Top 8 neutral 3d cad file formats

CAD (computer-aided design) files are digital files that house 3D và 2 chiều designs as well as information regarding materials, processes, tolerances, & other data.

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From kiến thiết to lớn production, everything begins with the CAD tệp tin.

However, think of the various stakeholders that eventually handle the file:

Different companiesInternal departmentsEmployeesSuppliersSub-contractorsCustomers

All use different CAD software, making interchange difficult for all– especially when geometric information and 3 chiều annotations such as PMI (product manufacturing information) must maintain integrity.

Native CAD file formats from PTC Creo, Siemens NX, CATIA, SolidWorks, Autodesk Inventor, và others are proprietary và need lớn be translated và validated for downstream processing.


Neutral CAD file formats, however, are interoperable between different CAD software. Today we look at the best 8 neutral CAD file formats, especially pertaining to lớn mechanical CAD conversion. is a firm believer in CAD formats that are standards (e.g. ISO, ANSI, etc. that ensure quality and consistency) & that are model-based definition (MBD) ready.

MBD CAD filesinclude both the geometry và product manufacturing & unique requirements, which are normally done on 2 chiều drawings.

By combining 2 chiều drawing information into the 3 chiều CAD mã sản phẩm, it becomes the authoritative source for a product"s lifecycle. This enables automation, data insights, and connectivity from design to lớn manufacturing from a single source of truth that is both human & machine readable.

It"s CAD in the age of IoT connectivity & smart data.

Have Questions About Neutral CAD Files? is a leader in CAD translation & validation, especially pertaining khổng lồ digital transformation và the MBD journey. Have questions? Talk to lớn our team today.

Table of Contents:

MBD CAD Files:


Non-MBD CAD Files:


1. STEPhường. (File Extension: *.STEP, *.STP)

Year Introduced: 1994, Last Update: 20đôi mươi.Representation: B-rep (precise) và Vis-rep (approximation)Organization: International Organization for Standardization and PDES Inc.

STEP. files are the most widely used và accepted neutral CAD format today, therefore, making it a standard across multiple industries.

Most CAD software supports importing & exporting STEPhường. files, allowing it lớn be interoperable between different systems including CAM (computer-aided manufacturing), CAI (computer-aided inspection), and CAE (computer-aided engineering).

In regards to lớn mechanical CAD there are three major STEPhường file formats:

STEPhường. AP203: Defines geometry, topology, & configuration management data of solid models for mechanical parts & assemblies.STEPhường AP214: Includes STEPhường. AP203 features along with colors, layers, GD&T, và thiết kế intent.

However, both STEP AP203 and STEPhường AP214 have deprecated in favor of STEPhường AP242.


Mature và ubiquitous file format.MBD-ready if using AP242.


Big organization means slow to lớn release new updates quickly.

2. QIF (File Extension: *.QIF)


Year Introduced: 2013, Last Updated: 2020Representation: B-rep (precise) & Vis-rep (approximation)Organization: DMSC (Digital Metrology Standards Consortium)

QIF (Quality Information Framework) files are made for the digital manufacturing in the 21st century. It optimizes for semantic PXiaoMI which allows for human & machine-readable CAD leading khổng lồ two main things: interoperability & traceability downstream.

Although the newest format on this danh sách, its gained the more attention as more OEMs need a robust tệp tin format to lớn exchange data downstream from kiến thiết khổng lồ manufacturing to quality.


Most robust neutral MBD CAD tệp tin.XML-based framework: easy integration và interoperability with other systems, web/mạng internet applications, & other formal standards.Highly valued in Metrology và Quality departments.


3. JT (File Extension: *.JT)

Year Introduced: 2007, Last Updated: 2017Representation: B-rep (precise) & Vis-rep (approximation)Organization: Siemens PLM Software

JT (Dòng xe Jupiter Tessellation) files are the most confusing of the neutral CAD format group. Although known for vis-rep, it can also have full B-rep & PMI, therefore making it MBD-ready.

It"s internal B-rep representation is flexible, including tư vấn for ISO 10303 (STEP) and Parasolid. If a JT exported from NX contains B-rep data, it will be in the Parasolid format.

