What is an STL file and what is it used for?

The abbreviation STL stands for Stereolithography (or Standard Tessellation Language), and it is a file format used in 3D printing since the 1980s. It is mainly used by CAD software like AutoCAD, SolidWorks or Rhinoceros to store information about three-dimensional objects so that they can be printed on a 3D printer.

So what is an STL file?

What is an STL file?

An STL file is a 3D model that contains information about the shape and geometry of an object. The file format was developed by 3D Systems in the 1980s and is now a standard format for 3D printing. STL files are used in rapid prototyping and computer aided manufacturing (CAM).


STL files can be generated by CAD software and exported to a 3D printing slicing program like Cura or Slic3r. The slicing program converts the STL file into G-code, a code that tells the 3D printer how to print the object.

STL files can also be generated from 3D scans. This is done by using a 3D scanner to scan an object and then exporting the scan data to an STL file. 3D scans can create precise models of objects for 3D printing, CAD, or other purposes.

Is an STL file the only way to 3D print?

No. The STL file format is not the only way to 3D print an object. Other file formats, such as OBJ and AMF, can also be used. However, STL is the most commonly used file format for 3D printing.

What are the benefits of using STL files?

Using STL files has many advantages. One of the advantages is that it is a very versatile file format. STL files can be used for 3D printing, CAD and CAM. They can also be used to create 3D models from scans.

Another advantage of STL files is that they are easy to create and modify. All you need is a CAD program and a printer or scanner. If you need to modify an STL file, you can use a CAD program or a 3D modeling program like Blender.

Finally, STL files are popular in the 3D printing community, which means that a great deal of information and resources are available on how to use them.

What are the disadvantages of using STL files?

One of the main disadvantages of STL files is that they are not very accurate because they only contain information about the geometry of an object and not the properties of the material.

Another disadvantage of STL files is that they can be large. This is because they contain a lot of information about the object. For example, a simple cube could be represented by a multi-megabyte STL file.

Alternatives to STL Files for 3D Printing

There are many other file formats you can use for 3D printing. An alternative is the OBJ file format. OBJ files are similar to STL files, but they also contain color and texture information about an object. This means they can be used to create more accurate 3D models.

Another popular alternative is the AMF file format. AMF files are smaller and more efficient than STL files. They also contain information about an object’s color and texture.

There is also the 3MF file format. 3MF files work with 3D printers that support the format. They contain information about an object’s geometry, color, and texture.

What 3D print file format should you use?

The file format you should use depends on your needs. STL files are the most versatile file format and can be used for a variety of purposes. However, they are not always very accurate.

If you’ve used STL files and they don’t give you what you want, you can try one of the alternative 3D print file formats to see if they help.