Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ZPrint v7.11 Support of FBX Expands 3D Printable Market

Recently, Z Corp announced the release of ZPrint v7.11 software. One of the deliverables in this new release is the support of the FBX file format. FBX is being used by Autodesk for interoperability between its primary Content Creation software.

From the web site above … Autodesk® FBX® asset exchange technology facilitates higher-fidelity data exchange between several Autodesk content creation packages—Autodesk® Maya®, Autodesk® MotionBuilder®, Autodesk® Mudbox™, and Autodesk® 3ds Max® products—and provides support for certain third-party and proprietary applications. Whether you are using FBX within an entertainment pipeline or as part of design production, files are more seamlessly transferred, more data is retained, and workflows are more efficient.

For more history on the FBX format, visit:

What does this all mean for 3D printing? Now a new direct geometry data path exists from applications that do not export STL. This means that more Autodesk community users will be able to print 3D physical models from their native applications which export FBX files. For example, Autodesk Navisworks®, the project review/clash detection/simulation application can export FBX files, but does not export STL files.

While this new file format support is generally good news, there is a ‘gotcha’ to be considered. Z Corp initially developed ZPrint v7.11 with FBX files generated by Revit2010 which exported color and texture information in the FBX file. In the recently released Revit2011, Autodesk changed their FBX support in a way which makes colors and textures unavailable to outside applications like ZPrint. While this change helped Autodesk achieve their stated goal of giving a better ‘looks the same in all our applications’ uniformity, the real effect is to change FBX from a useful 3DP color export format to a format mostly useful for transferring data between Autodesk applications.

On the plus side, at least there is now a geometry data path from applications that do not export STL. Color and texture must still be added in other applications like 3dsMax or ZEdit Pro.

I am eager to hear from Navisworks users and others with experience in exporting FBX files.


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