On Monday I blithely opined about Microsoft's proposed new 3D printing file format, suggesting it wasn't likely to be adopted rapidly, if at all, due to 3D industry inertia and lethargy.
What a difference a week makes.
I was previously aware of HP being on board with Microsoft. Two powerful tech companies, but to put it bluntly, they don't have much control of the 3D industry. After seeing the rest of the founding consortium members, I realize HP and Microsoft aren't the story. The list includes 3D model correction software provider netfabb, service bureau Shapeways, selective laser melting 3D printer manufacturer SLM, and two more that really matter.
Wait for it.
Autodesk and Dassault Systemes – the two largest 3D modeling software companies in existence, controlling an enormous segment of the design software used by 3D professionals today. Adoption speculation is officially over. Within two years, the new 3MF format will be an export option in virtually all 3D modeling packages that might be used to generate 3D printable output.
There is still no reason to panic. STL will hang around for quite a while, because it must. Major 3D modeling software packages will almost certainly maintain their primary proprietary formats. However, 3MF will become the 3D printing standard somewhere down the road. The convenience provided by not having to employ model conversion techniques will be a good thing, except for those with older systems who have to convert 3MF to STL.
One wonders how long it will take for Adobe to join the consortium, considering rumors of their interest in The Foundry, makers of MODO. Pixologic, Lightwave, Maxon, Blender, McNeel & Associates – we can expect them all to offer 3MF export, if they don't already. It will make life a little easier, particularly on manufacturers of future advanced 3D printers.
It's important to point out that most of the software we are talking about is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. So, even though Microsoft's work-in-progress 3D file format was donated to the consortium as a starting point, they do not have sole control of its future. We can expect to see 3MF in use on all platforms.
"The first version of the file standard of 3MF Consortium is published," said Alex Oster, CEO of netfabb GmbH, and Chairman of the Technical Working Group of the 3MF Consortium. "I would like to thank my colleagues from the founding companies for their time and dedication to get this done. The technical working group is expecting to launch several new important additions to this standard before the year ends. I am looking forward to contributing to this exciting work."
The 3MF specification is available for download on the consortium's website. I imagine those interested in slicing 3D models will want to take a look at it.