25 Replies Latest reply on Sep 5, 2011 10:18 PM by Glenn Mahboob

    import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?

    V. M


      I had a sculptor create a 3D figurine in SoftImage.  His OBJ or STL files, as well as their translations to DXF, DWG, 3DM and 3DS formats, show as 3D in ZBrush, DeepExploration and other free viewers (see picture), but all with this result:


      A potential plastics manufacturer is telling me that he has "the latest version of SolidWorks. The attachment you gave me is... not a 3D part with mass and a center of gravity. It is only a bunch of vectors outlining the overall shape of the part. ... It looks good, but it is worthless to me and to the injection molding factory. It has no mass or any other kind of detail. You can see it, but the software won't recognize this image is even there."


      I do not use any CAD/CAM, but to me ANY 3d file is just a collection of polygons, vertices, nurbs or whatever that can be virtually overlayed with a texture or filled with a virtual material - not a solid. So, there should be some way to import/convert a 3D object from "artistic" (SoftImage, Cinema4D...) to "engineering" (SolidWorks, AutoCAD...) software, as even the picture shows, n'est-ce pas?


      Can you please tell me what can be done to use that sculpt in SolidWorks? Recreate it in CAD/CAM is not an option for the artist




      P.S. you can see more pictures of my table basketball game on FaceBook.

      jS figurine-DXF-is-3D.gif


      Message was edited by: V. M

        • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
          Jerry Steiger



          Your plastic part manufacturer wants to use SW and he wants a good solid model to start with. You need to look into a number of the threads in this forum. The latest one by Charles Culp is quite likely to be very helpful ("How to import larg STL files (or any mesh)"). This is not going to be a pain-free process.


          Another plastic part manufacturer might not be so picky. Most CAM tools don't require that the model be solid. They are quite happy with a collection of surfaces. I'm not familar with the formats that you mention, other than STL, but there may be CAM packages that can import them directly.


          STL files are not terribly useful for any other purpose than making rapid prototypes. They break the original model down into a collection of triangular faces. The number of triangles depends on the accuracy that you ask for. If you got a suitably detailed STL file, then you may be able to get a suitably accurate machined mold out of it, but most STL files are too crude for a good mold to be made from them, because the rapid prototyping machines usually can't make detailed enough models to require the level of accuracy needed in a mold.


          Jerry Steiger

            • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
              V. M

              Thanks for the quick reply, Jerry!

              I did read ~8 previous threads, but nothing seemed to help me. You don't seem to give me much hope as far as SolidWorks goes either. Perhaps I should've known after finding that it's a French sw: long time ago in a universe... I consulted to a French airline on their reservation system, and they'd do ANYTHING to NOT be like the american sw.


              Two of the formats I gave the manufacturer are AutoCAD native: DXF + DWG, both 3d as the pix shows, detailed enough with 560 000 faces. Is there no way to "stuff it" by assigning a material to the 3d shell in SolidWorks? Is SW that incompatible with the old standards like AutoCAD? Grrrr... and yes, you are right, other manufacturers had no problem using the OBJ or STL.

                • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                  Jerry Steiger



                  Unfortunately, SW only imports 2D .dxf and .dwg files, not 3D models. The best way to get the 3D model into SW would be a Parasolid file (*.x_t or *.x_b), STEP file (*.step or *.stp), IGES file (*.igs or *.iges) or ACIS file (*.sat). You could also try bringing it into another CAD modeler and then importing it into SW directly, like Pro/E  or CadKey or UGII (*.prt), Inventor (*.ipt), Solid Edge (*.par), or Rhino (*.3dm).


                  Jerry Steiger

                    • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                      V. M


                      didn't that Charles Culp's video you pointed me to convert STL to DWG and then import the DWG into a new part in SW (showing how the controller was 3d, although faceted and perhaps needing some work)?


                      btw, can SW be used for things like photorealistic human figurines (or terrain etc.), or is it suitable just for "engineering" shapes that can be reasonably calculated? If so, perhaps I'll have to find manufacturer using CAD sw that can use meshes...



                      (sorry for that vm, I got used to hiding name on other forums, and now I can't change it here)

                        • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                          Jerry Steiger



                          SW can be used for shapes like people and terrain, but it isn't a particularly good tool for the job. Kind of like pliers can be used when you don't have the right wrench.


                          Jerry Steiger

                          • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                            Glenn Mahboob




                            Were you able to find a solution to your problem? I find myself in the exact same situaiton and have been slowly progressing towards a solution myself but do not have one as of yet. The method outlined in the video is one that i hoped would solve the problem but it seems the true issue is simply the size of my file (which is almost 500K polygons).


