3D file format

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1 Introduction

3D graphics combines a large area of applications such as gaming, interactive environments, movies, computer-aided design and manufacturing.

There exist many (dozens) of 3D file formats. In a second life discussion/bug formum (retrieved oct. 25 2010), "Theory Shaw" presented the following list:

3D Studio Max (.max, .3ds) AC3D (.AC) Apple 3DMF (.3dm / .3dmf) Autocad (.dwg) Blender (.blend) Caligari Object (.cob) Collada (.dae) Dassault (.3dxml) DEC Object File Format (.off) DirectX 3D Model (.x) Drawing Interchange Format (.dxf) DXF Extensible 3D (.x3d) Form-Z (.fmz) GameExchange2-Mirai (.gof) Google Earth (.kml / .kmz) HOOPS HSF (.hsf) LightWave (.lwo / .lws) Lightwave Motion (.mot) MicroStation (.dgn) Nendo (.ndo) OBJ (.obj) Okino Transfer File Format (.bdf) OpenFlight (.flt) Openinventor (.iv) Pro Engineer (.slp) Radiosity (.radio) Raw Faces (.raw) RenderWare Object (.rwx) Revit (.rvt) Sketchup (.skp) Softimage XSI (.xsi) Stanford PLY (.ply) STEP (.stp) Stereo Litography (.stl) Strata StudioPro (.vis) TrueSpace (.cob) trueSpace (.cob, .scn) Universal (.u3d) VectorWorks (.mcd) VideoScape (.obj) Viewpoint (.vet) VRML (.wrl) Wavefront (.obj) Wings 3D (.wings) X3D Extensible 3D (.x3d) Xfig Export (.fig)

The list presented below is not complete. It's purpose is just to have a central index of formats referred to in other edutechwiki articles, plus some pointers....

2 List of file formats

Not complete list of file formats used in 3D modeling, Computer-aided design and manufacturing.

Citations access date: Early March 2010 by default.

2.1 3DS - 3D Studio

.3ds is one of the file formats used by the Autodesk 3ds Max 3D modeling, animation and rendering software.

  • .3ds (Wikipedia)
  • Other extensions: .max
  • Media-type: application/x-3ds and image/x-3s


.blend is the format used by Blender. Each .blend file contains a database. This database contains all scenes, objects, meshes, textures, etc. that are in the file.

  • Blender Data System (Wiki manual page)
  • Note: Blender can import most popular formats. Just go file->import


.dae was designed as format for COLLAborative Design Activity for establishing an interchange file format for interactive 3D applications. Also used as native format in the same spirit as X3D.

2.4 DXF - AutoCAD

.dxf “(Drawing Interchange Format, or Drawing Exchange Format) is a CAD data file format developed by Autodesk[1] for enabling data interoperability between AutoCAD and other programs.” (Wikipedia)

2.5 FBX - Autodesk exchange

.fbx is an exchange format, in particular for interoperability between Autodesk products and other Digital content creation (DCC) software packages.

2.6 LWO - Lightwave

.lwo is a format for the LightWave high-end software package used for rendering 3D images, both animated and static. Recent versions of Lightwave (CORE) also use Collada.

2.7 OBJ

.obj “is a geometry definition file format first developed by Wavefront Technologies for its Advanced Visualizer animation package. The file format is open and has been adopted by other 3D graphics application vendors. For the most part it is a universally accepted format.” (Wikipedia)

2.8 OFF

.off Object File Format (.off) files are used to represent the geometry of a model by specifying the polygons of the model's surface. The polygons can have any number of vertices.

2.9 PLY

.ply is the a computer file format known as the Polygon File Format or the Stanford Triangle Format. The format was principally designed by the Stanford graphics lab to store three dimensional data from 3D scanners. Can also be used as alternative to STL.

2.10 PTS

2.11 PTX

2.12 SC1 - Sculptris

For Sculptris, this format includes information about symmetry.

Also, a SimCity format

2.13 SCL - Pro/engineer

*.scl is primarily associated with 'Pro/ENGINEER' by PTC.

It also can mean Scala and Sibelius Chords (music formats)

2.14 SKP - Google sketchup

.skp is used by Google sketchup.

2.15 STL

.stl “is a file format native to the stereolithography CAD software created by 3D Systems. This file format is supported by many other software packages; it is widely used for rapid prototyping and computer-aided manufacturing.” (Wikipedia)

2.16 TRI

2.17 V3D

2.18 WRL - VRML

2.19 X3D

  • X3D is the successor of VRML, but VRML remains somewhat popular in open-source and academics.

2.20 X3DV

2.21 XSI - SoftImage


2.22 ZTL - Zbrush

ZTL is "Zbrush Tool 'ZBrush' by Pixologic, Inc.. ZBrush is a 3D model creation and processing tool that works more by "sculpting" than by CAD. Popular with artists.

2.23 XYZ

3 Software

3.1 Conversion software

See this list for more alternatives.

  • Okino (several commercially available conversion combos)
  • Online 3D Model Converter by Alexander Gessler. Quote: The list of supported input file formats is quite exhaustive and includes Collada, 3DS, Blender, OBJ, DXF, LWO, STL, PLY and approximately 25 others. Supported output formats include Collada, 3DS, X, OBJ, PLY, STL and more.

4 Links