How to Convert STL, STEP, and Solid Part Files: Guide for 3D Printing

Jun 26, 2023 | 3D printing, Additive Manufacturing, CAD Software | 0 comments

STL Files to STEP Files to Solid Part Files for 3D Printing


STL files, STEP files, and SLDPRT files play crucial roles in the world of 3D printing. In this article, we will explore the process of converting STL files to STEP files and transforming them into SLDPRT files suitable for 3D printing. We’ll discuss the reasons behind these conversions, the benefits they offer, issues in converting them, recommended software and tools, and provide a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process effectively.

Understanding STL Files:

STL files, short for Standard Tessellation Language or Standard Triangle Language files, are a widely used format in 3D printing. They store 3D geometry information by representing objects as a collection of interconnected triangles. While STL files are popular due to their simplicity and compatibility, they have certain limitations, such as the inability to store color, texture, or precise geometry data. STL’s are the most common in 3D printing because they are utilized by most 3d printers and online 3d printing services. For quick information and software integration it is the easiest and best option. They do have their limits but that is understandable.

Converting STL Files to STEP Files:

To overcome the limitations of STL files and gain access to advanced features, converting them to STEP (Standard for the Exchange of Product Data) format becomes essential. STEP files are capable of representing complex geometry, including curves, colors, and other metadata. The conversion process can be accomplished using various methods and tools, offering flexibility based on individual requirements.

Benefits of Using STEP Files for 3D Printing:

Converting STL files to STEP format brings several advantages. Firstly, STEP files provide higher accuracy and precision, enabling more detailed representations of 3D models. Additionally, these files are compatible with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, allowing users to make design modifications easily. With STEP files, you can effectively collaborate with other designers, engineers, and manufacturers, ensuring seamless communication throughout the 3D printing workflow. STEP files can easily be edited and changed based on the needs of customers and that makes them the best for printing on an ever-changing product.

Converting STEP or STL Files to Solid Part Files:

While STEP files are superior to STL files in terms of versatility and compatibility, further conversion to solid part files is often necessary for optimal 3D printing results. Solid part files contain complete information about the 3D model’s geometry, material properties, and other relevant attributes. This conversion ensures that the 3D printer can accurately interpret and reproduce the desired object, eliminating potential errors or inconsistencies. But one concern would be that not many printers are able to take Solid Part files. This is where a STEP file makes the most sense. SLDPRT files comes straight from SolidWorks and are commonplace at large corporations. If you are needing the quality of the SLDPRT file type make sure the service you are using can effectively place this files type into its build scene.

Best Practices for Converting and Preparing Files:

To ensure smooth conversions and prepare files for 3D printing, it is crucial to follow best practices. These include checking file compatibility and integrity, optimizing file size and resolution, and addressing common errors that might occur during the conversion process. Adhering to these practices ensures that the resulting solid part files are optimized for the 3D printing process, minimizing potential issues and maximizing print quality.

Recommended Software and Tools:

Several software options are available for converting and preparing files for 3D printing. Well-known CAD software like Autodesk Fusion 360, SolidWorks, and FreeCAD offer comprehensive features for file conversion. Additionally, online services and converters such as GrabCAD Workbench and ConvertCADFiles provide convenient and user-friendly options for those who prefer cloud-based solutions. When choosing software or tools, consider factors like ease of use, compatibility, and pricing.

Step-by-Step Guide:

Converting file types STL to STEP to Solid Part Files: To convert STL files to STEP format and subsequently transform them into solid part files, follow these steps:

  1. Install the chosen file conversion software on your computer.
  2. Import the STL file into the software.
  3. Adjust settings and units according to your project requirements.
  4. Initiate the conversion process to generate the STEP file.
  5. Open the resulting STEP file in your preferred CAD software.
  6. Prepare the file for 3D printing by making necessary modifications, such as scaling, adding supports, or optimizing the model’s geometry.
  7. Export the file as a solid part file in the appropriate file format for your 3D printer.

Troubleshooting Common Issues:

During the file conversion and preparation process, you may encounter certain issues. Some common problems include file conversion errors, compatibility issues between software, and geometry or mesh-related problems. To overcome these challenges, refer to the software’s documentation, online forums, or seek assistance from the software provider’s support team. In most cases, troubleshooting guides and resources are available to help you resolve these issues effectively.

Future Developments and Emerging Technologies:

The field of 3D printing and file conversion continues to evolve rapidly, presenting exciting possibilities for the future. Advancements in file conversion algorithms are expected to further enhance the accuracy and efficiency of the conversion process. Integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies holds promise for improving the automation and intelligence of file conversion tools. These developments will streamline 3D printing workflows, making them more accessible and user-friendly.


Converting STL files to STEP files and subsequently to solid part files is a crucial step in the 3D printing process. It enhances the accuracy, precision, and compatibility of 3D models, allowing for easier collaboration and design modifications. By following best practices, using recommended software and tools, and understanding the conversion process, you can unlock the full potential of your 3D printing projects. Embrace the advancements in file conversion technologies, and enjoy a seamless and efficient 3D printing experience.


1. Can I convert STL files to STEP files using free software? Yes, there are free software options available for converting STL files to STEP format. Examples include FreeCAD and Open Cascade Technology.

2. What are the advantages of solid part files in 3D printing? Solid part files contain complete information about the 3D model’s geometry and material properties, ensuring accurate reproduction during the 3D printing process. They eliminate potential errors and inconsistencies that may arise with other file formats.

3. How can I optimize file size for 3D printing? To optimize file size, consider reducing the level of detail, removing unnecessary geometry, and adjusting mesh density. This helps reduce the computational load and enables faster processing during printing.

4. Are there any online services for file conversion? Yes, there are online services such as GrabCAD Workbench and ConvertCADFiles that offer file conversion capabilities. These services provide convenient options for users who prefer cloud-based solutions.

5. Can I convert STEP files back to STL files? Yes, it is possible to convert STEP files back to STL files using appropriate software or online converters. However, keep in mind that some information, such as color and precise geometry data, may be lost during the conversion.

6. Are there any limitations to converting files between different formats? While file conversion is generally reliable, it’s important to note that complex geometry or intricate designs may not translate perfectly between formats. Some level of manual adjustments or optimizations may be required to ensure the desired output.

7. What are some emerging technologies in file conversion for 3D printing? Emerging technologies include the integration of AI and machine learning in file conversion tools. These advancements aim to automate and optimize the conversion process, reducing user intervention and improving overall efficiency.

8. Can I convert STL files directly to solid part files without converting to STEP format? Yes, it is possible to convert STL files directly to solid part files using certain CAD software or dedicated conversion tools. However, the STEP format offers enhanced compatibility and flexibility, making it a recommended intermediate step in the conversion process.


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