Top 8 Best Free STL Viewers
The STL file format is one of the fundamental foundations of the modern 3D printing community. STL files have a small file size, are easy to share, and generally maintain the integrity of the original 3D model.
Another huge advantage of STL files is how easily they can be viewed or opened, even if you don’t have a fancy CAD software platform. This makes it easy to check STL files before you load them onto a 3D printer. In this article, we will be going through all the best options for opening or viewing your STL files. All of these are free to either use or download.
Top 4 best free online STL viewers
If you have a stable Internet connection, you don’t even need to download software to view STL files. These platforms can be accessed online using your browser and provide all the essential tools to viewing (or even editing) your STL files.
TinkerCAD has been an all-time favorite not just in the field of 3D printing, but for general 3D modeling. This beginner-friendly web-based platform by Autodesk is so easy to use that the developers claim that someone with no experience can come up with a 3D model within the first five minutes.
3D files in either OBJ or STL formats can be imported into TinkerCAD. 2D SVG (vector) files are also accepted. You can use the web interface to explore your 3D models or make a few edits using the basic tools that TInkerCAD offers.
Take note that the editing options of TinkerCAD aren’t as sophisticated as professional CAD software platforms. At best, you can make add or subtract shapes from an STL file or split a single file into different objects. As an STL viewer, TinkerCAD is one of the best and most convenient options.
ViewSTL is a no-fuss web-based STL viewer. It does not require a user to sign up to an account, nor does it upload 3D files to any server. According to the site, all 3D models are stored and processed on your computer, so you don’t have to worry about anyone else gaining access to it.
Despite the name, ViewSTL also supports 3D files in OBJ or 3MF file formats. From the moment you open the website, you can go straight ahead to importing your files into the platform. ViewSTL also offers options to view your 3D objects in different colors and different shading styles.
If you’re thinking of sprucing up your WordPress website with a custom 3D model, then you can also use ViewSTL’s plug-in called “WP ViewSTL.” The plug-in bonus is certainly nice, but the streamlined workflow that ViewSTL provides is probably its best quality.
ShareCAD is another free online platform for viewing 3D models. Its main benefit is that it offers compatibility with a wide range of 3D file formats. Aside from STL files, you can open more than 20 other different file types in ShareCAD including vector and raster images, 3D models, CAD models, and file archives.
Despite the rich functions of the web platform, you can use ShareCAD right away upon visiting the website without having to sign up for an account. ShareCAD limits file sizes to only 50 MB.
If you like the performance of ShareCAD, you can support the developers directly by downloading the ABViewer desktop application viewing and editing CAD files. The application can be downloaded as a trial version that can be upgraded to a perpetual license with a one-time fee.
4. Autodesk Viewer
If you’re looking for an online platform for viewing STL files that offers so much more functionalities, then it’s tough to beat this online viewer from 3D modeling specialists Autodesk. Out of all the online viewers we have highlighted here, Autodesk Viewer is the most appropriate for professional use.
As you would expect, Autodesk Viewer is compatible with a large array of 2D and 3D file formats. Aside from STL, this web viewer can also be used to open more than 50 other file types including OBJ, 3DM, GLB, and GLTF. Aside from a comprehensive selection of viewing options, Autodesk Viewer also allows you to inspect 3D models using cutting planes and several measurement tools.
Autodesk Viewer is excellent for collaborating on projects. Files can be shared via a link and viewed using any device. These are great for professionals who need to send 3D models to clients and partners.
Perhaps the only downside of using Autodesk Viewer is that you and your collaborators will need to sign up for Autodesk accounts. Most of the essential tools are available in the free version of the platform, but there is also a paid version to access the more advanced tools and sharing options.
Top 4 best free offline STL viewers
If you’re constantly on the go and have no assurance of having a stable Internet connection, then you’re probably better off downloading an STL viewer application.
FreeCAD is one of the most popular open-source CAD editing platforms today. It is fairly high-level design software that is more suitable for experienced users. The open-source nature of the program has made it very useful for designers with special requirements and has helped the platform evolve over the years.
If you’re just looking for software that can open STL files, then FreeCAD is perfectly capable and certainly over-qualified. The parametric environment of FreeCAD means that every single object can be interpreted based on its properties or numerical values. This provides a different perspective to viewing an STL model and can be a good basis for learning how to modify or create 3D models.
While FreeCAD isn’t exactly beginner-friendly, one cannot argue its value for being a completely free software for sophisticated CAD design. If you have the patience, FreeCAD provides a good environment for learning about advanced 3D modeling.
STLView by ModuleWorks is as simple as it gets. It is a downloadable viewer that works exclusively for STL files. The viewing options are quite rudimentary but useful. The software allows you to change the colors of the 3D model and its background. It is a lightweight, no-frills platform for reviewing your STL files before 3D printing.
