Apr 7, 2019

STEP to STL – How to Convert STEP Files to STL

CAD lets you construct complex 3D models that can later be 3D printed. Find out how to bring these models to life by converting STEP to STL.

STEP to STL From CAD to 3D Printer

Visualizations of a CAD file (left) and STL meshes (center and right). Source: i.Materialize

Computer-aided design, or CAD, is a powerful tool for visually realizing complex components and assemblies. They allow for digital iterations to be made before physical prototypes are produced, saving time and labor in the design process.

STEP is a file format for CAD. They’re useful for exchanging 3D models and can be read and edited by most CAD programs. The information that they store is quite detailed.

The STL file format, on the other hand, is a common format used in 3D printing. Model information is stored as triangles woven into a mesh (seen above), which makes it easier for files to be translated into 3D printer G-code. This comes at the expense of editability.

Working with CAD, it’s often helpful to translate digital designs into physical models. This can be done by converting your STEP files into 3D printable STLs, which can then be processed and sent to a 3D printer.

Here, we’ll run you through two easy methods for making this conversion. Let’s get started!

STEP to STL Method #1: Use a CAD Program

A CAD program can be used to convert files from STEP to STL. Source: SolidSmack

When working with STEP files, you’re usually already in a CAD program or have access to one. The easiest way to convert STEP’s to STL’s is to just use that program.

In most cases, you can directly export from the CAD program to an STL. From File > Export, “STL” is usually available as a file format. This is true of FreeCAD and AutoCAD. In Solidworks, the same STL export options are found under File > Save As.

Fusion 360, another popular program, is a slight exception here, as the “Save As” and “Export” options do not include “STL”. Instead, simply right-click on the desired body or component and select “Save as STL”.

If you don’t already have a CAD program, don’t worry. Several are available for free, and most will be able to export your models from STEP to STL.

STEP to STL Method #2: Use an Online Converter

Online converters are an alternative to CAD programs. Source: Colorlib

If you don’t already have a CAD program and don’t want to install one, consider using an online converter. This method is slightly more involved than directly using a CAD program but is still fairly straightforward.

Makexyz has an online conversion tool available on their website. Simply upload your STEP file and download the STL it produces.

With just that, your file is converted from STEP to STL!

STEP to STL You're Ready to Print!

After conversion, your STL is ready to print! Source: Ultimaker / YouTube

There you have it: two easy (and free) ways to convert your files from STEP to STL. There are other options, such as dedicated conversion programs, but we don’t feel they offer advantages over the methods we’ve explored here.

To process your new STL for 3D printing, check out our guide on converting STLs to 3D printer G-code. For more on the STL file format, refer to our helpful breakdown.

Happy printing!

Feature image source: Autodesk

License: The text of "STEP to STL – How to Convert STEP Files to STL" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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