Over the years SOLIDWORKS has made improvements with how it reads STL files and how useful that data is after it is loaded. An STL file is made up entirely of triangular shapes and the bits and bytes don’t form an actual solid with volume like SOLIDWORKS files. In the past this has made editing STL file types tricky, it is now a much easier experience. The traditional SOLIDWORKS features we are accustomed to can be added to most STL file geometry with ease. This blog article will explore the process of how to edit an STL file of a gear in SOLIDWORKS 2023 to make its center hole a tighter fit on a purchased motor.
Opening the File
During the file opening process if you select the file that you wish to open with a single click, and then select the options box from the SOLIDWORKS file open dialog box it will open the system options for that file type. The options for STL files are shown in the screenshot below. If you wish to modify the file and have it perform well with SOLIDWORKS operations the best option is to try to import it as a “Solid Body”. This is also the most time consuming opening process but with SOLIDWORKS 2023 it is a lot speedier than past versions. If you just want to open a file to look at it and not edit it the fastest opening option is “Graphics Body”.
Once the file is open we can see there is a symbol for an imported body on the feature tree. If you also have surface bodies that means there was a problem opening the file and it defaulted to surface bodies for components in what you opened. Surface bodies can be edited but may need other techniques than shown; from my experience solid bodies are the easiest to modify. If I change the display to “Shaded with Edges” the complex triangular nature of the original file type is easy to see.
Editing the Imported File
If the file imported as a Solid Body, traditional SOLIDWORKS features can be inserted. The only thing worth noting here is that the underlying edges from the imported triangles can make some features difficult to add due to broken edges around cylindrical surfaces. I simply click a face of the body and start a sketch from the flyout menu option, then extrude the sketch to the other side of the gear to fill the original hole that was oversized.
Then I click and start a sketch for a new hole that I input values measured from the motor and make a new cut feature through the gear.
Saving as an STL Again
Once the newly sized hole is in the gear the model can easily be saved as a new STL file for use with your 3D printer. From the “Save As” dialog box select STL from the drop down as the file type. If you ever notice circular edges appearing blocky this can be easily fixed by changing the SOLIDWORKS file saving options.
If you select options from the save as dialog box you can adjust the sliders for the amount of triangles that will be in the file to the right a bit. This will increase the file size of the resulting STL files but if you are trying to make circular edges have a rounder appearance this can be necessary.
SOLIDWORKS can easily open and edit most STL files. If you ever have a downloaded file that you want to print, but you would like to change something about it, now you can edit STL files with ease. Look below for a sneak peek of the project this gear is being used on. I am working on printing a hydroponic lettuce garden at my house so that we can always have fresh salads. Maybe it will make some future blog article appearances as well!
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