This embroidery design information, which dictates how the machine moves in a pre-determined manner to replicate the design, is saved in embroidery machine file formats.

The file format often varies for different embroidery machine brands. More often than not, a specific brand machine only recognizes design information in its native format, and is not compatible with other brands.

To make this concept clearer, let us consider the example of PC and Mac Computers. Even though the purpose of these machines is the same, there are certain software programs that can only run on PC and others that are Mac exclusive only.

This happens due to differences because of the different coding language of their operating systems. This difference is unique enough that certain file types created on one platform are not readable on the other system. A software or file format that is compatible with only one operating system platform and its machines is known as proprietary software/format.

The same thing happens with embroidery machine file formats. Each embroidery machine brand (e.g., Janome) might have a proprietary file format (e.g., JEF) to read the embroidery design information and won’t be cross-compatible with other brands and machines. Thus, the hardware and compatible file format go hand in hand.

What is the reason for so many embroidery machine formats out there?

So, why is there is no universal format that works with all the machines? Well, the simplest answer is that there is no common file system because the embroidery industry brands don’t want there to be one. Having a unique file system, which is proprietary to their devices allows them to ensure a closed ecosystem and to keep the client loyal.

Embrodiery Machine File Formats

A client who has spent five years building a database of thousands of embroidery designs stored in one format, such as JEF, is going to be less likely to go out and buy a machine from another manufacturer, such as Brother. The reason is that his database would be incompatible with the new machine, which only uses PES format, and the client would either be forced to start from scratch, or remain with the old manufacturer, to save costs and time.

Because of this, and to ensure your peace of mind, when a time comes that you decide to switch machine brands with all of our embroidery designs, our embroidery digitizing team will provide you with the main embroidery machine formats at once, to reduce downtime and increase efficiency.

Different embroidery machine file formats

As outlined above, nearly every embroidery machine brand in the embroidery industry has developed and implemented their own file format for embroidery designs, which will only work on the file format specific machines.

One thing to understand is that the majority of the embroidery designs that you purchase were not originally made in the file format for home embroidery market (such as JEF and PES). In fact, most of these designs are compiled using professional grade embroidery digitizing software which usually saves the design work in a strong vector-based format (e.g., EMB or PXF). These ‘master’ files are later converted to formats such as JEF and PES embroidery machines formats so that they can be used with your machines.

You can consult the list below for a brief overlook of which file format is compatible with which embroidery machine brand. This list mentions the primary ones, and there are many more that have not been mentioned here.

Embroidery Machine Brand Embroidery Stitch File Format
Janome .JEF
Bernina .ART
Husqvarna / Viking .HUS & .VP3 & .VIP
Brother / Babylock / Deco .PES / .PEC
Singer .XXX
Pfaff .PCD / .PCM / .PCS
Tajima .DST
Melco / Bravo .EXP

Native Embroidery Machine File formats

Revisiting the PC vs Mac analogy, where we said both platforms have software exclusive to them respectively? Well, in our case, an .EMB file which is native to Wilcom’s software will not run on any machine, it is proprietary to the software. It’s almost like a Vector art file that isn’t make up of dots per inch, it’s the original inputted nodes and properties which means the image can be modified more accurately with less effort. Every software program has its own native language that it speaks most fluently. If we decided to bring a file converted from another file format into the program, certain information that is lost in the conversion is missing and results in less than optimal results.

Can I convert machine embroidery file formats?

With certain caveats, yes, it is completely possible to convert a design file from one embroidery file format to another. The only thing to remember is that the conversion does result in loss of some information, and the best result will always be achieved using a native file format with its specific software.

Embroidery Digitizing Program’s native format used within its’s software will allow you to resize files and change the entire properties of a designs at the click of a button, allowing you to go from Thai Silk to Terry Cloth and the underlay, density, pull compensation will adjust perfectly… it’s amazing! But if you bring a JEF file into an embroidery digitizing software and convert it to an EMB file, it will work, but it will no longer modify as well. I guess you could say, “It got lost in translation”. If you’re looking for a an embroidery digitizing service to help you convert embroidery file formats, be sure to try us.