Perhaps one advantage of STLView is that it has versions for both Windows and Android platforms. This means that you can download it not just for your computer, but also for your mobile devices. Being able to view STL files on a phone or tablet is massively convenient, especially if you have to collaborate with other people.
3. Microsoft 3D Viewer
If you have a Windows computer, then it makes sense to go with the most obvious option. This free 3D Viewer from Microsoft is compatible with a respectable range of 3D file types including STL, OBJ, 3MF, PLY, GLB, and GTLF.
Microsoft 3D Viewer offers an impressive selection of viewing and inspection tools. 3D models can be modified with different colors, backgrounds, shading, and can even be viewed under different lighting conditions. The models can also be swapped between render and wireframe modes.
Devices with cameras can run the Microsoft 3D Viewer app in mixed reality mode. In this mode, 3D models can be superimposed on the device’s camera view. This can be used to create interesting photos and videos with practically any 3D model of your choice. This could be useful for commercial uses such as architecture or interior design, but let’s be honest – this feature is best for just messing around and having fun.
4. Fast STL Viewer
As the name implies, Fast STL Viewer is all about speed. This purely mobile application is available to download for Android users. It is a lightweight platform for viewing 3D models on your phone, so it may not be as feature-rich as the other 3D viewers in this list.
Despite the limitations, Fast STL Viewer is quite impressive for a mobile app. It can load large STL files with millions of triangles, has different viewing options, and can identify mesh boundaries. The app can open multiple models at once and can open files directly from e-mail attachments or other file management apps like Google Drive and Dropbox.
The features described above are available in the free version of Fast STL Viewer. You can also choose to buy additional features such as more viewing options (such as changing the color or background and viewing in wireframe mode) and a volume calculation mode. The paid version of the app also removes any banner ads.
Why are STL files so small?
The STL (Stereolithography) file format is one of the most compact file types for 3D models. Because of this, the STL file format has been the standard for sharing models for 3D printing. If you have downloaded any 3D models from sites like Thingiverse or Cults3D, then they were very likely in the STL format.
The concept of tessellation is a central element to the creation of an STL file. When a 3D model is converted to an STL file, its curved surfaces are represented as a series of tessellated triangles. At best, this is just an approximation of the curved surface. However, this severely reduces the size of an STL file compared to the original 3D model with actual curved surfaces.
Another unique characteristic of STL files is that they contain no surface data. This means that an STL file has no information on the color or surface of a 3D model. Again, this is a measure that helps reduce the file size of an STL model but also makes the file less detailed.
Not all STL files that you encounter may be small. In some cases, highly detailed models are rendered with millions of triangles. This preserves accurate details and better represents curved features. However, the problem with such large files is that you may not be able to open them, especially if you are using a free STL viewer. Most of the free STL viewers we have showcased in this list have a file size limit of only 50 MB. Larger STL files are also more difficult to slice should you plan to use them for 3D printing.
If you’re using an STL file for 3D printing, it is usually a good idea to check the quality of the model using a simple STL viewer. You don’t need fancy CAD software for this – you wouldn’t even need to spend a single cent. These free STL viewers allow you to review an STL file or view it under different conditions.
As these free STL viewers demonstrate, 3D modeling and 3D printing do not need to be very expensive. You can even create your very own 3D models using free platforms like FreeCAD and TinkerCAD. There are always limitations in a free platform, but a bit of creativity can go a long way towards bridging those limitations.
Файл формата stl: чем открыть, описания, особенности
Расширение встречается при работе с 3D-моделями. Собственно, этот формат разрабатывался для трехмерн.
- Распространенные файлы, содержащие субтитры к фильмам. Иногда встречаются с расширением .ebu. Открыть такие файлы могут текстовые редакторы, либо некоторые редакторы видеофайлов, например Final cut, Micrografx Designer, EZTitles, Avid Media Composer;
- Служебный файл двухмерной игры SuperTux, который содержит в себе информацию об игровом процессе, саундтреке, фоновом изображении и игровых объектах;
- Служебный файл программы Adobe Fireworks, в котором хранится библиотека стилей;
- Рабочий файл Microsoft, предназначенный для использования в Интернете. Хранит данные о сертификатах доверия к веб-ресурсам, которые не требуют режима безопасного соединения;
- Служебный файл игры ROSE Online от южнокорейского разработчика. Включает в себя информацию об игре. Редактируется специализированным ПО для работы над играми, например программой Geobot’s STL editor.