Although JT is technically an open format, many vendors utilize Siemen"s JT xuất hiện Toolkit. This toolkit is particularly important if dealing with Parasolid data, which makes use of blends with proprietary recipes. Because of this, it isn"t quite widely accepted as STEPhường or QIF.


Common interoperability format for Siemens users.JT is primarily used in automotive sầu industry.Lightweight format.

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Less comtháng outside of Siemens software environments.

4. 3 chiều PDF (File Extension: *.PDF)


Year Introduced: 2004, Last Updated: 2014 (for CAD)Representation: Vis-rep (approximation)Organization: 3D PDF Consortium

3 chiều PDF files are popular for a reason. It’s a ubiquitous format, easily viewed on computers, smartphones, & tablets. Especially convenient for those who don’t have sầu CAD systems or viewers.


Only requires Adobe Reader khổng lồ view files.PDF files can be used as containers for other files lượt thích STEP, QIF, or other documentation.


Huge tệp tin kích cỡ và slow performance.3 chiều ergonomics in Adobe aren’t great.What this file type is capable of doing is sharply limited by the Adobe environment.

5. Stereolithography Files (File Extension: *.STL)

Year Introduced: 1987, Last Updated: None.Standard: None.Representation: Vis-rep (approximation)Organization: 3 chiều Systems

STL files are universal 3 chiều formats that focuses on surface geometry & shapes but not for colors, textures, or other mã sản phẩm attributes, which is good for rapid prototyping, 3D printing, và some CAM software.

However, it uses triangulated mesh surface which is acceptable for visual representation, but not workable in CAD systems since most work in solids.

When complicated CAD is not required, STL files are acceptable in most basic situations.


Widely supported tệp tin format.Popular for 3D printing.


Describes surface geometry only — it is not precise B-rep.Very simple data Mã Sản Phẩm — no tư vấn for color, surface grouping, or even user-defined attributes.

6. IGES (File Extension: *.IGS, *.IGES)

Year Introduced: 1980, Last Updated: 1996Standard: ANSIRepresentation: B-rep (precise)Organization: American National Standards Institute

IGES files were the first neutral CAD file invented & deployed in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

Although an older standard technologically superseded by STEPhường & QIF, it’s still used today since it’s been around for a long time & is very widely supported.

Mostly used for surface geometry (although it can tư vấn solid models) và kiến thiết work. Can often get translated with gaps between surfaces, missing faces, & even surfaces with wrong orientation. So it’s recommended to go with STEP or QIF or have sầu a tool for repairing bad geometry and stitching surfaces.


It’s your grandfather’s CAD file.Ubiquitously supported.


IGES can tư vấn solids, however, it"s mostly used for surface geometry.

7. ACIS (File Extension: *.SAT)

Year Introduced: 1989, Last Updated: 2019Standard: None.Representation: B-rep (precise) và Vis-rep (approximation)Organization: Dassault Systemes

ACIS files are 3D solid & surface CAD files from Spatial, a Dassault Systemes division. It is a geometric modeling kernel compiled in C++ and used in CAD, CAM, CAE, và CMM.


The internal modeling language used by many modeling software such as AutoCAD, BrisCAD, and Cimatron.


Not a standard data format.Usually requires a custom translators khổng lồ export to lớn ACIS.Doesn’t support semantic PXiaoMi MI in any standard way.

8. PARASOLID (File Extension: *.X_T)

Year Introduced: 1989, Last Updated: 2019Standard: None.Representation: B-rep (precise)Organization: Siemens

Parasolid files are used by the geometric modeling kernel currently owned by Siemens and used in CAD, CAD exchange, CAM, CAE, and hàng hóa visualization.

Licensed and used in over 350+ applications such as NX, SolidWorks, SolidEdge, MasterCAM, Onshape, và others.

Can represent wireframe, surface, solid, & general non-manifold models. Most Parasolid files migrate 3D solids and/or surface data.


The internal modeling language used many CAD and downstream software.Great CAD export option if you use NX or SolidWorks.


Not a standard data format.Uses some proprietary blend recipes, making some data inaccessible khổng lồ non-Parasolid modelers.

Have questions about neutral CAD formats? Ask away, we"ll be happy khổng lồ help.

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