A New File Standard for 3D Printing

Microsoft, FIT Additive Manufacturing Group/netfabb, Hewlett-Packard, Dassault Systèmes, Autodesk, Shapeways and SLM Solutions have joined ranks around 3MF

3D printing is continuously gaining importance in consumer markets and even more so in industrial manufacturing. Now seven companies have announced the formation of a consortium to define and continuously develop a standard file format for 3D print data. The members of the consortium include four of the world‘s largest IT companies – Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Dassault Systèmes and Autodesk – and three leading 3D printing technology providers – FIT Additive Manufacturing Group/netfabb, Shapeways and SLM Solutions. The new standard is a complete overhaul of the already existing 3MF standard originally developed by Microsoft and has been published on the 3MF Consortium’s website. It is available free of charge under an open source license.

Computer systems so far had to support a multitude of file formats for 3D models in order to communicate with 3D printers. Despite these many formats, none of them, not even the most frequently used file format .STL, had acceptable capabilities to manage color and material specifications or more complex additive manufacturing jobs under Windows.

No surprise then that industry participants demanded an advanced standardized file format – similar to the .pdf format used in 2D printing. The founders of the new consortium have now taken an important step towards this goal and launched the new 3MF standard incorporating their hardware and software expertise.

A standard file format for 3D printing

The new standard – called 3MF – will greatly simplify additive manufacturing for product designers, development engineers, printer and software manufacturers and manufacturing organizations. The XML-based standard will be included in Windows 10 and represents a significant simplification of data exchange in additive manufacturing by eliminating the additional workload and error proneness of data conversion.

The new file standard and a number of application tools provided by Microsoft and netfabb are available for download from the consortium‘s website, http://www.github.com/3mfconsortium

netfabb has become a global 3D printing software specialist

Already last year, Microsoft commissioned the programming of several 3D printing features of Windows with netfabb GmbH. The company is a member of the FIT Additive Manufacturing Group, a leading provider of additive manufacturing. Since its foundation in 2009, netfabb has become a globally active provider of specialist software for 3D printing.

Next to Microsoft, clients include ExOne and Shapeways. “The fact that we have been able to incorporate the know-how of our young team into the new 3MF standard is a great motivation for us to advance the capabilities of our 3D printing software even further”, says Alexander Oster, CEO of netfabb and Chairman of the Technology Working Group of the 3MF Consortium.

32,900 components manufactured at the same time The netfabb team is based in Lupburg, Germany, and comprises 20 employees, mostly software developers. It specializes on software for industrial manufacturing processes. Its software is developed and used in the additive manufacturing processes of the FIT Additive Manufacturing Group.

The software therefore incorporates the FIT Additive Manufacturing Group know-how and experience in additive manufacturing. For example, only recently netfabb software was used to place 32,900 components for manufacture into one single additive manufacturing machine. Development of the netfabb software continues at a pace. In May
2015, netfabb will release version 6.0 of its hallmark product netfabb Professional with important new features for additive manufacturing applications.

About FIT Additive Manufacturing Group and netfabb:
Founded in 1995, FIT Additive Manufacturing Group is a leading German provider of rapid prototyping services, additive design and manufacturing (“ADM”) and 3D printing software via its subsidiaries FIT Prototyping GmbH, FIT Production GmbH and netfabb GmbH. Group revenue in 2014 was EUR 16.8 million – an increase of forty per cent versus prior year, with netfabb contributing EUR 3.8 million (up 370 per cent). FIT Additive Manufacturing Group employs approx. 190 people, most of them at the company’s headquarters in Lupburg, Germany. The FIT Additive Manufacturing Group operates two further subsidiaries, FIT Nord GmbH near Hamburg, Germany, and FIT West Corp. in Santa Clara, CA, USA. For more information about the FIT Additive Manufacturing Group and netfabb please visit www.pro-fit.de and www.netfabb.com.

About 3MF:
3MF is an industry consortium working to define a 3D printing format that will allow design applications to send full-fidelity 3D models to a mix of other applications, platforms, services and printers. Our goal is to provide a specification that eliminates the issues with currently available file formats, and allows companies to focus on innovation, rather than on basic interoperability issues. For more information about the consortium please visit http://www.3mf.io.

Free download of the first version of the specification from http://www.3mf.io/what-is-3mf

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