3D Print File Format – What Format Do 3D Printers Use?

You will encounter different file formats while working on 3D printing projects. Each format has its own characteristics, which makes each file format different from the others. Some formats are linked to the 3D software, some are linked to the printer manufacturers, while some file formats are created by the scanners.

Below is the list of the most common 3D printing file formats used by people in the 3D printing industry with help from: ParagonStar.

3D Printer File Format – What File Formats Are Used?


STL is the abbreviation of STereoLithography. It is the most commonly used file format in 3D printing, as you can export it through many CAD software and printing systems. These files have only one color, making them unsuitable for multi-color printer models.


After .STL, .OBJ is the leading file format for 3D printing. It contains various pieces of information such as the color, temperature, texture, etc. Unlike an STL file, it can store multi-colored information. Many 3D printers and 3D software support both .stl and .obj file formats


.gcode, also called .g or .gco . mentioned, is the file format in which G-code instructions are stored. Slice programs are used to create it. These programs convert a CAD model into G-codes that your 3D printer can understand.


3MF (short for 3D Manufacturing Format) was first created in 2015 by Microsoft. At the time, their goal was to make the printing process easier when using Windows 10. It is an XML based data format which is also open source. Compared to the .STL, .3MF stores more aspects (colors, texture, material, etc.) of the 3D model.


VRML stands for Virtual Reality Modeling Language. It is the newest form of file format as compared to the STL. It can only store one UV color model at a time, making it suitable for colored 3D models. It’s not as popular as STL, but it provides color-related information, making it more beneficial when dealing with colored models.


AMF is an abbreviation of Additive Manufacturing File Format (more information). It is also an XML based data file that can store multiple colors. These files are compressible and you can reduce them to half their original size. They can store a lot of object-related information, for example the texture, metadata, constellation and material. Although this format can store more information compared to the STL format, it is still not widely used.


FBX (which stands for Filmbox) is a proprietary file format that has been owned by Autodesk for over 10 years. People use the .fbx file format when they need to share data between different Autodesk programs. It helps improve workflow, making it widely used for game development.


X3G is a binary file format, which means that it can also store information about printer settings. So it will not only contain information about the 3D model, but also information such as how fast the print speed should be when printing. This file is suitable for Makerbot 3D printers.

Last updated: July 5, 2021