Creating a Surface from a Mesh Feature in SOLIDWORKS 2018

Article by Mehdi Rezaei, CSWE updated January 7, 2018


When a *.stl or *.obj file is imported into SOLIDWORKS, the 3D model opens in a tessellated or meshed form. All faces are broken into some triangular faces. Round faces will have more segments than flat faces. In SOLIDWORKS 2017 a *.stl file could be converted into solid body, however, it will still be tessellated. New in SOLIDWORKS 2018 is the Surface From Mesh tool, it lets you manipulate a mesh object that you imported from an *.stl, *.obj, *.off, *.ply, *.ply2 or *.3MF file to create surfaces and solids.

The Surface From Mesh tool works best on mesh files with regular prismatic geometry such as planes, cylinders, cones, and spheres. The tool may not be appropriate for highly irregular meshes such as those created from a 3D scan of an organic shape. Because the feature only creates surfaces, the recommended workflow is to trim the surfaces to form
a solid.

Import Tessellated Model

To import tessellated models into SOLIDWORKS, we need to setup the opening format. Go to Tools > Options > Import, and under File Format, select STL/OBJ/OFF/PLY/PLY2 and click Import as Graphics Body. Now if you open a *.stl file, you will see the file look like the below image:

Imported *.stl file in SOLIDWORKS is meshed/tessellated.

Create Surfaces from Mesh Feature

To Create surfaces from meshed faces, take these steps:

  1. Go to Insert > Surface > Surface From Mesh
  2. Under Facets, do the following:
    1. Clear Dynamic Help if you do not want to display detailed help.
    2. For surface type, select the type of surface you want to create. You can select either a Planar , Spherical , Cylindrical , or Conical surface.
    3. In the graphics area, select a group of facets to define the area of the surface you want to create. You can select these facets by:
      • Selecting a few seed facets.
      • Using the Box Select or Lasso Select tools.
      • Painting adjacent facets with the Paint Select tool.
  3. Adjust the Facet tolerance slider to include fewer mesh facets in the surface you are creating.

Note: Moving the slider left loosens the tolerance for the facets, while moving the slider right tightens the tolerance. For example, if you are attempting to create a plane, and there are three facets, one of which is at a slight angle to the other two, then a loose tolerance will include the angled facet in the plane, while a tight tolerance will exclude it.

  1. Use the Extend surface size, setting to specify the extension distance of the surface body that fits the selected facets and geometric shape.
  2. In the PropertyManager, click Calculate.
SOLIDWORKS Surface From Mesh

Create Surfaces from Mesh Feature

Note: If needed, using Surface toolbar, the created surfaces could be knitted together and finally using those surfaces, the whole 3D model could be recreated.

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Mehdi Rezaei, CSWE

Mehdi is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert (CSWE) and works near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada