Apr. 26, 2015 | By Kira

Microsoft has just announced that it will reveal information on its new 3D printing file format in Windows 10 at this year’s Build conference in San Francisco. The software giant believes that current file formats are outdated, and that by aligning CAD software with 3D printing hardware and software on an information-rich format, they can unleash the full potential of 3D printing.  

In a post by Microsoft’s own Gavin Gear, who was also a part of the announcement back in 2013 that Windows 8.1 would provide native support for 3D printing, the company stated that current file formats are information poor, and cannot stand up to the capabilities of modern 3D printers. “People are unable to access the full potential of 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing because of basic limitations in core technologies used by 3D printing,” said Gear.

He gives the example of STL, a format that is already 26 years old and cannot describe color or texture. Meanwhile, today’s low-cost, hobby-level 3D printers can print objects that are difficult or impossible to describe using such formats. Clearly, there is a discrepancy between existing software and hardware capabilities that limits what we can accomplish with 3D printing.

To remedy this situation, Microsoft envisions a next generation file format that will “empower people, maximize productivity, and unlock the full capabilities of this technology.” Such a format, the company goes on, “should align CAD software, 3D printing hardware and software on a more information-rich file format, specifically designed to support the needs of modern 3D printing.” It must support information interchange from CAD application right through to the printing process and must contain a complete definition of the printed model in a way that allows unambiguous and accurate processing of the model. Finally, it must be practical, easy to understand, and accessible to the widest possible base of consumers and 3D printing enthusiasts in order to reach mainstream applications.

Left: 3D Model (mesh view), Center: 3D Model (surface color render), 3D Print (Colorstone with surface color)

While the above conditions may seem ambitious, Microsoft says that an industry consortium has already been put together to create the new format, which will be released as part of their forthcoming operating system, Windows 10. HP has been announced as member, however so far no other affiliates have been named.

At the moment, all we can do is wait for more information to be revealed at Build 2015, an annual developers conference hosted by Microsoft itself. The event takes place from April 21 through May 1st in San Francisco and the announcement regarding the new 3D printing file format will be made on April 30th during a session titled “Developing 3D Printing Applications and Services in Windows 10.”

By adding native 3D printer support to Windows 8.1, Microsoft made it clear that they were invested in the 3D printing industry. Now, by initiating the development of an entirely new file format, they stand to bring 3D printing even further into the mainstream, and to unlock the full potential of this paradigm-shifting technology.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on the Build conference and any further developments regarding this exciting new 3D printing file format.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology


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Jon wrote at 4/29/2015 4:57:36 AM:

I'd rather Autodesk come up with a file format. 3D has been their primary business for 25 years and they're much more likely to succeed at such a venture. Heck, they could even start with the FBX format, it already has a robust SDK and a great deal of portability among existing 3D software

jules wrote at 4/28/2015 1:17:02 AM:

Now we are screwed - MS getting involved with yet ANOTHER file format ... WHy not get one that works for stp and stl at same time - why don't cha???

Jean wrote at 4/27/2015 9:16:09 PM:

Oh great another proprietary file format. Why not just use the ASTM additive manufacturing file format specification? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Additive_Manufacturing_File_Format It's designed to support colors, textures, different materials, graded materials, curved triangles, and be extensible.

serge wrote at 4/27/2015 8:49:57 PM:

what is miscrosoft in 3d printing world ? zero . nada ! like in mobile world.. they even didn't realize that .

Ram3d wrote at 4/27/2015 8:28:15 PM:

I am not so sure it will fail. I think if you give the 3d printer companies more options with a much more open file type they can design future 3d printers to take advantage it. I don't know if current printers would be backwards compatible for obvious reasons like giving the ability to print full color or texture maps which most consumer brand printers can't do.

Steve wrote at 4/27/2015 5:04:49 PM:

"...Microsoft says that an industry consortium has already been put together to create the new format, which will be released as part of their forthcoming operating system, Windows 10..." So is this going to be OS locked or will it be an open format?

Micosoft Sux wrote at 4/27/2015 12:50:40 PM:

Hey Microsoft, keep your %$%# nose out of our hobby Yours All 3d enthusiasts

Phillip Katete wrote at 4/26/2015 5:32:54 PM:

Long overdue, and the big software businesses taking the lead on a new 3D file format is the catalyst the industry as a whole needed, what is left is the standardisation / consolidation of hardware firmware (which the filr format may drive as well!).

Absrnd wrote at 4/26/2015 4:49:03 PM:

While the idea is nice, they are too late, everybody uses STL, and there will probably be an updated version of STL that will do the same, like Jpeg2000. And not being a pessimist, I am sure that new file format will be only be usable with special plugins and or programs that will also be implemented with DRM ! Its is doomed to fail :)

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