There are many 3D file formats, out of which STL is the most widely used format. If you ask 3D printing practitioners around you which format they use, you will most probably get ‘STL’ as the answer, according to ParagonStar.
After its launch in 1988, people accepted it immediately, which made it the de facto standard 3D file format. Even now that many new formats have been released in the market, and they have more features than STL, people still prefer to use it because of its simplicity and support.
Features of the STL file format
The STL file format is an open-source file format that supports binary, as well as ASCII encoding. It is helpful for storing the geometry of the 3D model. However, it fails to support many other features like colour, material, or texture.
Most of the printers available in the market use a single material die to which using an STL file is not an issue. However, multicolour printers are now getting popular in the market gradually. They are not as widely used as other old printers are used, but experts believe that they will soon dominate the market, and then STL might lose its place.
STL uses a single method to store information. This method is referred to as tessellations. In it, a geometric shape is used to tile a surface such that no gaps are left behind. The STL file uses triangular files.
So why is it so popular?
The STL file format is older than many new file formats that have more features. Still, people continue to use it while dealing with 3D images. After its creation and launch, it became the standard format for the 3D models. Even the manufacturers who did not use 3D systems adopted it immediately.
After seeing the popularity of the STL file format, CAD software manufacturers also adopted it. That is why during the last 20 years, most of the CAD software had STL file import and export options. It is quite easy to write parsers for STL files, which is considered the main reason as to why the file formant is still very popular.
Today, STL file options are available in almost every 3D software or tool. Every time a new 3D product is launched, it is provided with STL support to make sure the product is compatible with the most common file format.
Many 3D models are available on the internet in the STL format. The internet also has plenty of information (like common questions and answers, tutorials, etc.) related to the STL file format. All these factors are the key contributors as to why the STL file format remains popular and extensively used.