The Struggle with 3MF: Shortcomings of Current Software in 3D Print File Compatibility


There are issues when using 3MF file format [Source: Fabbaloo / D3]

I think there could be a problem with 3MF, or at least how software makes use of it.

What’s 3MF? It’s the new file format slowly taking over the 3D print world from the prehistoric STL format used to represent 3D models.

The problem with STL was that it only represented the geometry of the object by describing a “skin” of triangles on the exterior. Unfortunately, that’s all it does — it does not, for example, even indicate the scale of the object. Measurements are simply “six”, not “six millimeters”.

And that’s just the beginning. There are countless other issues, most of which are resolved by 3MF.

One of the largest problems was the absence of additional information about the model, such as how it was intended to be printed, which parameters were used, the colors of each segment, etc. 3MF excels at integrating a wealth of extra information, making job coordination easy, especially if they need to be repeated.

However, it seems I have come across a problem with 3MF that is quite bothersome.

Recently, I have been testing various models of 3D printers from Bambu Labs. These systems are closely linked with the company’s 3D model repository, MakerWorld. Both their app and desktop software facilitate easy import of 3D models from MakerWorld. As a result, I have been doing this regularly during my tests.

Then trouble begins.

I’ll attempt to print a model and it fails miserably. There’s nothing wrong with the hardware, but in every failed job I’ll find something wrong with the print settings. I’ll review the settings for the job and tweak things until I get it working.

This appears to be a normal thing to do when 3D printing, but there seems to be a lot more of this happening when using imported 3MF files. Then, I understand what is happening: many of the 3MF files stored on MakerWorld include not only the 3D model but also a load of other information necessary for printing the job.

Unluckily, this other information is often meant for a different 3D printer model than the one I want to use. But the act of importing the 3MF file alters several settings in the slicing software. Eventually, after several trial and error implementations of importing 3MF files into BambuStudio, I realize I need to ensure the following items are always in alignment:

  • Printer selection
  • Nozzle selection
  • Plate type
  • Print profile selection
  • Filament collection
  • Filament selection for object
  • Filaments mounted on the machine

This is a short but tedious process, particularly because many of these things have similar names: “0.2mm nozzle” at first glance looks very similar to “0.2mm layers”. But they are utterly different.

An example failure I had was that prints were not sticking to the plate. After several tweaks I realized that somehow a previous 3MF imported file had set the plate type on BambuStudio to “Cool plate”, which has a temperature setting of only 35C. It’s no wonder my prints didn’t stick!

I am constantly running into these issues because people are uploading 3D models to online repositories in 3MF format that include configurations for equipment or materials I don’t have or want to use. Yet I would like to use the 3D model on my own configuration, which is buried in the 3MF file.

This is specifically complex when jobs involving multiple materials are given, since one is required to laboriously deconstruct the color schematic, then rebuild it to match your setup.

Indeed, this is far from ideal and has resulted in numerous failed prints on my end.

Granted, the lack of attention to detail is my responsibility.

However, is there any reason I should be burdened with this? Doesn’t the function of 3MF imply simplification and uniformity of processes? It appears that this ease only comes into play if the entire configuration is an exact match, which is hardly ever the reality in the case of web-based 3D model repositories.

Despite my ongoing support for the 3MF format, I’ve since realised that the software tools – particularly the online repositories – that utilise 3MF are lacking a vital element.

If a 3D model file doesn’t offer a different 3MF version for every possible device and material configuration (a herculean feat), issues are bound to arise for 3D printer operators.

This tends to be especially troublesome considering platforms like MakerWorld, Printables and others appear to have the objective to simplify the process for those new to 3D printing.

I must admit that the current usage of 3MF files is not facilitating the process, but rather complicating it significantly. Having used various 3D printers and their associated software for years, I still frequently find myself making errors. I can’t begin to fathom the level of confusion experienced by those newly introduced to 3D printing in this state of affairs.

There should be a recognition amongst software tools of the potential significant discrepancies between the intended setup in a 3MF file and the intended setup from the operator. These differences should be identified, emphasised, and help navigate the operator towards the appropriate resolution. In several instances of imported 3MF files, the software might simply extract the 3D model only when the configuration deviates significantly.

Currently, this isn’t the case and I’m convinced many individuals face similar problems as I do.

I’m unsure of the exact form the answer to this predicament should take, although it’s now abundantly evident that 3MF, despite offering the required details, also needs to be paired with fittingly intelligent slicing software.

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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