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EDUCATION

Popular Software to Edit and Repair STL Files: Beginners

8 Mins read
STL model of a gear
STL model of a gear/Source: Sculpteo

STL files, or Standard Tessellation Language files, are a common format for 3D printing that contain detailed information about the geometry and topology of a 3D model. It is possible that an STL file will require some reworking or redesigning, and you may be unsure what to do in such cases. As a result, we’ve compiled a list of popular software to edit and repair STL files for beginners.

Standard Tessellation Language file or more popularly known as STL file, is a common format for 3D printing, and they contain detailed information about the geometry and topology of a 3D model. It may happen that an STL file may need some reworking or redesigning and for the same you may not know what to do in such situations. So, we are sharing a few popular software to edit and repair STL files for beginners.

Need to Edit and Repair STL Files

Some of you may be wondering why we need to edit or repair STL files, and there are several reasons for this.

  • You may need to quickly repair STL files sent by your clients to ensure that they are watertight, have thick walls, and are properly scaled.
  • You may need to combine two or more STL files.
  • When using third-party software to convert a 3D Model from another format to STL format, STL files can deteriorate. As a result, not all features are completely converted, and you may need to edit the file to add missing features or sharpen existing ones.

There are numerous other instances where software is required.

These tools can help you achieve your goals whether you need to make minor changes to an existing model or completely overhaul it. So, let us take a look at these software and steps to edit and repair STL files.

Software to Edit and Repair STL Files for Beginners

Tinkercad

Tinkercad software to edit and repair STL files for beginners
Editing an STL file in Tinkercad/Source: Manufactur3D

Tinkercad is the most basic and best free CAD software for 3D printing. It is a web-based 3D design tool. It is perfect for beginners who are just starting their journeys in designing and even 3D printing. The software has basic tutorials and gradually guides you through all of the functionality.

The steps to edit and repair STL files in Tinkercad are as follows:

Open and Import: To begin, you must sign up for Tinkercad and create an account. Once you’ve created an account, log in and select ‘3D Design’ from the drop-down menu. In the design UI that appears, click ‘Import’ on the top tool bar, and then drag and drop the STL file or select a file from your computer in the pop-up window.

When you load the file, you will be prompted to enter the model’s units, scale, and dimensions. If you don’t want to make any changes, leave the default settings alone and click Import to load the model into the design UI.

The only caveat is that Tinkercad only allows files smaller than 25MB to be uploaded.

Edit STL file: First and foremost, change the file’s name. Tinkercad automatically names each new design you create, and these names are typically quite abstract.

You now have several options for editing the model. The most fundamental option is to create a workplane on the surface where you want to edit the model. After that, set the workplane’s origin so that all dimensions can be referenced to it. For this, use the ‘Ruler’ tool and place it wherever you want on the plane.

After you’ve completed the basic steps, you can start using the editing tools, such as adding shapes from the shapes library, extruding or hollowing the imported model, merging two or more shapes, mirroring the object, and so on. You can also set up multiple workplanes to work on multiple faces as needed.

Export STL File: Select the model to be exported to export the STL file. Remember that only the parts you select will be exported, so if you have multiple objects, either select all of them or just the one you want to export. Once you’ve decided, click the ‘Export’ button. The export file format will be requested in the pop-up window. For 3D printing, you have three options: .OBJ, .STL, or GLTF (.glb). Please keep in mind that the download will begin as soon as you click on the file type.

Blender software

Editing an STL file in Blender
Editing an STL file in Blender/Source: Blender

Blender is an open source and free 3D printing CAD that offers a complete solution. It is primarily employed in the animation industry. It is an entry-level professional 3D modelling software and one of the best free CAD software for 3D printing.

This software is also capable of editing and repairing STL files. The following are the steps to edit and repair STL files in Blender:

Open and Import: Open Blender and navigate to the ‘File’ menu. Choose “Import” and then the STL file you want to edit. The STL file will be imported into the program as a 3D model.

Edit STL file: First, change the mode from ‘Object’ to ‘Edit’. You can now see all of your model’s edges. You can also modify the model using Blender’s various tools, such as scaling, rotating, or moving individual parts. You can use the Edit mode to make more precise changes to the model. You can use shortcut keys here like 1 for vertices, 2 for edges, and 3 for faces. In this mode, you can select and manipulate individual vertices, edges, or faces. Now, depending on your requirements, you can use the various tools in Blender to edit and/or repair the imported STL file.

Export STL File: After making the necessary changes to the model, you can export it as an STL file by going to the File menu and selecting “Export,” where you can also rename the file if necessary, and then clicking on “Export STL” to save the edited model as an STL file.

It should be noted that some Blender features and tools may not be fully compatible with some STL files; in such cases, use a different software.

Meshmixer

Editing and repairing and STL file in Meshmixer
Editing an STL file in Meshmixer/Source: Meshmixer

Autodesk’s Meshmixer 3D printing CAD software is extremely useful for both 3D design and clean-up tasks. It comes with a variety of tools, including 3D sculpting tools, remeshing, and mesh smoothing capabilities. It is ideal for creating 3D models from existing designs, which are simple to combine with simple tools.

