There are a lot of different file types that can be used to 3D print, but many users often wonder what they are and which one is the best file type.
The 3D printing file types include STL files, OBJ files, G-Code files, AMF files, and 3MF files. The best file type is considered to be STL because of its popularity and ease of use. The next best can be considered OBJ or 3MF since they hold more information that can be useful, but are larger files.
Keep reading for more information about what 3D printing file types are there.
What 3D Printing File Types Are There?
These are the most popular 3D printing file types:
- STL files
- OBJ files
- G-Code files
- AMF files
- 3MF files
Let’s go through each file type listed below.
- Most common file format for 3D printing
- Easy to create and modify
- Supported by almost all slicing and editing software
The STL file format is the most common file format used for 3D printing, and it’s supported by almost all slicing and editing software available today.
STL stands for Standard Triangle Language, and it’s a simple file format that consists of a series of connected triangles that represent the surface of a 3D model.
One of the benefits of using STL files for 3D printing is that they’re easy to create and modify. Most 3D modeling software can export STL files, and there are many websites where you can find free and paid STL files.
Users compared STL files to PDF files as they are the go-to file format to export the design that is “print ready”. They also stated that STL files are perfect when you don’t intend for the file to be edited.
Another user recommends sticking to STL files as they work better with most editing software than other file formats.
I wrote an article called Where to Find STL Files for 3D Printing – Thingiverse & Alternatives that can be useful for finding cool STL files to 3D print.
Check out the video below to find out where to find the best STL files for 3D printing.
- Popular file format with more advanced features than STL
- Can contain color, texture, and complex geometry data
- Used in various applications, including video games and virtual reality
- Perfect for multicolor printing
OBJ is another popular file format for 3D printing, and it’s also supported by many different slicing software and 3D printers.
The acronym stands for Object File Format, and it’s a more advanced file format than STL. OBJ files can contain more information about a 3D model, such as color and texture data, as well as more complex geometry.
One of the advantages of using OBJ files for 3D printing is that they can be used in a wider range of applications, such as video games and virtual reality.
These types of files can also be exported from most 3D modeling software, and they can be easily modified using a text editor.
Another user recommends OBJ files as they are more complex and have more information for rendering, textures and other material information. If you are planning to do normal 3D printing, OBJ files will work great.
He stated that it can be really useful for multicolor printing.
Check out the video below which explains the main differences between STL files and OBJ files.
- Special file format for controlling 3D printer movements
- Highly customizable and allows for modifications
- Not commonly shared due to printer-specific configurations
G-Code is a special file format that’s used to control the movements of a 3D printer, and it’s generated by slicing software such as Cura or Simplify3D.
These files contain instructions that tell the printer where to move and how fast to move, as well as other settings such as temperature and extrusion rate.
One of the benefits of using G-Code files for 3D printing is that they’re highly customizable. Advanced users can modify G-Code files to change the settings of their printer, or even create custom scripts that automate certain parts of the printing process.
One user recommends saving the G-Codes for prints that came out perfect so you can replicate those exact settings.
Another user stated that G-Codes are generally tailored to one specific printer and they also include all the other slicer settings that you may want to change later such as brim, skirt, supports, infill density, and more. That’s why this type of file is not usually the most shared.
I wrote an article called Best Free 3D Printer G-Code Files – Where to Find Them, which can help you find some cool G-Codes to print on your Ender 3.
Check out the video below for detailed information about G-Codes.
- Less common file format for 3D printing
- Supports more information about models, such as color, texture, and multiple materials
- Suitable for detailed prints, especially for complex designs
- May have limited software and machine support compared to STL and OBJ files
AMF is a less common file format for 3D printing, but it’s still supported by a lot of software such as Cura or Simplify3D.
The acronym stands for Additive Manufacturing File Format, and it’s designed to be more flexible than other file formats. These files can store more information about a 3D model, such as color and texture data, as well as multiple materials and other properties.
One of the benefits of using AMF files for 3D printing is that they can produce more accurate and detailed prints, especially when it comes to models with a lot of details.
It’s important to know that not all 3D modeling software supports AMF files, and they may not be as widely available as STL or OBJ files.
One user stated that while AMF is a new standard with many added features, it still lacks the software and machine support that STLs have. Another user also stated that while AMF is newer and supports more features, it isn’t as widely supported by all software.
- Relatively new file format
- Includes detailed information about materials, textures, colors, and geometry
- Produces compact files and is supported by slicers, CAD packages, and printer manufacturers
The 3MF (3D Manufacturing Format) file format is a relatively new file format that was developed with the goal of creating a better way of transmitting 3D printing information between software programs and 3D printers.
One of the main advantages of the 3MF file format is its ability to include more detailed information about a 3D model, such as materials, textures, and colors, in addition to the geometric data.
This makes it easier to create and share complex 3D printing designs and also allows for more flexibility in terms of choosing materials and colors for the final print.
One user stated that 3MF files are becoming the most loved alternative option for STL files, especially for people who care about technical details.
Another user stated that 3MF has some advantages over STL, and produces much more compact files as they are actually ZIP archives containing several components.
He also suggests using the file format as it is supported by all the common slicers, several CAD packages, and many printer manufacturers.
Check out the video below for more information about 3MF files.
What is the Best File Type for 3D Printing & Cura
Cura is one of the most popular slicing software out there and it supports a lot of different file types to be 3D printed such as STL, OBJ, AMF, and 3MF.
The best file type for 3D printing on Cura is considered to be STL and that’s because of its ease of use and widespread popularity. STL files have become the standard file format for sharing 3D printable models across different platforms and communities.
Users consider STL files the best format because they are easy to use and very popular, even if it doesn’t have all the features of more advanced file formats.
For anyone who is looking for a more advanced file format, users recommend using 3MF files. They are essentially zip files, they can contain the STL, G-Code, and other project files within it, as one user explained it.
Cura handles 3MF files really well and users can import, scale, position, and slice models very easily.
Check out the video below for detailed information about using 3MF files on Cura Slicer.