Как и чем открыть файл stl
- 3D Studio Max;
- Dassault Systemes SolidWorks;
- ideaMK STL Viewer;
Чем открыть stl файл 3d модели
Ведущий интегратор 3D-решений в России и СНГ: от подбора оборудования до оказания услуг, включая сервис, печать, консалтинг, инжиниринг
Порой необходимости в программах 3D-моделирования нет, но открыть, просмотреть и проверить STL файл перед печатью нужно. Предлагаем вам подборку бесплатных ресурсов для просмотра файлов в формате STL.
1) ViewSTL (онлайн версия) http://www.viewstl.com
• Плюсы: легок в использовании, позволяет размещать STL на платформе WordPress
• Минусы: слишком простой, нет дополнительных опций
2) 3DViewerOnline (онлайн версия) http://www.3dvieweronline.com
• Плюсы: расширенный набор функциональных возможностей, позволяет размещать STL на HTML страницах, позволяет делиться моделями
• Минусы: необходимо приобретать платную версию, чтобы пользоваться всеми функциями
3) STL View (необходима установка) http://www.freestlview.com
• Плюсы: набор стандартных функций
• Минусы: не поддерживается на Mac OS X, iOS, Linux
• Плюсы: набор стандартных функций
• Минусы: сложный в управлении
• Плюсы: очень простой в использовании
• Минусы: только для Mac OS X, дополнительные опции отсутствуют
• Плюсы: функционал, полезные инструменты (проверить толщены стенок модели и т.д.)
• Минусы: только для Windows
• Плюсы: самый большой набор функций из вышеперечисленных ресурсов, удобные инструменты редактирования
• Минусы: не так просто разобраться, т.к. этот ресурс не только для просмотра моделей, но и их редактирования
10 Best STL Editors of 2023
Learn more about the best STL editors to use for your 3D model or object.
STL files are a type of vector file that contains information about the model that was created in 3D modeling software. Simply put, an STL file defines the surface geography of a 3D model or object. STL files are commonly used when creating a 3D printable object and can be exported from many different software programs. An STL editor, on the other hand, gives the designer the capability of creating, opening, editing, modifying, or merging STL files. To date, the three best STL editors are: SelfCAD© (best overall), Blender®, and FreeCAD. This article lists the top 10 best STL editors of 2023 and includes discussions of what an STL file is, why it is important, and how to choose the best STL editor for your needs.
1. SelfCAD© (Overall Best STL Editor of 2023)
SelfCAD© is a browser-based STL editor that is easy to use. This tool can be used for sculpting, sketching, rendering, and 3D printing. With SelfCAD© you can export your 3D models in STL, OBJ, AMF file formats for 3D printing. It is also possible to import these files and modify them based on your needs.
The SelfCAD© user interface is straightforward enough for beginners just learning the program, but also provides advanced options for experts. For example, when importing models from STL files, there's an option under the File menu called “Import & Export Settings” that gives access to custom features specific to each file type (e.g., OBJ files).
Blender® is a free, open-source 3D modeling and rendering software best suited for small design firms or individual designers. It has a user-friendly interface that allows users to create new 3D models or modify existing ones. Blender is a very diverse software that can also be used for 3D printing, game development, and animation.
This software boasts many useful tools, such as algorithms that can smooth or interpret a surface, which can be useful for creating high-poly models (a 3D asset with a high polygon count). The program supports a wide range of file formats, including ABC, USD, OBJ, FBX, PLY, and STL. This tool also allows for easy import and preparation of STL files for 3D printing. On the downside, Blender® has a steep learning curve, and its complex meshes might require a lot of computing power.
FreeCAD is a general-purpose parametric 3D CAD modeler. It is designed to make the design process easier for new users by providing the basic set of features required to produce 3D CAD models. FreeCAD is used by many hobbyists and professionals and is a good choice for anyone getting started in 3D printing, or exploring alternative STL editor options.
FreeCAD makes it possible for anyone to create high-quality drawings, designs, and internal parts, even if they have no prior experience with engineering, computer programming, or computer-aided drafting (CAD). The program can be used as an entry-level tool for engineers who wish to learn how to use a 3D modeling program but also as an advanced tool that allows them great creative freedom.
SketchUp® is a web-based 3D modeling application with STL support. Its user-friendly interface makes it ideal for beginners. Sketchup® has a big community of users, and there are many tutorials and guides available. It is feature-rich enough to also be useful for intermediate users and professionals.
Besides the free version, there are paid versions (Go, Pro, and Studio) of SketchUp® available with more features, including plug-in extensions.
MeshLab™ is a free, open-source 3D mesh-processing software package that runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux. It can be used for viewing, editing, repairing, merging, and analyzing 3D meshes. It can export 3D meshes to other formats such as: STL, OBJ, PLY, OFF, and 3DS. MeshLab™ has an intuitive user interface which makes it easy to use even for beginners. The program is also capable of running large files.