                            My next step is to test a smaller model file of under 20K polygons to see if indeed it will import into SW. If so at least then i have a starting point. I've seen some rather detailed models made with less than 20K polygons.


                            A friend used the Sycode STL importer but i'm unsure of whether this will help in the long run as the mold manufacturer may not have the ability to import a large file much like myself (whether via Sycode or Scanto3D) nor do i believe they are willing to obtain the tools neccesary to do so.

                          • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                            Walter Fetsch

                            I hate to disagree with Jerry, but SW will definitely import 3D ACAD parts.  I'm not saying that it will do a good job of it, but SW definitely imports 3D .dwgs.

                      • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                        Charles Culp



                        The best bet for this is to use ScanTo3D, which is a SolidWorks Premium product. It allows for the import of mesh data, and aids in the conversion to NURBS surfaces.


                        There is no "easy" conversion from mesh data to NURBS data. In fact, T-Splines, a SolidWorks partner, has just introduced a product called tsElements to help bridge that gap. It can actually open native OBJ files into SolidWorks. Now, these OBJ files cannot be made from triangle facets, which is what most programs output. It needs to be a much "cleaner" model.


                        In my previous thread I show a video of how to import mesh models into SolidWorks, but this is merely a "looks good" import. All the faces will be large facets, and not smooth.

                          • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                            V. M

                            Thanks, Charles, I'll check if the manufacturer has ScanTo3D or tsElements.


                            I've seen your video - Jerry Steigner pointed me to it. I have a DWG translated from STL + OBJ files (using DeepExploration - see the picture at top ). It has 560K faces, so it may be fine enough.

                            1. Re my manufacturer's statement above, will the DWG be imported into SW as an empty surface, or as as his 'solid with a center of gravity' etc.? How about tsElements? (sorry, I've just read the answer in your video thread!)

                            2. In your video, as you move pointer over the imported controller, there are some (brown?) curves flashing on, mapping closely the model. Can those be used to smoothen the model 'in bulk' rather than doing 1 facet at a time?

                            3. Can SW be used successfuly to make things like a photorealistic statuette (I'd like to get NBA players' licenses for my patented table basketball eventually, see www.jumpshot.co) or is it limited to 'technical' shapes that can be reasonably calculated? As I said, the artists I talked to don't use CAD/CAM...



                            btw, what is 'a much cleaner model' compared to polygonal mesh? Splines and nurbs?

                              • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                Aaron Baumgartner

                                Once again i will preach it!!  Try the stl importer add-in from sycode products. works great.


                                you can get the fully functional version as a trial and open 10 stl files!


                                its as easy as file open, sit and enjoy the model once opened. depending on the file size of the stl it take a little time to open, also on your machine specs


                                I have this add-in and use it monthly. 

                                  • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                    V. M

                                    @ Aaron:


                                    I have mentioned that Sycode addon to 'my manufacturer' (see the story on top.)

                                    He tried to import the artist's original .OBJ + .STP files into SolidWorks Premium, as well as our translations of it into .DWG, .3DS etc. However, he always gets 'an empty mesh, not a solid' that he can't use to quote and design injection tools. Supposedly, another recommendation here, ScanTo3D, only 'imports scanner mesh/point cloud, not empty meshes' created in SoftImage or similar 3D sw...


                                    @ Jerry:

                                    yes, I was afraid that SW is not the best tool for organic shapes. Another manufacturer, using AutoCAD, had no problem with our original .OBJ or .STP...



                                      • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                        Aaron Baumgartner

                                        Tell your sculpter that the sculpt is not "watertight" this is a must when doing this. i use z-brush files all the time using the stl importer from sycode and and when they are not watertight the will not open as a solid.


                                        can you post the stl model?

                                          • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                            V. M


                                            hmm, not tight... that may be the problem, thanks. When he was creating the figurine, I seem to recall 4-5 overlapping meshes. Not sure if he's 'unified' them eventually...

                                            I'll have to check what size files I can post here. The models have ~500K faces: STL = 27MB, and translated DWG = 15MB. Can I upload it to your ftp



                                              • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                                Aaron Baumgartner

                                                Programs like softimage and zbrush are mostly used in the CG world they dont care about closed meshes.


                                                no ftp! sorry, not to mention at 27mb that would get my computer spinning for hours to convert it.


