STL Import for SolidWorks

STL Import for SolidWorks

STL Import for SolidWorks

STL Import for SolidWorks is a Stereolithography (.stl) file import add-in for SolidWorks. This add-in gives SolidWorks the ability to import geometric data from ASCII and Binary STL files. STL Import for SolidWorks reads polygon mesh data stored in STL files. A polygon mesh in a STL file is comprised of a set of triangular faces. STL Import for SolidWorks creates trimmed planar surfaces for each triangle and knits them together.STL Import for SolidWorks is an add-in for SolidWorks. This add-in gives SolidWorks the ability to import graphical data from ASCII as well as binary Stereolithography (STL) files.

The STL file format has become the Rapid Prototyping industry’s standard data transmission format and is the format required to interact with stereolithography machines. This format approximates the surfaces of a solid model with triangles.

Stereolithography files contain solids which are made up of 3 sided facets. STL Import for SolidWorks reads these triangular surfaces and knits them into a solid in a new SolidWorks part document. If the attempt to knit the surfaces into a solid succeeds, the solid appears as the base feature (named Imported1). If the surfaces represent multiple closed volumes, then one part is made for each closed volume. If the attempt to knit the surfaces fails, the surfaces are grouped into one or more surface features (named Surface-Imported1, 2, …).

STL Import for SolidWorks is very easy to use as it adds a new file type to the SolidWorks File Open dialog box. To import a STL file select Open from the File menu. Select “Stereolithography Files (*.stl)” from the “File of type” combo box and select a STL file to import. A new part document will be created containing the imported STL file.STL Import for SolidWorks is a Stereolithography (.stl) file import add-in for SolidWorks®. This add-in gives SolidWorks the ability to import geometric data from ASCII and Binary STL files.
STL Import for SolidWorks reads polygon mesh data stored in STL files and imports it into SolidWorks. A polygon mesh in a STL file is comprised of a set of triangular faces. STL Import for SolidWorks creates trimmed planar surfaces for each triangle and knits them together to create a body. If the polygon mesh is closed (i.e. it does not contain boundary edges) then STL Import for SolidWorks will create a closed body feature, otherwise an open surface will be created.
STL Import for SolidWorks is very easy to use as it adds new commands to SolidWorks. It also adds a submenu to the SolidWorks menu called “STLImport”.
The ‘STLImport’ submenu consists of the following commands:
# Import – Import a STL file
# Help – Display the STL Import for SolidWorks help file
# Register – Register your copy of STL Import for SolidWorks
# About – Display the STL Import for SolidWorks About box
STL Import for SolidWorks comes with detailed documentation for each command as well as a tutorial to get you started in the shortest possible time.
The STL File Format
The STL file format is the Rapid Prototyping industry’s standard data transmission format and is the format required to interact with stereolithography machines. Stereolithography files contain solids which are made up of 3 sided facets. STL files may be ASCII or binary data, although binary is far more common due to the resulting size of the CAD data when saved to the ASCII format. A STL file describes a raw unstructured triangulated surface by the unit normal and vertices (ordered by the right-hand rule) of the triangles using a three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system. Many CAD systems are able to output the STL file format among their other formats, but very few have the ability to import STL files.

STL (stereolithography) file types are commonly used in CAM and 3D printing, but are unfortunately difficult to work with in SOLIDWORKS.

When opening an STL file, the software crash completely. Other times, the model is brought in as a body with no selectable faces or edges. This is not a glitch, but actually an STL graphics body.

STL files describe a model’s surface geometry using a mesh of plain or triangular faces, which define the curves and surfaces within a native SOLIDWORKS file. The more complex the STL model’s geometry gets, the harder it will be on the software’s memory to import and convert the shape into a solid part file.

Within the import options, users can control what type of body SOLIDWORKS attempts to form when opening a file. To do this, click on “File” and select “Open.” To access the STL import options, users need to change the file type in the dropdown menu to STL.

Next, select “Options.” Here, users can choose to import the file as a graphics body, solid body or surface body. Users can also set units and import texture information if the STL file contains any.

In the video above, we see a demonstration of importing a surface body without running import diagnostics.

By deciding not to run import diagnostics, users will be greeted by their imported file with each of its faces displayed in a mesh. This can be edited, but the robustness of the model is poor. Running a Geometry Analysis at this point will be difficult and could crash SOLIDWORKS depending on the size and complexity of the file.

The best use of this imported file would be to use it as a reference to rebuild the part with clean surfaces.

It is only recommended to open STL files as solid bodies for small or simple operations, as SOLIDWORKS imports the file as a surface body at first and automatically attempts to repair gaps and overlaps in surfaces to form a solid body.

Users should run import diagnostics to repair the file. Be aware that this process is memory intensive.

If the file cannot be repaired, the diagnostics tool will crash. In this scenario, users should instead import the model as a surface body and repair the file manually. However, when importing large STL files even just converting faces to surfaces will be too memory intensive for SOLIDWORKS, and only a graphics body can be created.

Graphics bodies contain only graphic data, including edges, faces or points to manipulate. This leaves the file only functional as a visual reference.

Unfortunately, particularly large graphics bodies can still cause SOLIDWORKS to crash. For cases like this, it is recommended to use third party software to reduce the face count of the STL model to a more manageable size.

Stereolithography is a three-dimensional printing process that makes a solid object from a computer image. The process, also called rapid prototyping, creates parts using a faceted mesh representation in STL files.

You can import .STL files with up to 500,000 facets (~ 24 MB for binary format .STL files and ~ 138 MB for ASCII format .STL files).

For surface and solid .STL file imports, you are warned that conversion may take a long time and you are given an opportunity to cancel the import.

You can assign a unit of measure to a model for both import and export.

The STL translator imports STL files as SOLIDWORKS part documents. You have the option to import STL files as graphical data, solids, or surfaces. When you import STL files as graphical data, you can select the Import texture information check box to import texture information if this data exists.

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