The following are the steps to edit and repair STL files in Meshmixer:

Open and Import: Go to the File menu in Meshmixer. Choose “Import” and then the STL file you want to edit. The STL file will be imported into the program as a 3D model.

Edit STL file: At a basic level, you can easily use its basic tools, such as scaling, rotating, or moving the model along the three axes, by clicking on the ‘Edit’ tool on the left sidebar and then selecting ‘Transform’. This tool will display the model’s dimensions, which you can change by entering the required dimensions, or you can simply scale, rotate, and move the part using the guides visible on the model.

To make more precise changes to the model, click ‘Edit’ and look at the various options in the pop-up window. Mirror, duplicate, transform, align, make solid, hollow, and other tools are available.

Simply navigate to ‘Meshmix’ on the sidebar and add any relevant shape such as a sphere, cube, cone, etc. to create a new design on top of the imported model.

Meshmixer also includes a number of sculpting and modelling tools for shaping and refining the model.

Export STL File: After you’ve made the necessary changes to the model, you can export it as an STL file by going to the File menu and selecting “Export,” renaming the file if necessary, and then clicking “Export STL” to save the edited model as an STL file.

FreeCAD

Editing an STL file in FreeCAD
Editing an STL file in FreeCAD/Source: i.materialise

FreeCAD is a parametric CAD software for 3D printing that is free and open source. It is an excellent starting point for engineers who want to learn modelling. Designers can create complex models and easily modify them because it is based on parametric modelling. The user interface is not visually appealing, but it produces excellent results.

The following are the steps to edit and repair STL files in FreeCAD:

Open and Import: To edit the STL file, you must first go through a series of steps in order to make it editable in the software and simplify the editing process.

To begin, go to ‘View’ and then click on ‘Toggle Axis Cross,’ which will bring the axis cross into the design and make transforming the model much easier.

Next, go to ‘Part’ and select ‘Create Shape from Mesh’ to open a dialogue box where you can choose the ‘Sew Shape’ option and use the default values to create a shape from the mesh we already have. This allows you to more easily control which parts you want to edit and repair.

The object still has a lot of sections, and ideally, you’d want as few as possible. So, go to ‘Part’, hover over ‘Create Copy’ to open a sub section, and then click on Refine Shape’. This will refine the model and reduce the extra sections or edges that were created previously. This will add a new shape to the left sidebar column, which you can toggle.

Because the model is still a shell, we will need to make it a solid in order to repair it. Navigate to ‘Part’ and select ‘Convert to Solid’. You now have a solid shape that can be edited and repaired.

After that, you can use the various tools in the FreeCAD software to transform, slice, and modify the model as needed.

Export STL File: After you’ve made the necessary changes to the model, you can export it as an STL file by selecting “Export” from the File menu. Simply select the file location, rename the file if necessary, change the ‘save as type’ to ‘STL Mesh’, and click ‘Save’.

3D Builder

Editing an STL file in 3D Builder
Editing an STL file in 3D Builder/Source: 3D Builder

Microsoft’s 3D Builder is a free programme that can be downloaded to your computer or laptop running Windows. Unfortunately, there is no Mac version of this programme. 3D Builder is intended for beginners and can perform basic design and editing of STL files. The software is available for download from the Microsoft Store.

The following are the steps for editing and repairing STL files in 3D Builder:

Open and Import: To import a file into the software, you can use the traditional method of navigating to ‘File’ and clicking on ‘Import,’ or you can simply drag and drop the STL files onto the software user interface. The software detects the file immediately and prompts you to confirm the import. Simply select the ‘Import Model’ option from the top bar. You can also choose the default units to work with at this time, such as m, mm, cm, in, ft, and m.

Edit STL file: You can begin editing the model right away without having to convert it to solid or mesh. You can now insert any new object in the top bar, such as a cylinder, sphere, cone, and so on.

The ‘Object’ option is for basic commands such as duplicate, cut, paste, or copy, while the ‘Edit’ option is for operations such as extrude, subtract, hollow, split, smooth, emboss, and more. In the ‘View’ menu, you can also add colours, shading, reflections, and other effects.

Export STL File: Finally, once you’ve made the necessary changes to the model, you can export it by going to the main menu, clicking on ‘Save As,’ navigating to a save location, changing the file type to STL, and naming the model. After that, simply click ‘Save’ to export the model.

Conclusion

Editing and repairing STL files can sometimes be a tedious and long-drawn process. Even trickier than actually designing a model from scratch. It requires you to know a lot about the capabilities of the software and how to effectively use it to edit and repair the STL files.

As you saw in the article, the editing and repair of STL files can be carried out with a variety of software programmes. Each programme has its own set of tools and features that help in modifying and refining STL files.


About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D printing. which publishes the latest 3D printing news, insights and analysis from all around the world. Visit our 3D Printing Education page to read more such informative articles. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Manufactur3D is an Indian Online 3D Printing Media Platform that reports on the latest news, insights and analysis from the Indian and the Global 3D Printing Industry.
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