Submitting a file to a 3D printer (or a 3D printing company) may be the most intimidating thing about moving your manufacturing into 3D printing. It’s one thing to figure out how to design a product in software, but it is another to format it so that another entity can use it and bring your idea to life.
The most common type of file used for 3D printing is .STL. It is supported by most 3D printers and most CAD software will export files in .STl format. It will generate the surface information of the modeled object only.
.OBJ, on the other hand, is considered more complex. It represents more than just the surface info, but will also display color and texture for the modeled object. .OBJ is also widely supported by most 3D printers and most CAD software.
Why use.STL then? Most people involved in 3D printing prefer it because they find it simpler to use. Most 3D repair tools also work better with .STL than .OBJ. That said if you want to 3D print a multi-colored object, .OBJ is the file type you want.
Most CAD software will export .STL by default. In many of these programs, you will need to download and install a plugin to export a file as .OBJ.
What about .STP and .STEP files?
These two file types are often used to transfer designs between different CAD programs. Unlike .STL and .OBJ, they are not print-ready but allows for more extensive modification. These files will need to be opened and exported into another format before printing.
If you are sending a .STP or .STEP to a company for 3D printing, make sure to confirm with the company that you are asking for input on the design. If you are good with your design, then send in a .STL or .OBJ. In either case, be sure to open the file in another program before sending it in to ensure that it has exported correctly. Like with any file, they can save incorrectly.
At JawsTec we provide 3D printing design services as well as some of the latest in 3D printing technology. Our expert staff is ready to help you move your manufacturing into the new era of 3D printing. Questions? Shoot us a note here.
Written by: Kathryn Zurmehly