What File Types Do 3D Printers Use?

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Updated February 10, 2023

If you are new to 3D printing and are shopping around for the best printers, you may wonder what file types do 3D printers use. The best 3D printers rely on designated file formats to store and share crucial design information, such as STL OBJ, AMF, 3MF, G-code, and more. These programs tell the printer exactly how to produce physical objects, which is helpful when learning what a slicer is in 3D printing.


  • 3D printers use a wide range of 3D printing file format types, such as STL, OBJ, AMF, 3MF, and more.
  • Additionally, there are slicer software file types like G-code that actually control how the printer behaves when making 3D models.
  • For the most part, file types like OBJ files and other 3D files are just used to store and share schematics for 3D printers and 3D scanners.

What are 3D Printer Files Called?

Before learning how to use resin 3D printers, you need to understand file formats. Printer software suites save files in a variety of formats, such as AMF, 3MF, STL OBJ, and more. There are also more nuanced file types out there, like G-code, if you are wondering what you need for 3D printing. Some of these file types even handle some high-tech heavy lifting to transform 3D objects over time, which is part of 4D printing.

Insider Tip

When you are looking for blueprints on aggregate sites, check the file extension name to ensure integration.

STL is the most common file type used, followed by OBJ. GCODE files are created by slicing programs and contain instructions your printer needs to create your object. AMF and 3MF are both XML-based file types, while VRML is a newer type used in printers with two extruders. It’s often used for projects that need to be printed with more than one color.

What Do 3D Printer File Formats Do?

The vast majority of these file formats just store data, like any other file type. This data can be transferred between computers to share design schematics on message boards and the like. Additionally, there are file formats like G-code that have little to do with storage and everything to do with controlling how a 3D printer makes physical objects.

What is the Difference Between File Formats?

There is not much of a difference when using each file format, in the same way, that there is not a difference when using JPG files, PNG files, and other file types that represent digital images. However, there are integration differences. In other words, some file types are used with certain 3D printers and not with others. These file types are for storage and sharing, though STL files only contain schematics for a single color and are great for simple prints. For projects that require more colors and textures, OBJ is the way to go.

If you download a printer file that cannot integrate with your printer, all hope is not lost, as there are plenty of tools out there to swap between file types, just as there are with image files and audio files.

STAT: The most common and universal file formats for 3D printing are STL and VRML. STL stands for “stereolithography” – it is a 3D rendering that contains only a single color. (source)

What are the Most Common File Formats?

If you are looking to ensure near-universal compatibility, go with STL files, as they are the most common and integrate with most printers. Beyond that, OBJ is a good option as the second most common file type. The most common slicing data file type is G-code.

3D Printing File Types FAQs

What is the best file for 3D printing?

There is no “best” file for 3D printing, just as there is no best file for digital images. STL files are the most popular, however, so you should experience easier integration with your print settings.

How do you export an STL file for 3D printing?

Exporting an STL file or OBJ file format depends on your printer and the software you are using, in addition to the file size. The most popular file format in the 3D printing industry is STL files.

How do you make 3D printing files?

Printer software and design software should both allow you to make files to store schematics for 3D models. Check the instructions to create separate files for additive manufacturing.
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