Which file format cannot be converted into STL file format?

If you are into 3D animation or printing, then you might be aware of the fact that STL is the most commonly used file format in the industry, because of its readability factor. So, almost every other file format that is available needs to be converted into an STL file prior to printing. However, some file formats cannot be converted into STL format. Do you want to know which they are? Well then, follow this article specially curated on the topic which file format cannot be converted into STL file format?”

Which file format cannot be converted into STL file format?

File formats that cannot be converted into STL file format are Non-3D files such as images, videos, audio, and documents.


Because they do not contain 3D information, which is necessary to create a 3D model. 

However, softwares like CAD Exchanger can convert images, videos and other formats to 3D models. But the process would be lethargic and may not produce accurate results. 

Now, this top to bottom hassle leaves us with only a few options to work with, such as STL itself along with OBJ, 3DS, FBX, COLLADA, PLY, VRML, 3DM etc.

We will be discussing each of them in brief, but first, let’s understand what is an STL file format.

What is an STL file?

STL which stands for STereoLithography is a file format that is primarily used for 3D printing. It is a simple, ASCII or binary file format that describes the surface geometry of a 3D object without any colors, textures, or other information. 

This file format contains a series of triangles that creates the surface of the 3D object. The triangles are defined by their three vertices, which are represented by x, y, and z coordinates, which when connected, form the surface of the object.

Moreover, this file also contains information about the surface normals, which are used to determine the orientation of the triangles.

As mentioned earlier, STL files can be either ASCII or binary, where ASCII STL files are human-readable, typically smaller in size and take longer to process.

On the other side Binary STL files are human-readable, smaller in size and typically faster to process.

One of the main advantages of the STL file format is its simplicity. Meaning, it is widely supported and compatible with most 3D modelling software and printers. This makes it easy to exchange 3D models between different software programs and print them on a wide range of 3D printers.

However, there are two major flaws with the STL file format;

  1. It does not support colors or textures, so it is not suitable for models that require color or texture information. 
  2. It does not contain any information about the internal structure of the object, which can make it difficult to edit or manipulate the model.

What are OBJ, 3DS, FBX, COLLADA, PLY, VRML, and 3DM file formats?

Here is a brief introduction to all seven file formats:


The OBJ file format or .obj is a simple file format used for describing 3D models. It is widely used in many 3D graphics and modelling software programs. 

This format stores information about the geometry of a 3D model, including the position, shape, and surface characteristics of its parts.


The 3DS file format aka .3ds is a popular file format for storing 3D models. It is used by many 3D modelling and animation software programs. 

It is a proprietary format developed by Autodesk and is capable of storing detailed information about a 3D model’s geometry, texture, lighting, and animation.


Developed by Autodesk, FBX (Filmbox) is another proprietary file format used for the interchange of 3D animation data between different software applications. 

It supports a wide range of features such as animation, lights, cameras, 3D models and textures.


COLLADA, which stands for COLLAborative Design Activity, is an open standard file format for the interchange of 3D assets and models between different software applications. And because of its openness and flexibility, it can be used across various industries and applications.


Polygon File Format also known as PLY is a file format for storing 3D models commonly used in computer graphics and computer vision applications. 

It stores information about the geometry of a 3D model, which includes the position, shape, and surface characteristics of its parts.


VRML which stands for Virtual Reality Modeling Language is a file format created to represent 3D interactive vector graphics for the World Wide Web.

These files can be viewed with the help of a VRML viewer, which is a type of web browser plugin or say a standalone application. 

VRML was an important early standard for creating interactive 3D environments on the web, but now it has largely been replaced by more modern technologies such as X3D, which is an evolution of VRML.


3DM is a file format for 3D models and is a native file format of Rhino 3D.

It is widely used by professionals in the field of architecture, product designing, jewellery designing, and others. 

It also has a wide range of capabilities, including NURBS modelling, polygon modelling, and the ability to import and edit a wide variety of 3D file formats.


With this discussion, we have concluded that a user cannot convert Non-3D files like images, videos, audio and documents to STL format directly.

So, it is better to use supported file formats like; OBJ, 3DS, FBX, COLLADA, PLY, VRML, and 3DM.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do you need drawing skills for 3D modelling?

No, an individual doesn’t need to be an expert in drawing for 3D modelling.

Will AI take over 3D modelling?

Yes, AI can take over 3D modelling.

Can an STL file be copyrighted?

Yes, like MP3s and other digital media files, STL files can also be copyrighted.

Can you edit STL files?

Yes, you can edit STL files using different CAD-friendly software like Adobe Photoshop.


  • Ashish Simon

    Hello folks! I am Ashish Pawar – A graduate from the field of Arts but an avid admirer of all things tech; therefore, made a leap into writing technical articles for ‘how-to’ guides and ‘informational content’ with the aim to make tech understandable for the masses. I have been in this field for more than a year now. My ideology is that even a layman should be able to understand tech easily. As a creative individual I am also passionately engaged in activities like photography, music, and dance.