The STL file format is a native format for computer aided design (CAD). The STL file format was created by the Albert Consulting Group in 1987 for 3D Systems as way to transfer three dimensional models to the first commercial 3D printers.
The STL format takes a series of linked triangles to recreate the surface geometry of a solid model. The more triangles used in the model, the more detailed the model can be represented. Each triangle facet is described by three vertices which represent the corners of the triangle and a normal, the STL file format is a listing of these coordinates.
Because of the simplicity of the files, the format is one of the most popular file formats in the 3D Printing Industry. It has been used by hobbyists and professionals for almost 30 years.
- Simplicity, even most complex models can be easily constructed by the use of triangles.
- STL files can be created or altered quickly from a text editor and can be exported from almost all CAD programs.
- Based on the advantages above, the STL is one of the most widely accepted file formats across the industry.
- Doesn’t represent color or texture, it can only be printed in a monochrome format.
- There isn’t any metadata that could credit the author or copyright the file.
.OBJ + MTL (3D Object File)
The OBJ file format is a developed by by WaveFront Technologies for its Advanced Visualizer animation package. It is a open, universally accepted by 3D Graphics Applications. Similar to the STL, it is a simple data format that contains the mesh, the faces, vertex, edges, etc.
Something unique to OBJ files is that is capable of including color and texture by way of an accompanying file format, .MTL. The MTL, Material Template Library, is a companion file format that includes surface shading (material) properties.
- Transferring Geometry from one 3D application to another.
- Every DCM, Dimensional Constraint Manager, supports it.
- They can encode 3D mesh topology and process non-triangular faces
- Can’t contain animations
- Requires the MTL File for surface shading properties
The FBX file format was developed by Kaydara, for its motion capture devices. It was acquired by Autodesk and is used to provide interoperability between digital content creation applications such as 3ds Max, Maya, MotionBuilder, Mudbox, Rhino and other propriety and third-party software. FBX files support a number geometry, materials and textures, animation, deformations, and other attributes.
Key takeaway: the FBX format is a proprietary file format used by Autodesk and it’s software suite. ”
- Single-step interoperability, interoperability workflows between certain Autodesk 3D animation software
- FBX files can be converted from .OBJ, .DXF, .3DS, and .DAE (COLLADA).