Can You Edit an STL File in SolidWorks?

Can You Edit an STL File in SolidWorks?

When it comes to working with 3D models, SolidWorks is undoubtedly one of the most popular software used by professionals. However, a common question that arises is whether it is possible to edit an STL file in SolidWorks. In this article, we will explore this topic in detail and provide you with the answers you are seeking.

The Basics: What is an STL File?

An STL (Standard Tessellation Language) file is a widely used format for representing 3D models in various CAD software applications. It uses a triangular mesh to define the geometry of the model, consisting of multiple connected triangles.

The Limitations of Editing STL Files

Editing an STL file directly in SolidWorks can be challenging due to its inherent limitations. Unlike native SolidWorks files, which contain parametric information and feature history, STL files are essentially a representation of the final geometry without any intelligence or editable features.

However, this does not mean that editing an STL file in SolidWorks is impossible. There are certain workarounds and techniques that can be employed to make modifications to the geometry. Let’s explore some of these methods:

Method 1: Converting the STL File into an Editable Format

  • The first approach involves converting the STL file into a format that SolidWorks can work with natively.
  • One option is to use the “Import Diagnostics” feature in SolidWorks, which attempts to heal any gaps or errors in the mesh geometry during import.
  • Another option is to use third-party software or online converters to convert the STL file into formats like STEP or IGES, which can be opened as solid bodies in SolidWorks.

Method 2: Using Scan-to-3D Functionality

  • If you have access to the Scan-to-3D add-in in SolidWorks, you can import the STL file and use the various tools and functions provided by this module to modify the geometry.
  • The Scan-to-3D add-in offers capabilities like mesh editing, surface fitting, and point cloud manipulation, which can be used to refine and edit the imported STL model.

Best Practices for Editing STL Files in SolidWorks

While editing STL files in SolidWorks may not be as straightforward as working with native files, following these best practices will help you achieve better results:

  • Performing a Geometry Check: Before making any modifications, it is crucial to thoroughly inspect the imported STL model using tools like “Import Diagnostics” or third-party mesh analysis software. This will help identify any potential issues or errors that need to be addressed before editing.
  • Simplifying Complex Meshes: If the imported STL file consists of a highly complex mesh with an excessive number of triangles, consider simplifying it using tools like “Decimate Mesh” or “Simplify Mesh” available in SolidWorks or third-party software.

    This can make editing easier and improve performance.

  • Using Surface Modeling Techniques: Instead of directly modifying the mesh geometry, consider using surface modeling techniques like boundary surfaces or lofted surfaces to recreate the desired shape based on the imported STL model.
  • Avoiding Overly Complex Edits: Due to the limitations of working with STL files, it is advisable to avoid making overly complex edits that require precise feature control. Focus on simpler modifications that can be achieved using basic geometry operations.


In conclusion, while editing an STL file in SolidWorks is not as straightforward as working with native files, it is indeed possible with the right techniques and approaches. By converting the STL file into an editable format or utilizing the Scan-to-3D functionality, you can make modifications to the geometry of the 3D model. However, it is important to understand the limitations and best practices associated with editing STL files to achieve optimal results.