                                                have your artist "decimate" the model (reduce the poly count). i use files in the area of 2mb. It does make the little facets larger doing this, but we use an objet 3d printer and when printed out you cant tell. Once in sw you will need to check the scale of the figure. with all the conversion going on it usually looses the sculpted size.

                                                  • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                                    V. M

                                                    Thanks to all of you for your advice. I'll try to have the mesh fixed and translated.


                                                    Vlad Mitvalsky


                                                    • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                                      Sasa Pasic

                                                      Aaron, would you be so kind to help me with an import of a game model into SW? I've read nearly every topic on this forum relating to ScanTo3D, watched youtube videos and made a few attempts at an import, but all I've managed is to convert 1 tire of a car to a solid . Even that wasn't really enough as there's still many faces on the outer surface (and I am trying to do some Flow simulation) and having to click every face to select them all and make some trajectories is really becoming annoying.


                                                      I did knit the surfaces, and when I went under Thicken it offered the "convert to solid" for the first time (meaning the other times the model wasn't really air tight) but I still have a problem with all the outer surfaces etc..


                                                      If you're willing to help, I'd be happy to exchange some contact info like email/msn/googletalk/IRC/skype or anything else you prefer.

                                                        • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                                          Deepak Gupta

                                                          Welcome to SolidWorks forums Sasa.


                                                          Did you tried the method Charles suggested here: How to import large STL files (or any mesh)



                                                          You might also find this post helpful for your future reference

                                                            • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                                              Sasa Pasic

                                                              Yes, among others.


                                                              This is the full state of the situation:


                                                              1. The first thing I tried was the 3ds importer by SYCODE. It actually created a solid imported part on which analysis could be done. However, the same amount of faces and edges remained on the body which made it really hellish when it came to displaying the results and trajectories. If I wanted to see trajectories on the rear wing, I had to click about 150-200 faces individually in the selection. Same with front splitter, underbody and any other part.. The smaller the part was (like the mirror) the more tiny individual faces i'd have to click.


                                                              2. Then I started looking for more solutions and came to the ScanTo3D (as a number of imports on the trial version of 3DS importer was coming down). It could natively import both .3ds and .obj files and the imports were better than with SYCODE (sycode would leave out the tires, it'd shrink one rim and enlarge the other and it generally had some issues). This method imported a Mesh1 and then I've tried the follow the steps outlined both here and on some youtube tutorial videos. I've tried to generate surfaces automatically and paint them manually. Both attempts lead to errors in surfaces and SW asking me if I wanted to delete them and add them later.. I've tried it with yes/no and had no results to show for it.


                                                              3. Finally I saw the method outlined by Charles and I downloaded MeshLab and opened the .obj files in there first and exported a .dxf file. After importing that into SW I had nothing but more grief. So, I decided to give up on importing the whole car until I got the technique down and I just tried to import one of the tires. It turned out that the spokes on the rim weren't really air tight and the geometry was piercing the flange of the rim so I deleted them and tried to just knit the surfaces and form a solid out of an enclosed volume that the flange of the rim and the tire outlined. GREAT SUCCESS. I actually managed to do this, and here is the result: http://i51.tinypic.com/2km046.png


                                                              When it came to running analysis, it did the calculation without any problems but again when it came to displaying results if I wanted to see the pressure distribution over the tire surface (one that rotates and is in contact with the road) I needed to click each individual face/surface around the circumference.


                                                              So.. conclusions: I am getting very annoyed . I could live with the SYCODE method that enabled the flow analysis to be done if only I could join all the individual faces that still remain after it's imported as a supposed "solid". Same goes for the last method (Charles'), however I did just try to import the body and failed miserably (again because of Gaps when it came to Knitting the surfaces), it seems that the model has holes but in SoftImage it looks air tight.


                                                              I'm at my wits end. If anyone is willing to help I can upload the .obj/.dxf/.sldprt files somewhere..

                                                                • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                                                  Adarsh Achar

                                                                  Hi Sasa,


                                                                  Do send me a mail at adarsh@akuva.com.

                                                                  I will ensure that you get the correct data for your analysis in a fairly short period of time.

                                                                  Don't hesitate to call me in case you need any urgent help on this


                                                                  Adarsh Achar.


                                                                  • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                                                    John Layne

                                                                    Hi Sasa


                                                                    I have Rhino Tsplines, TS elements a well as Solidworks, I'd be happy to take  a look at the files.

