Shapeways Now Supports OBJ File Format

An often heard request was support for the OBJ file format. This is an open and rather old format, meaning that many many applications offer really good support for it.

After some quiet beta testing, we’re now ready to offer it to everyone. So if exporting your designs to STL, VRML97, X3D or Collada always gave you a headache this just might make your life a little bit easier!

A few things to note:

  • OBJ is a unit-less file format, so you’ll have to tell us the scale of your model when you upload it: millimeters, inches or meters. For example, if you select millimeters then 1 unit in your 3D model translates to 1 millimeter in your printed object.
  • We currently do not yet support material/texture files (.MTL) – this is planned for the future, however. NURBS are also not supported. But in our research we found that NURBS are not commonly used by OBJ exporters of 3D software packages.

We’ll be updating our list of supported applications over the next couple of weeks, but we can really use your help with that. Let us know if your favorite 3D app supports OBJ – either natively or through a plugin. You can leave your feedback on the forum. Thanks!!


  1. Tim Day

    Question about this, before I attempt my first OBJ upload: is it necessary to provide normals ? I believe they’re optional in OBJ, and I’ve never run across any software dealing with OBJ which couldn’t figure out sensible shading for the mesh if normals aren’t explicitly provided. However, production of solid objects is a completely different business to surface rendering and I’m guessing normals might be important for figuring out inside/outside (unless it can be determined implicitly from the “watertightness” of the mesh). Thanks for any clarification.

  2. Tim Day

    Turns out I needn’t have worried; an upload without normals (and, FWIW, 4-vertex faces) worked fine. Come to think of it, normals are redundant for distinguishing inside/outside so long as you stick with (presumably) a right-hand rule for vertex winding order.

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