STL vs. 3MF: Which format should you choose for your 3D model?

STL vs. .3MF: Which format to choose for your 3D model

When you’re in the world of 3D printing, you quickly stumble across different file formats. These formats are critical to the quality and accuracy of the final 3D printed object. Two of the most popular formats are STL and 3MF. But which of these two formats is right for your project? In this article we will highlight the differences, advantages and disadvantages of STL and 3MF to help you make this decision.

What is the STL format?

STL stands for “stereolithography”. It is the most commonly used file format for 3D printing and was developed in the 1980s by the company 3D Systems. STL files describe the surface of a 3D object by a series of triangles.

Advantages of the STL format

  • Widely used: Since it was one of the first formats in the 3D printing industry, it is supported by almost all 3D printing software tools.
  • Simple structure: This makes it relatively easy to edit STL files with different software.

Disadvantages of the STL format

  • Limited information: STL stores only information about the surface of an object. Color, material or other attributes are not recorded.
  • Possible errors: Due to its simple structure, STL files can sometimes contain errors that can cause problems when printing.

What is the 3MF format?

The 3MF format (3D Manufacturing Format) is a newer file format developed by a consortium of companies, including Microsoft. It was developed specifically for 3D printing and can store information such as color, material and other metadata that is not available in STL.

Advantages of the 3MF format

  • More information: Unlike STL, 3MF can store a variety of information, including colors, textures, and metadata.
  • Better error prevention: The 3MF format is designed to avoid many of the most common errors that can occur with STL files.
  • Future-proof: As a modern format, 3MF is likely to be further developed and improved in the coming years.

Disadvantages of the 3MF format

  • Less widespread: Although gaining popularity, 3MF is not yet as widely supported as STL. This could cause problems if you use special software or an older 3D printer.

For whom is which format suitable?

If you have a simple project that is just about the basic shape with no special colors or materials, STL might be enough. It is supported by a variety of tools and has stood the test of time.

However, if your project is more complex and you need specific colors, materials or other attributes, 3MF is the better choice. It offers greater flexibility and accuracy, especially for modern projects.


The choice between STL and 3MF depends heavily on your specific project and requirements. Both formats have their own advantages and disadvantages, but with the above information you should be better able to make an informed decision. No matter what format you choose, the most important thing is that you are satisfied with the result. Good luck with your 3D printing project!