Converting to STL Format


Here is our definitive list of 3D modelling programs and how to output from them for 3D printing. If you have any problems with these methods or use a program that is not on the list please contact us and we’ll do our best to help.


What is .STL format?


STL files are triangulated representations of your 3D drawing and are the most commonly used filetype for 3D printing. They take a little getting used to but with our help you’ll be printing in no time.


Things to be aware of:


Units of measurement – We work in mm but files often come though in inches. We can convert them but it can be the cause of some confusion when you receive a quote.

Scaling – Files come though to us 1000x too small or as full size buildings. Both are not the easiest to deal with and STL’s output from the native software are likely to be better than anything we can output afterwards so double check the scale on a software like NetFabb Basic before you upload.

Faceting – By triangulating a model you are reducing the detail on the file. In most cases it’s detail that would never be visible on a 3D print but occasionally the output settings can lead to models looking very low-poly and  faceted. Checking files in a viewer like NetFabb Basic is advised if you’re unsure on the export settings you’re using.


Note: you can only export 3D solid objects to STL

  1. At the command prompt type “FACETRES”
  2. Set FACETRES to 10
  3. Type “STLOUT”
  4. Select the objects
  5. Enter Y or hit Enter for Create a binary STL file? [Yes/No] <Yes>
  6. Enter Filename
  7. Save

Autodesk 3DS MAX (3D Studio Max)

  1. File/Application Menu > Export
  2. Select type StereoLitho *.stl
  3. Enter Filename
  4. Select Binary
  5. Save
  6. OK

Autodesk Inventor / Mechanical Desktop

You can export individual parts or whole assemblies.

  1. Manage tab > Update panel > Rebuild All
  2. File > Save as > Save Copy As
  3. Select STL
  4. Enter Filename
  5. Select Options
  1. Format > Binary
  2. Units > mm or inches
  3. Resolution > High
  1. Save


  1. File > Export > STL…
  2. Enter Filename
  3. Select location
  4. Click button Export STL


  1. Open the File pull-down menu and Save as then Save a Copy.
  2. Change the Type option to Stereolithography (*.stl).
  3. Type a filename and click on OK to close the dialog. A new Export STL dialog will open.
  4. Change the Chord Height value X1 to 0 (zero).
  5. Change the Angle Control value X2 to 1
  6. On OK to close the dialog and the STL file will be created in the working directory.
  7. The display will change to show the faceted surface of the STL file. If it looks really faceted and you’ve nested a few files together you may need to break the file down and save them individually as Creo seems to have a maximum limit in files.

Google Sketchup Free

You’ll need a plugin to export to .STL format. Here’s how:

  1. Grab the plugin here.
  2. You’ll need to follow the instructions here to install it (Hint – it’s much easier to install on Sketchup 8+).
  3. Once that’s done make sure you select the model you want printed, it should all be highlighted blue.
  4. Click ‘File’ > ‘Export STL…’ which should now be sitting under the normal ‘Export’ option.
  5. Choose you units of measurement (we work in MM here), and make sure to choose Binary for the ‘File format’ option. Now click ‘Export’.
  6. Open the new STL file in a program like Netfab Basic and check for any big gaps, holes or single surfaces in the file. Take a look at our tutorials on making models printable if you need any help with that.

Photoshop (3D Plugin)

Have a read of the section ‘Previewing and printing the 3D object’ mid way down the page linked below.


  1. File > Save a Copy
  2. Select type STL > OK
  3. Select Coordinate System Standard
  4. Check Binary
  5. Set Chord Height to 0 (Pro/E changes it to the smallest allowable value)
  6. Leave Angle Control at the default
  7. Enter Filename > OK



  1. File > Export Selected or File > Save As
  2. Select the objects to be exported
  3. Select File Type Stereolithography (*.stl)
  4. Enter Filename
  5. Save
  6. in STL Mesh Export Options, Enter Tolerance 0.02 mm (0.0008 inches), then click OK.
  7. Select Binary
  8. Uncheck Export Open Objects
  9. OK



  1. Click File, Save As.
  2. Select STL (*.stl) for Save as type, then click Options.
  3. Select output as – binary
  4. On the ‘Resolution’ settings click Custom and set the devisation to 0.1mm and the angle to 5°.
  5. Check the box ‘Save all components in a single file’ and then click OK.
  6. Now enter a filename, click save and you’re all done!

SolidWorks Student Design Kit

  1. File > Save As…
  2. Set type to eDrawings(*.eprt)
  3. Click Options…
  4. Check Allow export to STL for Parts & Assemblies
  5. OK
  6. Enter Filename
  7. Save
  8. Open part in eDrawings
  9. File > Save as… > select type STL Files (*.stl)
  10. Save


  1. Click save as
  2. Select .stl
  3. Use the options to chose “fine” then save. Easy ;)


To export from ZBrush you will need the ‘3D Print Exporter‘ plugin which may or may not come pre-installed with your installation.

Once installed here’s your guide:

  1. Load a ZTool to export, like the Demo Soldier and in the ZPlugin palette, open the 3D Print Exporter menu.
  2. Activate or not the All SubTool option if needed.
  3. Click on the “Update Size Ratios” button to grab the ZTool bounding box size.
  4. Change one of the three slider to define the size of the object to export, depending on the units’ chosen by clicking on the “in” or “mm” button.
  5. When it’s done, click on the file format you want to export.