Before deciding to 3D print an STL file or when reviewing the work of a colleague, you want to view it. Luckily, there are many options available. Some of these 3D viewers are not too demanding for your computer or your wallet.
A free STL viewer is an excellent way to examine a model without the need to download and install 3D modeling software that takes up huge chunks of memory on your hard drive. To make life even easier for you, there are now a handful of online services that offer viewing STL files for free.
STL (Stereolithography) ist the standard file format used in 3D printing. Unlike CAD formats, STL only defines the surface geometry of three-dimensional objects, but not color or texture. Before you print a 3D file, you should check if it is printable. Some free STL viewers in our list come with this feature. But we have also compiled an article on the STL format in general and a dedicated list of STL repair tools:
However, the standard method to edit or revise a 3D model file for 3D printing is to use computer-aided design (CAD) software such as FreeCAD, SketchUp, Blender, or MeshMixer. If that’s the way you want to go, then you should take a look at our articles on this subject:
Here’s a selection of the best free STL viewers currently available. If we’ve missed any, let us know in the comments, and we’ll add them in a future update.
ViewSTL probably is the easiest and simplest way to view your 3D model online. Just visit the website, and drag your file onto the dotted field. The free STL viewer allows you to display the model in one of three views — flat shading, smooth shading or wireframe — and in different colors. This 3D viewer also supports OBJ files, and other formats are planned for the future. In case you are thinking about your 3D model file, ViewSTL allows you send the file to an online 3D printing service near you.
Also, you can get a plugin called “WP ViewSTL” which allows you to display 3D files on your WordPress blog or website. Admittedly, ViewSTL doesn’t have any special tools. On the other hand, this makes the STL file viewer very simple to use, but still very useful for anybody who wants to have a quick look at a 3D model file.
Free STL Viewer Features: ViewSTL
3DViewerOnline is another free STL viewer with an eye on usability. The tool doesn’t just allow you to look at your 3D model files for free, but also to share them via email or social media. To take advantage of this feature you need to be registered with the site, which can be done using an existing Facebook, Google or Twitter account or through email. The tool has some advanced options such as measuring the distance between two points and hiding, showing smart lines or cutting the mesh open along a specified axis. Registered users can also embed the STL file viewer in websites.
So far, we have covered the features of the free STL viewer version. However, to unlock the STL file viewer’s full potential, you need to upgrade to a premium account. The premium edition is ad-free, you can upload up to 100 files with a single click, and add your company logo and style to the 3D viewer – this can be especially useful if you want to embed it in your shop system. Moreover, you can disable viewing options for a streamlined user experience.
Free STL Viewer Features: 3DViewerOnline
3D modeling software specialist Autodesk offers an interesting professional grade free STL viewer. After dropping the file to your browser, the online 3D viewer offers many advanced features. There are numerous tools for viewing alone, like zooming, panning, and turning. But its inspection tools are simply the best: Apart from cutting and measuring, you can inspect the 3D file collaboratively and quite intuitively.
The 3D viewer also allows you take your designs, share them via a link, screenshot, print, or even embed them in a website (the latter is possible when using an Autodesk Account). Instead of uploading a file, you can also connect your cloud storage service to the free STL viewer. Also, it supports the 50 most common 2D and 3D formats, that are relevant to professionals from different fields. No matter if you’re an engineer, an architect or a graphic designer, the chances are that A360 Viewer can display our file. For some of the advanced features of the STL file viewer, you will need to buy a subscription after 30 days.
Free STL Viewer Features: Autodesk A360 Viewer
Visit: A360 viewer
ShareCAD is a straight forward free STL viewer. It doesn’t promise more than it can deliver: It will display your STL files in the web browser. After uploading, you can choose from a number of different shaders and viewing modes. Plus, it gives you basic measuring tools. The free 3D viewer supports a noteworthy range of CAD, 3D, Vector and Raster file formats that make it interesting for hobbyists and professional users alike. You can upload archives to the service, share your files, and even embed the viewer on your website. On the flipside, the maximum file size is limited to 50 Mb.
Free STL Viewer Features: ShareCAD
OpenJSCAD.org is a free online STL file viewer. It is built on OpenJsCad and OpenSCAD.org. The STL file viewer provides a programmer’s approach to view and develop 3D models. In particular, this enhancement is tuned towards creating precise models for 3D printing. Similarly to OpenSCAD, you don’t use interactive modeling tools to create 3D models. Instead, you combine primitive shapes using Boolean operations. Clearly, this is not the kind of workflow that will find a mass audience. But if you’re hooked on this concept, take a look at the in-depth wiki documentation.
