There are several 3D file formats that an industrial designer should be familiar with. These file formats assist in the communication and dissemination of information pertaining to the product development process.
IGES and STEP. These file formats are widely used amongst CAD (Computer Aided Design) and CAID ( Computer Aided Industrial Design) programs. All industrial-strength CAID and Mechanical CAD should have support for this format. That means, they should allow the import or export of these formats or both. Alias StudioTools, Rhino 3D both support these formats. Industrial strength Mechanical CAD programs such as Pro-engineer, Alibre Design, Unigraphics and Solidworks support these 3D file formats. Below shows an example of Rhino file exporting to Alibre Design CAD via STEP file format.
STL. These file format is widely accepted as a standard 3D format for transferring data for 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping. All rapid protoyping machines support this file format. All industrial-strength CAID and Mechanical CAD should have support for STL too. This is a mesh-based 3D format. Increasingly, Polygon-based 3D modelling software are also embracing this format. For example, Blender 3D, which is mainly a polygonal modeling program also support the STL format, enabling its model to be 3D printing ready, if modeled correctly. As a side note, Studiorola also provide Blender modeling for 3D printing training.
Although 3DS is a widely used 3D file format for general 3D modelling, it is not really ideal for Industrial Design usage. This is because, it is a polygonal file format that works on approximation of shapes. As such, this file format will lack the extreme precise accuracy required for producing physical product parts from the 3D data.