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RapidMade|3D Printing File Types

3D Printing CAD Filetypes

CAD files are the best way to send us your design. This list shows our favorite file types in order of preference. If your file type does not appear below, we can probably still work with it. If you do not have a CAD file, you may be interested in our product design and engineering services.

Engineering and Design (parametric)

  1. STEP (.STP, .STEP)

  2. IGES (.IGS, .IGES)

  3. Parasolid (.X_B, .X_T)

  4. AutoCAD (.DXF, .DWG)

  5. SolidWorks (.SLDPRT, .SLDASM, .SLDDRW)

  6. Inventor (.IPT, .IAM)

Standard 3D Printing (polygonal)

  1. Stereolithography (.STL)

  2. Wavefront (.OBJ)

  3. Polygon File Format (.PLY)

  4. AutoCAD (3D .DXF, 3D .DWG)

  5. Rhino (.3DM)

  6. SketchUp (.SKP)*

*While we can use SketchUp files, extra engineering fees may apply to convert them into usable geometry.

Color 3D Printing (polygonal)

  1. ZCorp (.ZPR)

  2. Wavefront (.OBJ—must include MTL file and texture maps)

  3. Filmbox (.FBX)

  4. Autodesk (.3DS)

  5. Polygon File Format (.PLY)

  6. Rhino (.3DM)

  7. Virtual Reality Modeling Language (.WRL)

RapidMade|3D Printing File Types
Examples of Tessellation (from left to right): 3D model, export with too few triangles, export with the correct number of triangles, export with too many triangles

Understanding the difference between parametric and polygonal models

3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) primarily utilizes two types of files: parametric and polygonal. Parametric files, defined by equations and parameters, enable dynamic modeling where changes in parameters automatically update the model. This type is beneficial for designs requiring high precision and adaptability, common in mechanical engineering. However, their complexity demands a deeper understanding and more computational resources. This format is popular among engineers and used in industry leading CAD software like Autodesk, Solidworks and Catia.
Polygonal files, composed of vertices and faces (usually triangles), are simpler and require less computational power. They are primarily used in fields where visual representation is key, like animation and gaming. The simplicity of polygonal files allows for easier manipulation but at the cost of precision and parametric flexibility. Modifications in polygonal models are manual and time-consuming, often leading to inconsistencies. Polygonal files can cause issues when translating to 3D prints. A lot of polygonal design software is focused on animation and rendering – therefore they are not always focused on their outputs needing to exist in the real world. Certain software notoriously outputs poor STL files – holes in the mesh, verticies that don’t line up, and inverted triangles.  If the designer is not careful about their export settings they may 3D print a low poly, tessellated version of their product. We at RapidMade try to catch these file defects and correct them before we manufacture your product.
The choice between parametric and polygonal files hinges on what design software you know and have access to. If you can design in parametric we can always use that – you can trust us to correctly convert your model for the best print quality. Parametric software can always output polygonal files but polygonal software can rarely output parametric models. In a sense when converting from polygonal to parametric data is lost and it is harder for an engineer or designer to make changes later. We may need to get a better export to ensure your expecations of quality are met.