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A Comparison Between STL and OBJ Formats

Date: March 23, 2023

The STL and OBJ file formats are two of the most popular file formats for 3D printing and modelling. While both formats are widely used, they have some key differences in terms of their structure and functionality.

Structure Comparison

The STL format is a file format that is used to store 3D models as a collection of triangles. Each triangle is defined by three vertices and a normal vector. Whereas the OBJ format is a file format that stores the 3D model as a collection of vertices, faces, and normals. This means that OBJ files can store more complex geometry and can include curves and other non-planar shapes that are not possible with the STL format.

Color Comparison

The standard STL format does not support color information with the exception of 2 proprietary formats (SolidView and VisCAM) that could store limited 16-bot color information. On the other hand, the OBJ format can store information about color and texture, which makes it a better choice for models that require color information.

Casing Wireframe
Casing Solid

Editing Comparison

The OBJ format is more versatile than the STL format when it comes to editing capabilities. This is because OBJ files can store information about textures and materials, which makes it easier to apply changes to specific parts of the model. On the other hand, editing an STL file can be more challenging as you would need to manually edit the triangle mesh.

File Size Comparison

The STL format is generally considered to be more lightweight than the OBJ format. This is because the STL format stores models as a collection of triangles in a binary format, which takes up less disk space than the OBJ format's vertices, faces, and normals that are stored in a plain text format. As a result, STL files are faster to download and render.

3D Printing Comparison

When it comes to 3D printing, the STL format is the more widely used file format. This is because most 3D printers use a technique called "triangulation" to create 3D models, which is perfectly suited to the STL format's triangle mesh structure. However, OBJ files can be converted to STL files, making them compatible with most 3D printers.

Compatibility Comparison

Both the STL and OBJ file formats are widely used in the 3D modelling and printing industry. However, some software is better suited to one format over the other. For example, Autodesk 3DS Max is more compatible with the OBJ format, while Autodesk Inventor is more compatible with the STL format. It's important to check the software's compatibility with the chosen file format before starting the modelling process.

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