On the plus side, the free STL viewer is also working when your browser is offline. The viewer is limited to rotating around the objects, and it can display only a small range of file formats. All in all, it’s not an STL viewer industry professionals or hobbyists are likely to bookmark. But if you are into maths, this STL file viewer may be for you.
Free STL Viewer Features: Openjscad
Dimension Alley is a “3D printing experience store and café” in Berlin, Germany. Besides offering workshops for all ages, 3D scanning services, and even 3D printing by the hour, they also have a free STL viewer online on their website. We have to admit, this 3D viewer doesn’t look like much, but it keeps true to its promise: You upload your 3D model, the tool simply and fast displays a 3D view. You can then can color, scale and even order it through the 3D online printing service in a limited variety of plastic materials.
Free STL Viewer Features: Dimension Alley
Visit: Dimension Alley
This free STL viewer is a WordPress plugin to easily display 3D files on your blog. It is implemented by using a simple shortcode. The plugin is based on WebGL. The features are very limited when compared to other 3D viewers on this list: You can freely zoom and rotate the object in any direction. The plugin was last updated in 2015; it can only be used once per page. Also, large files will slow the STL viewer down. On the plus side, the viewer is fairly fast with smaller 3D objects.
Free STL Viewer Features: STL Viewer for WordPress
Gmsh is more than just a free STL viewer. It’s is a three-dimensional finite element mesh generator with a CAD engine that is used to perform complex physical simulations. Although not in the Public Domain, it is distributed under SNU General Public License, so it‘s free for you to use. But beware, this free STL viewer can be pretty overwhelming for beginners. The viewing tools enable you to cross section 3D files.
Apart from viewing 3D models, you can also create them from scratch, by defining points, lines, and surfaces. These surfaces are then extruded to form a 3D file. Since the STL file viewer can import industrial CAD formats, it is a relevant tool for engineers.
Free STL Viewer Features: Gmsh
GLC-Player is a free STL viewer that with an extensive set of features. For one, it supports many common 3D file types – COLLADA, 3DXML, OBJ, 3DS, STL, OFF and COFF format. This program features advanced viewing tools, e.g. users can view cross-sections of 3D models and take snapshots. A feature not usually found in free STL viewers is the model management: it is a tree view of the model’s elements, including textures. You can display their respective properties and toggle them on and off.
The rendering capability of this STL viewer is quite adequate, and you can change the camera property to have a precise view from different angles. Another nifty feature: you may also select four different shader options and change the light source. Although GLC-Player is merely an STL viewer, it can be quite challenging for beginners. But advanced users will certainly enjoy its rich set of features.
Free STL Viewer Features: GLC-Player
Though Autodesk’s 123D Make is not intended as such you can certainly use it as a free STL viewer. Autodesk designed the program to turn any 3D model into 2D build plans – even with animated assembly instructions. 123D Make lets you choose between multiple techniques to assemble the model. You upload your model and get a 3D view of the model file, which you then can color, scale and even order through the service in a limited variety of plastic materials.
The 3D viewer is easy to use and understand; the program will even check your file for errors. The iOS version is somewhat limited but still serves quite well as an STL file viewer. For creating templates for laser cutters 123D Make is pretty much the perfect tool, but in case, you want to prepare your STL file for 3D printing, you should rather download another free program, Autodesk Meshmixer.
Free STL Viewer Features: Autodesk 123D Make
3D-Tool is an advanced STL viewer for Windows. The free version features cross-sectioning, this allows you to look inside your model. You can add basic animations to rotate the model, or even add an exploded view. For 3D printing, there is also an option to check the wall thickness. A particular strength of the program is the sophisticated measuring tool. The rendering quality is good, and you can also change the light source and direction of the light easily.
3D-Tool’s extensive CAD support makes this tool particularly interesting for engineers and industrial designers. Overall, 3D-Tool is an STL viewer that offers many useful tools to view and test your model.
Free STL Viewer Features: 3D-Tool Free Viewer
Download: 3D-Tool Free Viewer
From 3D printing behemoth Materialise, the free STL viewer MiniMagics is designed for 3D printing service bureaus in mind. The program is designed to visualize the 3D models and prepare a printing quote for customers and partners. What stands out is the program’s user-friendly interface that enables you to quickly analyze the quality of all loaded files.