                                                                      • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                                                        Sasa Pasic

                                                                        I'm going to copy/paste an email I've sent to Adarsh:

                                                                        Hi and thank you for even attempting to help (although you might come

                                                                        to regret it :P),




                                                                        I've put 5 files in a rar, here's a little description:


                                                                        1_FZR_via_obj_to_dxf = this is the method outlined by Charles,

                                                                        importing an .obj into MeshLab, exporting it as a DXF and then

                                                                        importing the DXF as a 3D object into solidworks. This method worked

                                                                        with the tire model I posted on the forums (but only when I removed

                                                                        the spokes from the original rim which weren't air tight geometry).

                                                                        However, I've made a cross section cut (just enable SectionView1) of

                                                                        the right side of the body and there seem to be some holes in the

                                                                        front end. I've tried patching them with Planar surfaces and even

                                                                        managed to patch one, but others have some very strangely positioned



                                                                        2_FZR_via_obj_native_ScanTo3D = importing and .obj directly into

                                                                        SolidWorks via ScanTo3D. Since automatic painting failed a bit, I

                                                                        painted the car manually to separate at least the mirrors, body, wing,

                                                                        underbody but managed to get no further than that as the problem came

                                                                        down to "extracting surfaces" which would mean re-surfacing the whole

                                                                        body and then trimming them away etc, and the whole point was to cut

                                                                        down on the amount of work necessary since there are already available

                                                                        game models. (Meaning, I just want to car to look like it does when

                                                                        .obj is imported and all the faces joined up.)


                                                                        3_FZR_via_sycode_obj_to_solid = this is actually the only method so

                                                                        far (other than the first one with dxf for the tire) that managed to

                                                                        import the whole body and make it a solid part. I am capable of

                                                                        running Flow simulation on this part BUT I would still like to have

                                                                        all the individual faces joined up, so when I go to display flow

                                                                        trajectories I can click on a body and it understands that it's the

                                                                        whole body that I want and not just one of the triangle poly faces. If

                                                                        you find a suitable method for joining up these faces into selections,

                                                                        I don't mind clicking them one by one to group them into subsections

                                                                        such as front bumper, hood, windshield, underbody, wheel wells etc.


                                                                        I've also included one example of the .obj file and the same file

                                                                        converted into a .dxf via MeshLab. Both have no holes in them (but the

                                                                        dxf import acquired holes somehow during the import into solidworks).


                                                                        Any help is greatly appreciated.


                                                                        If there's more info I can provide, don't hessitate to say so.

                                                                          • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                                                            John Layne

                                                                            A little confused here, which file is the original data?


                                                                            Converted the obj file link http://www.solidengineering.co.nz/swhelp/1st_OUTPUT.rar . I doubt it's much use though, too much smoothing. If I had a lot more time and remodled the thing and or exported chunks of the original I could probably get something more user friendly. Sorry don't have the time in the forseeable future.

                                                                              • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                                                                Sasa Pasic

                                                                                You were correct in assuming the .obj file was the original data. Could you outline the method you used to achieve this? This is the first time that it's actually a solid part (I did a cross section), however, there remains the problem of faces. Is there any method that could join up faces into selectable surfaces? For example, if I wanted to group all the faces of a front hood and have that clickable to display flow trajectories related to that surface, something like this:




                                                                                Is there a way to achieve that? Or even just make the whole body one continous surface?


                                                                                In any case, tnx for this and I'll try to run some simulations on it.

                                                                                  • Re: import 3D DWG or STL: how to make a "solid"?
                                                                                    John Layne

                                                                                    Imported into Rhino

                                                                                    Converted Triangle mesh to Quadrangles "QuadrangleMesh"

                                                                                    Converted to T-Splines "ts_Convert"

                                                                                    Smoothed "tsSmoothToggle" (Waited 5 mins for the crunching to complete)

                                                                                    Converted to Rhino Object "tsConvertToRhinosurf"

                                                                                    Saved as Rhino .3dm file


                                                                                    Opened .3dm file in SolidWorks (Waited 3 mins to parse)

                                                                                    Ran import diagnostics, fixed 3 of the 4 faulty faces. (waited about 10mins to cruch this)

                                                                                    Saved as part file in SolidWorks.


                                                                                    What could be done to get a better SolidWorks model?

                                                                                    In Rhino

                                                                                         Split the part around the mirror plane

                                                                                         Delete parts of the mesh and save out different features, bonet, windscreen etc

                                                                                    Rebuild those features in SolidWorks.


                                                                                    Unfortunately I simply don't have time to spend reworking this model. It would be an interesting project, but I have a girlfriend and a cat to feed!