Working with Mesh Files in SOLIDWORKS

imported mesh file with graphical triangles.png

Mesh files, a common type being STL, are a type of 3D model files that store information through polygons with vertices, edges, and faces. They differ from SOLIDWORKS files, which have parametric data that can be defined through arithmetic and interpolations, and they require processing to be used in SOLIDWORKS in most cases.

SOLIDWORKS provides tools to work with mesh files that can be found in the Mesh Modeling tab (activate it by right-clicking on your CommandManager > Tabs > Mold modeling).

Note: due to the numerous facets and faces that a mesh file can contain, SOLIDWORKS may perform poorly until the mesh data has been reduced, either natively, with other software, or with the Decimate Mesh Body command. It is recommended to import in Parasolid or STEP files for best initial import result for SOLIDWORKS, if possible.


Mesh Files as Solid, Surface, or Graphics Body

How Can Graphics Bodies from Mesh Files Be Used?

Mesh File Graphics Body Import Example

Additional Mesh Tools in ScanTo3D


Mesh Files as Solid, Surface, or Graphics Body

You can try importing the file as solid or surface before importing the mesh files into SOLIDWORKS by changing the import option in
Tools > Options > System Options > Import > File Format [STL/OBJ/OFF/PLY/PLY2]:

import options for mesh files, solid and surface body option highlighted.png

However, data translation between different file types and software can cause inaccuracy. It is likely that when you try importing the data as solid bodies, it would result in surface bodies that need to be fixed with the surfacing tool due to gaps. It's also likely that when you try importing the data as surface bodies, it would result in numerous surface bodies that make it inefficient to work with. Importing graphics bodies and then modifying them may be a better option.

How Can Graphics Bodies from Mesh Files Be Used?

There are three typical workflows for working with mesh bodies after importing and cleaning up the graphics bodies:

  1. Use the graphics bodies as physical or visual references.
  2. Use the graphics bodies to create the standard Boundary Representation geometry (BREP) geometry (such as surfaces and solids), with tools such as Surface from Mesh.
  3. Create a hybrid model that contains both geometry made from SOLIDWORKS and geometry from the graphics bodies.

Mesh geometry can use the following tools in SOLIDWORKS:

  • Determine mass properties.
  • Add coordinate axes, reference axes, and reference planes.
  • Select mesh vertices when sketching and add sketch relations.
  • Measure distances between mesh elements, using the Measure tool.
    • You cannot create sensors for mesh bodies.
  • Create section views.
  • Trim surfaces.
  • Shell, offset, and thicken mesh elements.
  • Apply appearances and render.
  • Detect interference.

Mesh File Graphics Body Import Example

In this example, I will demonstrate some of the tools that can be used with a mesh file imported as graphics bodies. One body will be converted to a mesh solid body, and another will be forming surfaces to be knitted together into a SOLIDWORKS solid body.

  1. Import an STL file as 2 graphics bodies.there are two graphics body imported into solidworks.png
  2. Selecting the rectangular graphic body, click on the Convert to Mesh Body command.a graphics body is selected, convert to mesh body command is highlighted.png
  3. In the Convert to Mesh Body Property Manager, make sure that the desired body is selected. Check on the Group facets into faces to let SOLIDWORKS attempt to create individual faces instead of one continuous face. Click OK to finish the command.
                                                convert to mesh body property manager content
  4. The graphics body has been automatically hidden, and a mesh solid body has been added to the Solid Bodies folder. This solid body is not the same as the standard SOLIDWORKS geometry and it can be manipulated with the tools listed above in the How Can Graphics Bodies from Mesh Files Be Used sectionmesh solid body and graphic body are highlighted, mass properties dialog window showing.png
  5. Next, I'll be converting the second graphic body into surfaces and then into a solid.
    Click on the Mesh Modeling > Surface From Mesh command. surface from mesh command highlighted in the mesh modeling tab.png
  6. In the Surface From Mesh Property Manager, you can use the Paint Select tool to paint over the facets you want to form into a surface. Alternatively, you can manually select the facets to group in the viewport. Click OK to create the surface body paint select tool, activate icon, paint the facets, click ok to add facet group, define what type of surface is being created.png
  7. Repeat Surface From Mesh on the sides of the model that can be defined as one of the four types. Here, I cannot make the two surfaces that are the inner and outer arc of this model but can form the other four planar surfaces.still missing two surfaces to complete a SOLIDWORKS solid.png
  8. The rest of the steps would go into surfacing techniques. To summarize, I knitted the surfaces together and used the Boundary Surface command to create the missing surfaces. Then another knit allows us to create a solid.solid is formed after adding more surfaces and knitting the surfaces together.png

Additional Mesh Tools in ScanTo3D

If you have SOLIDWORKS Professional or Premium, you can turn on the add-in, ScanTo3D. It allows you to convert the mesh file to surfaces and SOLIDWORKS solids with guided tools. Since a mesh is made of essentially 3 or 4-sided planar surfaces, the imported file will not be a smooth contagious surface, but rather 100's or 1000's of smaller surfaces. The ScanTo3D toolset can also help you create a workable solid from supported mesh file types *.3ds, *.obj, *.stl, *.wrl, *.ply, *.ply2.

Please see the following articles that go through the ScanTo3D operations from meshes to surfaces to solids:

Contact Us

For further technical support, please contact Hawk Ridge Systems at 877.266.4469 for the U.S. or 866.587.6803 for Canada.

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