Basic features include viewing parts by rotate, pan and zoom. Among the advanced features, you can find a cross-section view to inspect the interior and an annotation tool. All in all, this is a very slick and professional STL viewer. It also has an integrated “3DPrintCloud” button that allows users to repair their model quickly and efficiently.
Free STL Viewer Features: MiniMagics
ADA 3D is a basic free STL viewer with a simple user interface that makes it an ideal tool for displaying 3D models. Users can adjust the visualization colors based on their preferences. The viewing port can be adjusted to render the object with a flat or a smooth shader to examine the finer details of the mesh. For a custom version of the STL viewer that features your company’s logo in the lower left corner, contact ADA 3D’s publisher.
Free STL Viewer Features: ADA 3D
Download from: ADA3D
This is a powerful 3D viewer and basic editor, capable of importing more than 40 3D file formats. This free STL viewer features up to four viewports to display your 3D model file from several angles at once.
Moreover, the STL file viewer comes with editing features that are relevant to 3D printing enthusiasts and game programmers and even reach toward the professional level. Such as editing and fixing broken models, skeletal animation and exporting into different formats. 3D printing enthusiasts can look forward to a mesh repair tool that is in the making.
Free STL Viewer Features: Open 3D Model Viewer
Download from: Open 3D Model Viewer
EasyViewSTL is a basic free STL viewer. The software has many settings and options to alter the way your 3D model rendered in the viewport. Several features like a grid help you get a better understanding of the object you’re viewing. Unlike many other free 3D viewers, this one can point you to potential problems with your 3D object files. On the flipside, the program, the documentation, and the website are all in German. Blöd!
Free STL Viewer Features: EasyViewSTL
Download from: EasyViewSTL
STLView is a rudimentary free STL viewer for Windows and Android with great touch screen support. This 3D viewer is provided by CNC milling company ModuleWorks. Its feature set is pretty basic: You can move the camera in different directions and change the color of the object and the background. That’s it, but it’s a fast way to view 3D print models from any angle.
Free STL Viewer Features: STLView
By now everyone will have heard about it: if you have a Mac computer running OS X El Capitan and higher, you can open 3D models using the Preview application. It has a built-in STL file viewer. The options are very basic, all you can do is zoom and rotate the object, but that is more than adequate for day-to-day displaying and reviewing purposes. Plus, if you expand the view to full-screen, the background switches to a dark shade to better highlight the model.
Free STL Viewer Features: Mac OS X Preview
Pleasant3D is a small and simple free STL viewer for Mac OS X. It allows you to change dimensions and the location. Also you can rotate the model along the X, Y and Z axis. If you want to prepare a file for 3D printing, you can even display the GCode from your slicer software and examine it layer by layer to spot potential problems in advance. In the new
In the new versions, you can integrate it into the Finder’s Quicklook function. This makes this 3D viewer is not a fast and nifty way to look at your 3D models, but also a great tool to organize your 3D model files on your computer.
Free STL Viewer Features: Pleasant3D
This STL viewer from ModuleWorks lets you access 3D files on your Android smartphone or tablet. As can be expected from a free app, it’s a very basic 3D viewer. Still, the programmers had some very good ideas: The app makes great use of your phone’s built-in gyroscope – a viewing mode called “Gyrocam” lets you use your smartphone to turn and twist the 3D object. Also, the app can handle multiple models at once.
Free STL Viewer Features: STL File Viewer
Visit: STL File Viewer (free)
MeshLab for iOS is an easy-to-use STL viewer. MeshLab for iOS displays complex 3D models in a simple and intuitive way, allowing the accurate inspection of a 3D model through straightforward navigation. Though a free iOS app, this 3D viewer reads a variety of standard 3D formats and can display highly complex models (up to 2,000,000 polygons) on the iPad.
Opening 3D model directly from web pages, email attachments or DropBox may seem like the logical thing mobile users might want to do, but so far this feature is only implemented in this STL viewer app.
Free STL Viewer Features: MeshLab for iOS
Visit: Meshlabs for iOS.
Our 3D Printing Price Comparison Service also has a free STL viewer. Simply upload a 3D model and rotate and zoom to your heart’s content. Moreover, if you wish to get the object printed by a professional online 3D printing service, simply choose the best price and material from the options listed.
Free STL Viewer Features: 3D Printing Price Comparison
Visit: ALL3DP Price Comparison
License: The text of "20 Best Free STL File Viewer Tools of 2018" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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