Importing and Editing STL Files in SOLIDWORKS

stl files or stereolithography file types are commonly used in cam and 3d printing but can be a pain to work with in SolidWorks there are two issues that users tend to encounter when opening an STL file in SolidWorks either the software crashes completely or the model is brought in as a body that seems to have no faces or edges that can be selected and no operations can be performed on it this is called an STL graphics body I'll cover it in more detail in a moment but before tackling these issues it's a good idea to understand what's going on beneath the hood here the problem lies with how STL files represent the geometry of a model an STL file describes a model surface geometry using a mesh of planar triangular faces this mesh in reality is only an approximation of the complex curves and surfaces that a native SolidWorks file represents the more complex the geometry of an STL model is the more faces it needs to create the shape the more faces an STL file contains the harder it is for SolidWorks to import and convert into a solid part file depending on how many faces an STL file has SolidWorks may be able to form certain bodies but not others or it can crash completely part of the trick to working with STL files and SolidWorks is knowing that there are limits to the levels of complexity that SolidWorks can handle the other part is to take the guesswork out of importing STL files by using the import options you can control what type of body SolidWorks attempts to form when opening the file to do this start by going to the file open dialog box to access the STL import options you first need to change the file type in the drop-down menu to STL with the STL type selected there is now an options button that I can select you have the choice to import the file as a graphics body a solid body or a surface body you can also set the units and import texture information if the STL file contains any let me show you each of these import types and explain their limitations I'll first set the option to import the file as a surface body I'll click OK select the file to import and click open what I do SolidWorks asks if I want to run import Diagnostics I'll skip this for now and now you can see that SolidWorks has imported the file as a surface body you can see all of the faces that make up the model and notice that areas of more complexity are made up of more surfaces at this point you can edit the surfaces just like you would any surface created in SolidWorks but be aware that the overall robustness of the model might not be good if I run geometry analysis to look for sliver faces discontinuous geometry and other issues the analysis takes a very long time to process and there are many issues some of these issues might have been resolved if I had ran import Diagnostics when I first imported the part but keep in mind that processing models with high face counts is a memory intensive process and can crash the software instead the best use of this imported surface would be to rebuild the part with clean surfaces using the faces and edges of the model as a reference let's go back and instead open this file as a solid body I tend to only import STL files as solid bodies when the file is relatively small and I only need to do fairly simple operations like mirroring the body or adding an extruded cut the reason is when creating a solid body from an STL file SolidWorks basically creates a surface body then attempts to repair any gaps or overlaps from the surfaces so it can form a solid body in this case you have to run import Diagnostics on the file to repair the faces when prompted otherwise only a surface body will be created the process is more memory intensive than just opening the file as a surface body additionally sometimes gaps surfaces can't be repaired and the import Diagnostics tool will crash in these cases try to import the model as a surface body to begin with however if the STL model contains a large amount of faces even just converting the STL faces to surfaces will be two memory intensive for SolidWorks and only a graphics body can be created like you saw before a graphics body is only graphic data meaning there are no faces edges or points to work with graphics bodies are really only useful as a visual reference because of this if you can you will usually want to create a surface body or solid body instead depending on the size of the STL file and the amount of processing power you have sometimes even a graphics body is too much for SolidWorks to handle and will crash the software in cases like this I recommend looking into reducing the face count of your STL model to a manageable size using a third party software you

12 thoughts on “Importing and Editing STL Files in SOLIDWORKS

  1. They actually deleted the STL file import option in the latest solid works version, but i found a workaround so nevermind

  2. at last understandable english, man hindu ppl are killing the engineering game, but that accent is thickkkk!!

  3. Hi.
    My Version of Solidworks (2018) doesn't have and STL. option on the dropdown menu. thats my first issue.

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