We work with most of the common 2D/3D, bitmap & computer graphics file formats. Digital image/model content format can be divided into two distinct categories – bitmap and vector graphics.
Images captured from a flatbed scanner, digital camera, digital film, or saved screenshots are bitmap images. A bitmap is a raster image made up of rows and columns of colored dots – nothing else. We can use bitmap images to trace lines from and then use these resulting vector lines for CNC work – but the bitmap image itself cannot directly be used in CAD.
Bitmap image formats (just like CAD/Vector formats) are varied but here are some of the more common types:
BMP: an outdated and limited file format that is not suitable for use in prepress.
EPS: a flexible file format that can contain both bitmap and vector data. It is gradually being replaced by PDF.
GIF: mainly used for internet graphics
JPEG: or rather the JFIF file format, which is mainly used for internet graphics
PDF: versatile file format that can contain just about any type of data including complete pages. It can contain both bitmap and vector.
PICT: a file format that can contain both bitmap and vector data but that is mainly used on Macintosh computers and is not very suitable for prepress.
PSD: the native file format of Adobe Photoshop (which can also contain vector data such as clipping paths)
TIFF: a popular and versatile bitmap file format
Vector graphics describes a 2D or 3D drawing using mathematical definitions.
The file is smaller, but it requires an intelligent program to read and understand these definitions to build up the drawing…this is the world we work in! All digital 2D and 3D content for CNC machining processes are vector graphics. Even though we can receive images on paper or as a bitmap image, we can “trace” the lines or create a 3D model so we always end up in the Vector/CAD world.
All CAD (Computer Aided Design) formats fall into one of two categories:
Native file formats are proprietary, meaning they are under the control of specific CAD software. These formats can often only be opened by one particular program.
Standard or Neutral file formats are either created for their interoperability or start off their life as native, but – because of their popularity – become a standard (the border between the two is not always clear). There are examples of native file formats that most programs can’t open, but you may discover that the newest version of your CAD program can import it.
Navigating between exotic file formats and their versions can be confusing but we are willing to try and assist!
STEP is one the most popular and recommended neutral file format for 2D/3D work, it is also an ISO 10303-21 standard. We highly suggest using it if your CAD package supports it. Most of the reputable ones do.
IGES is an older standard but still in wide use but was abandoned early on in it’s infancy and will not be developed or improved further. We often receive artwork in IGES
Parasolid is a native format, licensed by Siemens, most of the solid modeling packages support it.
DXF is a pure 2D format. Technically it is Autocad’s native format, but because of it’s popularity, it is almost a neutral format.
File formats by programs
This (not complete) list contains most of the file formats we can work with.
3DS – 3D Studo, 3D Studio MAX. Universal – many software programs support it
MAX – 3D Studo, 3D Studio MAX
BLEN – Blender
DAE – Collada. Universal – many software programs support it
DXF – AutoCADs Drawing Interchange Fomat
LWO – Lightwave. Universal – many software programs support it
OBJ – Wavefront. Universal 3D vertex format, many software programs support it.
PLY – Polygon File Format
SC1 – Sculptris
SKP – Google SketchUp. Objects exported from Sketchup have triangulated faces and tend to have issues
STL – Stereolithography format created by 3D Systems. Universal – many software programs support it.
ZTL – Zbrush.
FBX – (Filmbox) Developed by Kaydara, owned by Autodesk.
MB – Maya native binary format
MA – Maya ASCII format
3DM – Rhinoceros 3D native format
SLDPRT – Solidworks Part
SLDASM – Solidworks Assembly
X_T – Parasolid
KMZ – Google Earth
CDR – CorelDraw
AI – Adobe Illustrator
PS – PostScript
EPS – Encapsulated Postscript
PDF – Adobe Portable Format (today 3D data can be embedded in PDF with certain programs)
WMF – Windows Metafile
EMF – Enhanced Metafile
WRP – Geomagic