Model #: axf001

Appearance Exchange Format (AxF™)

For Communicating Material Appearance Data

AxF is a vendor-neutral file format that digitally stores and shares a material’s appearance properties across PLM, CAD and rendering applications.

X-Rite created the AxF™ file format to address a number of issues that have made it difficult to capture and manage complex visual appearance data in a single, editable file in order to improve the virtualization process.

To date, digital appearance representations have been highly system dependent. The materials or shaders represent the surface appearance and reflection properties of 3D objects but are created using system-specific shaders and shading languages. Almost every available commercial system comes with its own proprietary models and specifications which cannot be exchanged or converted easily. In practice many complex production workflows rely on different software packages, and different formats must be used in parallel. This poses serious problems when consistency such as color, image or gloss measurement needs to be achieved.

To solve this, a standardized representation for storing and communicating complex visual appearance is required. Before AxF, no such format existed for appearance, in contrast to color measurements or images. As a result, materials and surface finishes were communicated and controlled using small physical samples and/or standards with all the associated problems regarding availability, applicability, generality, etc.

AxF is a binary digital file format that delivers a standardized appearance representation with the following characteristics:

  • Not restricted to a specific device or measurement geometry
  • Supports continuous appearance representations - like parametric BRDF models but also discrete samples like BTF measurements.
  • Scalable - ensures efficient access for large data volumes of gigabytes or more.
  • Extensible - Extensions can be defined without harming existing support in third-party applications.
  • Portable – an SDK is available for Windows and Linux Operating Systems, with a Mac SDK in the works, to support existing workflows and enable simple integration into existing applications.
  • Compatible - comes with a built-in set of material representations designed for compatibility with existing SVBRDF-based workflows.

AxF is the foundational component of X-Rite’s Total Appearance Capture (TAC™) Ecosystem. The AxF files are used to define, store and transfer digital materials between other components of the TAC Ecosystem which create, store, edit, communicate or present visualizations. In a typical TAC workflow:

  • Physical material samples are scanned (TAC7 Scanner or X-Rite Scanning Service) to measure and create highly realistic and accurate digital materials specifications in AxF.
  • Alternatively, existing AxF files can be accessed from digital material catalogs such as the PantoneLIVE Cloud.
  • AxF files are stored and managed in the PANTORA™ Digital Material Hub and can be distributed from there to Digital Material rendering cores, plug-in integrations with third-party 3D rendering systems including Autodesk VRED™ and Nvidia Iray® or X-Rite’s Virtual Light Booth.

For more information about AxF and the TAC Ecosystem, Contact Us.

Compatible Applications

Find out more about our Appearance Exchange File Format (AxF) and how you can digitally capture appearance data to enhance your Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and state-of-the-art rendering applications. Contact us today for more details on our AxF integration partner program.

Compatible Applications for AxF
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TAC7 Scanner


For Scanning Appearance Characteristics

The TAC7 scanner captures and stores color, texture, gloss and other surface appearance characteristics of physical material samples.



For Creating Virtual Materials and File Formats

The PANTORA desktop application enables users to capture, store, manage, view and edit virtual materials and digitally exchange them via a vendor neutral Appearance Exchange (AxF) file format.

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