several years by including 3MF capability within their popular PrusaSlicer. This software has proven so useful that’s it’s often used for non-Prusa 3D printers, and thus it carries 3MF power to a vast chunk of the 3D print universe.

3MF began as a way to solve the dilemma facing industry when using STL: the old format simply did not offer sufficient capabilities for use in modern manufacturing. While STL was almost sufficient for rough prototyping work, things look a lot different when moving to production, as the industry has been doing in the past few years. 3MF was necessary, and will be even more so in the future.

But you might wonder why Prusa Research chose to join the consortium directly: why could they not simply have used the format like everyone else?

The answer is that they hope to use their seat at the table to encourage the introduction of useful extensions to the file format standard. They seem to have a number of interesting ideas for allowing cross platform capabilities. For example, if you have a 3MF file sliced in Ultimaker Cura, you might be able to open it in PrusaSlicer and carry forward and adjust some of the properties in the file for use on a Prusa device. There are a great many possibilities here.

The members of the 3MF Consortium are largely dominated by big players that mostly focus on the needs of industry. However, with Prusa Research now at the table the topics of discussion could shift somewhat to the benefit of more casual 3D printer operators.

Via 3MF Consortium and Prusa Research

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