Autodesk Meshmixer® is a free 3D CAD software that allows the creation and editing of 3D models. It enables easy exporting of 3D models in an STL file format. MeshMixer® has a built-in slicer tool, which allows designs to be sent directly to the 3D printer.
This application has been around since 2001 but has recently received an update that includes some new features such as mesh editing tools and mesh processing tools. This tool can be useful for small tweaks and can be used for resizing.
7. 3D Slash™
3D Slash™ is a free online STL editor that allows the modification of 3D models. It has an easy-to-use interface suitable for beginners. The interface is straightforward and can be downloaded for use with Windows, macOS X, Linux, or Raspberry Pi, or it can be used as a web-based application. With this tool, 3D models are built in a unique way that is similar to the popular game, Minecraft, where cubes are used to build the 3D design. This feature makes the process fun and intuitive for users of all ages. 3D Slash™ offers different pricing options, including a limited free option.
SculptGL is a free mesh-sculpting tool that can be used for both 2D and 3D work. The program provides several different digital tools that allow users to model with brushes, knives, or sculpting tools.
SculptGL is the best editor for anyone who wants to learn the process of 3D sculpting. However, if you're more advanced, SculptGL might be a bit limited. A big downside to this tool is that it can sometimes produce non-manifold vertices. A non-manifold geometry is a geometry that cannot exist in the real world. A non-manifold means that, although the model is represented digitally, it cannot exist in the real world. Since edges, faces, and vertices make up the 3D model's mesh, it must be manifold. If the mesh is non-manifold, there are flaws in the 3D model.
9. Fusion 360®
Fusion 360® is a CAD/CAM/CAE software used for 3D modeling, 3D printing, and CNC machining. It is a cloud-based platform that allows users to access files from any device. The software seamlessly combines the power of design, engineering, and manufacturing into a single platform, which makes it perfect for both amateurs and professionals. Fusion 360® has an expansive library of free models and tools, making it ideal for beginners or those who don't want to spend money on expensive plug-ins.
Autodesk TinkerCAD® is free online CAD software that is easy to use, making it perfect for beginners. This program was developed by Autodesk and used basic shapes to “build” a 3D model. TinkerCAD® also allows the user to import and edit STL files. This tool offers only limited features and support. The file size is limited to about 20 kB, and it is not available on mobile devices or macOS computers. TinkerCAD® is also missing some key features that a proper STL editor needs, such as mesh repair and surface modeling.
What is an STL File?
An STL (stereolithography or Standard Triangle Language) file is an openly documented format used to describe an object’s surface geometry in the form of a triangular mesh. Each STL file consists of a series of linked triangles that defines the surface geometry of a 3D object. The more complex the object being modeled, the smaller the triangles have to be to give an accurate representation of the model. This results in larger files — one of the drawbacks of STL files compared to AMF (additive manufacturing file) files, for example.
STL is the most popular file format for 3D printing. This file format is mainly used in rapid prototyping, additive manufacturing, and computer-aided manufacturing. For more information, see our guide on All About STL File Format for 3D Printing.
What Are the Best Free STL Editors?
The best free STL editors include:
Although there are a lot of free STL editors out there, not all of them are created equally. The best all have the option to not only import but to edit or modify and export STL files and import design files from multiple sources.
How to Choose the Best STL File Editor
There are a few things to consider when selecting the best STL editor for your needs. These include:
- Application: There are two types of STL editors: mesh modeling software and solid modeling software. Mesh modeling software is suitable for 3D printing applications, whereas solid modeling software is not.
- Skill level: Some of the STL editing programs are more complex than others and might not be as beginner-friendly.
- Input: The best STL editors can import data from multiple sources.
What is the Importance of an STL Editor in 3D Printing?
An STL editor is used to create and edit 3D printing designs in the STL file format. The STL editor is used to perform the very first step of a 3D printing project: designing the actual object that will be printed. It also allows you to edit and make alterations to existing STL files and other imported file types. For more information, see our guide on 3D Printing.
Is an STL Editor Useful for 3D Printing?
Yes, an STL editor is very useful for 3D printing. STL files are the industry standard file format for 3D printing. Without an STL editor, you would be unable to make alterations to existing STL files or create new STL files from scratch.
This article presented the best STL editors, explained the options available, and discussed how to use them for 3D models or objects. To learn more about STL editors and files, contact a Xometry representative.
Xometry provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities, including 3D printing and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.
Copyright and Trademark Notices
- Blender® has been registered as a trademark by the Blender Foundation in the USA and EU.
- SketchUp® is a registered trademark of Trimble, Inc. in the USA.
- MeshLab™ is a EUIPO trademark owned by CNR.
- MeshMixer®, Fusion 360®, and TinkerCAD® are registered trademarks of Autodesk, Inc.
- 3D Slash™ is a trademark of 3D Slash.
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